Parallel Love: Matt Hinton and Lee Bozeman on the Life of Luxury

The filmmaker and Luxury vocalist look back on the Georgia rock band's singular trajectory

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<i>Parallel Love</i>: Matt Hinton and Lee Bozeman on the Life of Luxury

It’s not exactly a cautionary tale, nor is it a particularly celebratory one. But from his catbird seat as second guitarist in Toccoa, Georgia alt-rock group Luxury, filmmaker Matt Hinton chose to examine the ’90s quartet’s truly unusual underdog history, which nearly ended tragically in a 1995 tour bus crash, wherein several in the entourage woke up in the hospital afterwards, some with broken necks. His now-widely released documentary, Parallel Love: The Story of a Band Called Luxury, turned out to be a remarkably confident, deftly constructed document with a lot of heart and soul, much of it rooted in unguarded personal footage he’d amassed over the years. His subject—not to be confused with Howard Devoto’s ’80s U.K. outfit Luxuria—formed when four distinct personalities collided at North Georgia’s decidedly Christian Toccoa Falls College, and the movie nicely captures that unlikely genesis, when punk-minded bassist Chris Foley met hardcore-loving guitarist Jamey Bozeman and his pompadour-sporting sibling Lee Bozeman, who wowed the girls—not necessarily all the guys—with his poetic lyrics and aloof Morrissey croon. Heavy metal-schooled drummer Glenn Black completed the lineup, which quickly became notorious for its frenzied live shows, wherein Jamey often staggered off the axe-thrashing stage bloody. By the time the lads were snapped up by Christian-leaning imprint Tooth & Nail Records (even though none of Bozeman’s edgy poetry was even remotely proselytizing) for their landmark Amazing And Thankyou debut in 1995, they had already achieved cult stardom. But, as Paste’s own fearless leader Josh Jackson notes as one of Parallel Love’s cavalcade of talking heads, Luxury never quite achieved escape velocity.

As Hinton colorfully relates, the band’s trajectory was even more fascinating, with three of its founders going on to become Orthodox priests. One of the film’s early shots features a bearded Foley, who looks more scholarly than punk in full vestments, wryly noting with bemusement, “Walk anywhere in a cassock and you’re getting looks.” The Bozemans also waived the laic life, and there’s great footage of them vocalizing in time-honored Orthodox fashion in church and performing various rites and ceremonies, before regrouping for Luxury’s surprise 2015 comeback, Trophies, with Lee’s voice sounding a tad more seasoned, his adult lyrical reach digging deeper into mortality. All in all, it’s a warm, revealing portrait of the serendipitous paths down which an artistic drive might take you, and the magnetism that can bring resolved bandmates back together again after their Health and Sport swan song in 2005.

“The film doesn’t really cover it, but we were a band almost entirely before the internet,” Lee Bozeman observed last week, calling on a conference line with Hinton to discuss their movie. “Our touring, everything we did as an active live band was done before 2000, and it was a totally different era. If you were gonna choose a band name, you couldn’t research it—you couldn’t go online to see if there’s already another band out there that was using that name or not. You just didn’t know.” (In 2008, ironically, they had a dispute with a second, Boston-based Luxury, which ended in its rechristening as The Luxury.) But the Hinton/Bozeman team was happy to discuss all things Parallel Love, all the way down to the dual careers that continued to keep them busy. And Hinton even worried that he’d shot himself in the foot by including Jackson in his movie. “I just assumed I’d probably get no love from Paste,” he sighs. He thought wrong. He made a great little piece of cinema that deserves to be seen.

Paste: Why choose to do a film on Luxury now?

Matt Hinton: Well, I think part of it is the fact that precisely because I was not a member of the band originally, I’m able to take some sort of objectivity, ironic distance, what have you—some kind of distance from the thing. Because I didn’t join until ’99, and they were well-established as a unit, in a way that I won’t feel like an outsider. But I was there when the wreck went down, so that footage that you saw in the hospital? I was the one that shot that footage, because I guess I need something to do with my hands. But the wives of the guys with broken necks were not super appreciative of me pointing a camera at their husbands. But at the time, it just seemed like the thing to do, of course with no idea of this ever becoming a film. So when we got together to record Trophies, which is our most recent full LP, just getting together was interesting, with three of the guys who were priests. And I remember walking into the studio and the priests were there, blessing the studio and what have you, and I thought, ‘There’s no way this is not interesting. There’s no way that this isn’t an interesting thing for people on the outside.” At that point, I was sort of accustomed to it, so it wasn’t shocking to me. But part of it, too, was that I was well aware that bands try to create an interesting story about themselves for their press kit, whether it’s Sufjan and the 50 states project, or Justin Vernon writing the first Bon Iver record in a hunting cabin—it was like, whatever you could use to get some sort of traction. And of course, writers are suckers for it, right?

Paste: Say! Hold on a minute!

