By some appearances, Lonnie Fisher is a morbid fellow.
He and his band, the Funeral, drive a white hearse to shows, despite the fact that the old beater gets about six miles per gallon. He dyes his naturally blond hair black. His signature song is titled "Kill Yourself or I Will" — an elegy for a friend who committed suicide.
"It was weird to have that song requested all the time," Fisher says, pausing between carnivorous bites of meat lover's pizza. "It almost became a curse. Be careful what you write about because you really do have to stand behind it."
The song, Fisher says, is more a remembrance of the good times. Its lay-it-all-out-there mentality is indicative of his approach to songwriting: Write what you feel, and people will listen.
"My favorite songwriters don't put any barrier in front of what they're willing to write," he says. He cites Elliott Smith as an inspiration.
Perhaps it's the proximity of tragedy that keeps Fisher so motivated. He performs nearly every weekend and writes more songs than his band can keep up with. He recites adages such as "get busy living or get busy dying" without any hint of irony or sarcasm.
"That's kind of the theme behind the stuff we're writing about," Fisher says. "There's a lot of light and hope."
Fisher's bliss is back after a long hiatus. His outfit Sturgeon Mill was a fixture in Lawrence before disbanding in 2002 — a fall out he still considers "a real shame."
In the wake of the breakup, Fisher traded his guitar for a fishing pole and a chef's hat and set his sights on living a life outside music. That ended in 2005 with the release of his first solo album, Ghost of the Ballerina, a keenly produced affair engineered by Ed Rose at Black Lodge Studios.
"When music's in your blood, you can only stay away for so long," Fisher says. "I wanted to get back out there and see what I could do with voice and guitar instead of sitting around like a rusty old tank."
That voice — a classic sound modeled after Roy Orbison's croon — caught the attention of keyboardist Charles McVey (also an active songwriter) and bassist Steve Bagwell. With former Sturgeon Mill drummer Chris Nunez back in the mix, Lonnie Fisher and the Funeral have the appearance of a band that won't quit until it's six feet underground.