[JELL-O SHOT ROCK] Tom Potts likes to wrap electrical tape around his head onstage. Potts, who has gone by the stage name T$ (pronounced “T money”) in various bands for about 30 years, sings through two mics, plays bass and several analog synths as frontman for Portland’s Lickity. But he says the duo “didn’t really plan to do this style of music.”
T$ initially tried out for another of Lickity drummer Spit Stix’s projects, but apparently “didn’t cut the mustard.” Still, the two saw potential in one another and booked a 2006 First Thursday party as an excuse to jam. “We were kind of writing as we went,” Potts says. “It was all eye contact. It totally worked.” Stix knew they were onto something when he saw a mosh pit start up on the sidewalk.
“[Stix] had really been doing the drum-and-bass thing,” Potts says of Stix’s solo project, Sol-i. “And, of course, he’s definitely done the punk thing.” Potts is referring to Stix’s claim to fame as drummer of the seminal L.A. punk band Fear (circa ’78-’93). Stix, born Tim Leitch, now calls Portland home, and Lickity his main musical priority.
The group’s music isn’t easy to describe: It’s synth-punk, but informed by jazz, funk and real drum-and-bass beats. When dissecting its complex party music, Stix imagines he’s controlling the band like a DJ behind a mixer. “It’s as if the faders are just pulled up. It’s cool to try and duplicate that [with instruments]. [Potts]’s got the schizophrenic mics. One is like Darth Vader and the other one is like a dub mic. He can go back from character to character.”
The lyrics Potts delivers through the filters find him making positive statements about negative experiences. “I have a fucked-up past,” he says. “I’ve been in drug rehab, military school. My mom had six husbands...so now it’s just like, ‘Holy shit, I can freak out and let all this shit go’—and I don’t need a counselor!”
Both members of Lickity have played music their entire lives, though Stix (52), the son of a career musician, had a decade or so head start over Potts (39). Despite the age gap, they’re able to finish each other’s sentences—in conversation and on stage. Lickity wasn’t planned, but it’s working out just fine.
SEE IT: Lickity plays Plan B with Fist Fite, the Mint Chicks and Ferocious Eagle on Friday, Nov. 14. $5. 9 pm. 21+.