Hinton: Well, you’ve gotta write about something, right? I think my eyes were opened to that a few years back, and it’s not so much that music critics are these gatekeepers, like I had previously imagined, but they’re basically schlubs with a job, and you’ve gotta give ’em something to write about. But as I was thinking about the film, I thought that most bands would kill to have an interesting story like this, rather than just a “Four white guys meet in college” kind of thing.

Paste: Had you studied filmmaking before this?

Hinton: No, no. My wife and I had made a documentary about sacred harp singing about 10 years ago now, and it did well—it was on PBS and so forth, and it dealt with both the history and the contemporary practice of sacred harp singing, and the culture associated with it, since my wife and I actually are sacred harp singers. So it was a case of me just looking around me and going, “Well, there’s this thing that I’m involved in that maybe I can make a movie about.” So similarly, in this situation, where we were about to make this next record, I thought, “Well, I know how to make a movie, and this seems interesting, and no one else is volunteering to make the movie … ” So I asked the other guys, “Do you mind if we have somebody just documenting the recording process, with an eye to maybe making a film out of it?” And they said, “That’s fine,” but I think with the expectation that I wasn’t really gonna do it, probably—there was probably a little bit of that. But I’m a wildly stubborn person, as is anybody who’s ever made a documentary—that’s just the nature of the thing, because they’re not easy to make at all. So that’s how it came about. And of course, at the time, I said, “Hey, why don’t we not release the record until the film comes out!” I thought it would take eight months, but of course, two years later I was finally wrapping it up. So in 2019, we had a theatrical run for the thing, so it played in limited theaters in 2019. And then, of course, Covid sort of screwed up 2020. So it’s finally at a place where it’s broadly available for people, so anyone can get online and watch it. And Trophies is actually out—we did release it. The movie says that it’s “To be released” or whatever, which was true when I made it! I probably should’ve gone back in and corrected that. But it is out and listenable on Bandcamp or whatever, and it’s a really good record, actually.

Paste: Lee seems much more introspective on this one, lyrically.

Lee Bozeman: Each time you write a record, I think it’s different, I think. The first record was just a blast of different ideas and thoughts and influences or whatever, and then we had an accident, and that sort of is the theme of the second record, but it also ties into the first record for a little bit. And the third record, I don’t know exactly what the influences are—I think it was just adjustment-to-life-after-touring-band stuff. The fourth was all about working a 9-5 job and just the grind of that kind of reality. So I guess when Trophies came along, there wasn’t any particular overriding idea behind it. But as a priest, in writing, it does influence some of that material, to a certain extent, so you’re looking for ways to talk about bigger ideas, I guess. So I think the language gets a little bit broader—the experience of writing gets a bit broader, and it’s more filtered, in the sense that I can’t just say whatever I want to say.

Paste: Watching you guys, as priests, going through some of the iconic rites and rituals of Orthodoxy, like the simple swinging of the censers, how does that dovetail into rock and roll?

Bozeman: Well, I think one of the themes that we weren’t aware of when Matt was making the film was the idea of parallels, where some of the problems of popular Christian culture is just that they don’t keep things separated properly. They want to blend everything. So I think it would be almost impossible to blend a liturgical Orthodox experience with rock music—it would be really hard to do that, although certain metal groups have tried. But we’ve never tried to do that, and yet I think they certainly influence each other. When I stand in church and do liturgy, and when I enact the ritual, there is a performance part of that—I am actually doing something, and while you’re usually not performing, you have to be aware of your presence and your delivery and your language. You have to be aware of all these things, almost to a theatrical degree. And vice versa, as well, where you’re writing songs, there are certain elements that would come in and influence that part of it. It’s the same energy behind it, it’s just delivered in a different way. So they definitely are parallel, and they influence, but they never actually come together in a congruent mashup. I dunno—it might be able to be done. But I haven’t figured out how yet. But we kind of categorize people, like, “Oh, this guy’s a priest. He’s gonna do these things, and he’s gonna like this kind of thing. And this guy does punk rock music, so he’s gonna like these things.” Where I think people are perfectly capable of doing a variety of things, and loving them and doing them well, without having them become all jumbled up.

Hinton: I think it’s worth noting that within Orthodox theology, there’s sort of the idea that beauty will save the world, whereas in some forms of Protestant expression, it tends to be more de-emphasizing of that, especially visual parts. But in Orthodox theology, people are given permission to engage in artistic endeavors that are simply beautiful, and don’t necessarily have to have a secondary agenda behind them.

Paste: And there’s that dismal old adage that says that the older you get, the less you look up with wonder at the world. You really have to fight against that, every day of your life.

Bozeman: I suppose that you get familiar with things, and so they don’t inspire as much of that instantaneous wonder. Meaning that, I know that for me, I don’t like very much stuff. I don’t love very much music, I don’t love very much film. But the things that I do like, I like them very, very much. But to find those things is becoming more and more difficult, the older I get. So I guess in that sense, that adage is very true. But I know in my experience with the Orthodox church is that the opposite is true—there’s nothing new, I’m very familiar with it, but the longer I’m in it, the more wonder I find in it. And because it’s repetitive, instead of getting something new or different, you’re going deeper into it. So that’s my experience, at least.

