“The Cult Records thing is my fourth record deal, but it’s the coolest one for me,” James Levy told B+B on his band Reputante signing to the Julian Casablancas-owned label. “The label is an interesting community and I wanted to be a part of Julian’s vision. Everybody on it is part of the family to some degree. I was tired of signing record deals and not being excited about it.”
Reputante consists of Levy, guitarist Emiliano Ortiz, bassist Jimmy Giannopoulos, and drummer Raviv Ullman. While the band is less than a year old, its members are no strangers to the music industry. Levy’s song “Glorious” helped sister duo The Pierces sell well over 150,000 copies of their record You & I, Giannopoulos is in the Brooklyn-based band Rathborne, and Ullman — star of the Disney show Phil of the Future — is the tour drummer for Soko. If that wasn’t enough, shortly after forming Reputante, Levy, Giannopoulos, and Ullman teamed up with Zoë Kravitz to create the electronic-pop band Lolawolf.
B+B sat down with the Reputante frontman at his Bedford Avenue apartment to discuss starting a label, an anti-Levy website, and what it was like living with one of the members of Coldplay. Reputante kicks off their Northeast tour today with fellow Cult Records artist Har Mar Superstar; you can catch them tomorrow at the Knitting Factory.
I didn’t like him, but I didn’t even know him. I was just being an asshole. When I met him again, he was like, “Yo man, I’ll be in the band; you just can’t kick me anymore.” I was like, “Dude, that was so long ago.”
Lolawolf is signed to a label you co-founded called Innit. Why sign to Innit instead of a major label?
We wanted to do it our own way; we didn’t want it to be manipulated. We can pull all the shots, complete creative control without anyone fucking with it. The label is me, Raviv, Jimmy, and my manager Morton, and Beth Lorge, and it actually got set up for Reputante. The investors were going to put the Reputante album out, but then I said no because I wanted to go to Cult. So, the label was already set up and we had this Lolawolf opportunity, so we were like, “Well, let’s just do this as the label’s first release.” I also collaborated on a bunch of songs with Aerial East and we’re going to put that out next.
You’re starring alongside East in Dima Dubson’s newest film, which is currently in production. What’s that movie about?
It’s about mine and Aerial’s past relationship. It’s kind of weird, it’s making me feel like I’m in a relationship with her again, not that I ever really was. It’s bizarre. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m not straying too far from my personality.
Honestly, it was pretty lonely. I lived with him in England for four or five months, but I had a girlfriend in New York. We lived in this nice place in the woods and didn’t go out much. It felt like I was living in a cottage in Central Park.
Speaking of Coldplay, I came across a website called Levy Sucks, made by some guy who thought your band LEVY sounded like them. The site is pretty intense, what’s the story behind it?
I don’t know what that fucking guy’s problem is. I don’t think it’s been updated, but he still pays the domain name. He posted a comment on Myspace saying, “You guys sound like Coldplay,” and my guitar player at the time blocked him, and he got really mad. He started this website where he wrote a review about how much I suck, made a cartoon about me, and a video. There’s a scene where he gets something in the mail and is like, “Oh, the new LEVY CD,” smashes it, pisses on it, and then runs it over with a bulldozer. Think about the girlfriend or whoever’s taping the whole thing. Think about that!