There’s a song from Low Cut Connie’s 2015 album, Hi Honey, called “Danny’s Outta Money,” which highlights the early years of the band’s rock and roll lifestyle of penny-pinching, sleeping on couches and eating takeout fried chicken. A now former member of the band, Dan Finnemore, is the song’s main character.
“He's gonna have to sell his kidney/If we don't get a record deal by the end of June,” the band’s frontman, Adam Weiner, sings in the song’s second verse.
He means June 2015. Since that time, eight years have gone by and Low Cut Connie still has no record deal – at least not with a major label. Instead, the group has released its music on Contender Records, the label Weiner created only after nobody would sign his band. Despite the lack of love from the corporate music industry – which we’ll get to later – Philly’s Low Cut Connie has amassed a cult fan base that includes the likes of Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, former President Barack Obama and thousands of others spread across the USA and Europe.
Their next release on Contender, Art Dealers, is due out Sept. 8. But on Wednesday, Aug. 23, Chestnut Hill residents can get their hands on an early release copy at Hideaway Music, located on the corner of Germantown Avenue and Southampton Avenue. That’s where Weiner is scheduled to stop in for a record signing (and maybe a performance if we’re lucky) at 6 p.m.
In preparation for the event, the Local got Weiner on the phone to talk about the new record, how the band’s changed over the years and not being cool enough for the mainstream music industry. Weiner’s answers are lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
I listened to the new record twice all the way through yesterday and it has that classic Low Cut Connie vibe of just immediately hitting you right in the soul. It’s not music you have to study much or learn to appreciate over time. It just feels familiar the first time you hear it.
Well, that's good to hear because that's what I aim for. And, you know, it's just recently that people are starting to hear the album in advance of next month, and I'm just completely blown away by the response so far. I'm really excited for this thing to come out finally.
There’s a song on the album called “Art Dealers.” Why’d you decide to name the album after that song?
Going through the pandemic really just gave us all a new perspective on the things we do in life. For me, it gave me a deeper appreciation of what being a full-time artist means. The fact that I could get through the pandemic, get to the other side and still get to have an audience to perform for, to make records for, to entertain, to keep enthralled – I don't take that lightly.
It took me many years to get that audience. So I started to think to myself, "What is it that I really do for a living?” I deal in art, basically. It can be an exciting profession, it can be a dirty profession, and it can be a corrupt profession because the music industry is such a terrible business to work in. But I'm here for all of it.
How did this record-signing event end up at Hideaway?
My good friend works there and they were very enthusiastic when I announced the new album and they wanted me to come by and do something. These independent record stores are my lifeblood. I'm so excited as a lifelong music and vinyl collector that these indie record stores are surviving and in many cases thriving. They help independent artists like me exist. So it's really fun for me to go to some of these stores. And Hideaway, true to the name, is like a hidden secret in Philly. It's a great store in a great area that's near where I recorded a lot of my last few albums, so I've spent a lot of time in that area. I'm excited to be there and hopefully see some people, and I'll play whatever people want me to play.
So this is going to be a performance too?
Well, maybe. I mean, when I show up, I tend to want to play some music.
I’m sure you feel a sense of pride that your fans love you so much and that you’ve developed this international cult following over the years. But do you also feel a sense of pride that the evil corporate suits in the music industry clearly don’t love you? I mean, who wants to be liked by them anyway, right? It’s not exactly an industry that seems interested in creating timeless art anymore.
It's so funny you say that because just a couple months ago I ran into this guy – I'm not going to say who it was – who used to be the president of a major label in New York City. He was trying to sign Low Cut Connie a few years ago, and I turned him down. Prior to that, nobody wanted to sign me. So that was a twist. I was trying to get signed and no one would have me, so I started my own label and I built my own little corner of the sandbox. Then this major label came around in 2018 or 2019 and wanted to sign me. And in a total twist, I turned them down.
I ran into this guy, who is no longer president of this label, and he said "Man, thank God you didn't sign with us. We would've ruined you. It totally wouldn't have worked out, and you're doing so much better on your own. I love the music you're putting out and you're putting it out the way that you want to, so just keep it up."
I just don't think I'm a fit for the establishment in the music business. Not that my music is bizarre and experimental, it's just not on trend, you know what I mean? And I've never really cared enough about being popular and cool enough to play the game in the music business and that's a real problem. If you can't do that, you're not really going to succeed in the mainstream.
You’ve become more of the band’s focal point in recent years, operating with a rotating cast of backing band members, all of which, by the way, are very talented, as opposed to a typical rock band setup with set members. What has that transition been like for you? Also, was it by choice or by necessity?
Well, I think you're right. I think in the beginning, Low Cut Connie was a band, and it evolved into a solo project. I have an amazing band, but that was a transition that happened by necessity. It was organic. And thank goodness that the fans have followed me at every step because I've had somewhere between 25 and 30 people play in the band, and I'm very partial to this lineup, the Art Dealers lineup. I think it's the best we've had.
But there have been incredible past lineups and moments of the band. I always wait for it to change because kind of like the artists I admire, like Prince and David Bowie for example, they were always changing. And their bands and their sounds and their looks and their songwriting were always evolving. Maybe there are some who miss an older version of the band, but I like to think I'm offering something valuable now to those people too. So it's an astute observation on your part, and I'm very happy with how it's all developed.
I first interviewed you two weeks after the election of Donald Trump in November 2016 and an exact quote you told me was “I’m not the type of person that says I’m going to wake up today and write a song about Donald Trump.” But your last album had a song on it called “Look What They Did” which is so obviously about Donald Trump, and specifically the impact his development company had on Atlantic City, that you mentioned him by name in the lyrics. What changed?
Yeah, and there's another one on this album called "Whips and Chains" that mentions him. I never describe myself as a political songwriter because I don't have any kind of agenda with songwriting that I adhere to. I'm not a religious person. I'm very atheistic. I'm not very dogmatic with things; I just do what feels right. Rolling up, maturing with my music during a time when horrible things are happening in the country and in the world, it just seeped into my songwriting. And "Look What They Did" just happened to appear on my desk very quickly.
I think some younger songwriters ask me questions and they say they never know what to write about, and I say you should never struggle to know what to write about – just look around at what's going on around you. Look at what's happening in the world. Look at how people are living. Look at how people are struggling. Think about it, put yourself in their shoes, put your eyeballs in their head and you should learn how to translate that into songs. And I guess that's something I've learned how to do better.