Paste: One of the key scenes in the movie is Lee’s brother Jamey in his den with his religious vestments on a rack right to his huge Marshall amp. It kind of says it all.

Hinton: Yeah. I guess I knew what I was doing when I put it in the film, but when I was shooting, it was as innocuous as anything. It was literally the first time I had been to that house of Jamey’s, and I was just rolling. And he said, “Well, this is this room, and here’s what I’m doing.” And it was just one more thing. But then when I went back? I mean, a documentary film is made in the edit suite—that’s practically the beginning of the end of it. So you just shoot a bunch of crap first, and then you make meaning out of it, second, using whatever ideas you had about the film before you actually start editing it. But the problem is when you get tied to an idea, like when you say, “I know how this is gonna begin—this is gonna happen.” Or whatever. But you’ve just gotta get over that. And the quicker you can get over that, the better, because it’s not gonna be your first scene at all—the film will dictate what it wants to be, based on what you have, what the meaning of the story is, and all of that stuff.

Paste: While you were putting it together, were there places where the film suddenly changed course and surprised you?

Hinton: Yeah, at various points. I mean, there’s the very sad story of Glenn and his mother, and when I shot it, I thought, “This so profound, and it tells us something about who he is.”

Paste: But at first, he swears he won’t discuss it.

Hinton: That’s right. And of course, you’ve gotta pay that off—you can’t make that promise and not come back to it. Although I also want the viewer to think, “Oh, that could have been interesting.” I want there to be a bit of a letdown there. But originally, that sequence was gonna come earlier, at the beginning of the film, where it introduces the characters. But what I discovered was, it’s easy enough to get into that scene, to shift to that mood. But to pull out of it is almost impossible. But “They’re from Georgia and they started a band!” Like, anything seems trivial compared to that moment. So for a while I just thought, “There’s no place I can put this—this is never gonna make any sense.”But eventually I understood that it could go later, where the band is sort of disintegrating and everybody’s trying to find their way. And part of that was Glenn starting to experience those seizures in a profound way, while everybody was questioning what their goals were. And in almost every Q&A we’ve done at screenings, people always ask, “How’s Glenn? How’s he doing?” And the answer, by the way, is better than one would expect. And something that had been in the film but did not make it was a sequence about our friend Lee here as a golfer. Evidently, late in high school, he thought there was a pretty decent chance he would become a professional golfer. Which I still kind of wish was in there, because Lee and I went out to a golf course and shot him playing golf. But the problem with it was that you couldn’t put it at the beginning, and that’s where it would need to go. But you haven’t established the fact that he’s not the kind of guy that you would expect to do that. But it was fun to watch him play golf—he’s really good at it.

Paste: You had an interesting way of introducing all the members initially, by each one holding up his favorite album covers. And I believe I saw Kiss’ Destroyer a couple of times.

Hinton: Believe me, that was just Glenn. But I showed that two or three times, because I wanted there to be a main thing you remembered about Glenn, which is that he’s the hard rock, heavy metal guy. And to me, that’s part of what makes the sound of the band interesting, is that you have these four guys, who each bring something wildly different to the table, and there’s no way it makes sense to have somebody like Glenn—who’s into Kiss and AC/DC and The Who and Led Zeppelin— in a band with a guy like Lee, who likes The Smiths and Depeche Mode. Like, those two guys do not belong in a band together, at all, other than that they totally do, because it works so well. And that comes from being at that college that they were all at, where you walk in and there’s nobody like you. Chris looked around for somebody wearing Doc Marten boots and band’s T-shirts, and he couldn’t find anybody. And it turns out that this was as good as they could do, like, “Well, we’re it, y’all! It’s either us or we don’t get a band!” And so you wind up having these four guys, almost none of whom, you’d have to say, belong in a band together. But because of the restrictive context they were in, because they were the only ones doing anything remotely off-the-reservation, it winds up creating a fairly unique sound.

Paste: Lee, why did you continue to keep music in the picture after you chose the priesthood? A lot of ex-rockers simply write it off to “That was then, this is now.”

Bozeman: I don’t know if I ever saw it as that black and white. I think the biggest part of that was, coming out of college, my identity didn’t shift into something else. Like, I didn’t become a journalist, or a this or that, and I had a variety of other careers that I had to do to support the family. And the one thing that was the constant, and the one thing that I liked the most, was writing songs, and playing music with these guys, you know? And I think that if I had shifted into priesthood at 26 or 27, then probably the music stuff would have, probably not died out entirely, but certainly have taken a much lesser role. But with me, it was the exact opposite—I was working at a bank in a cubicle for awhile, I was a traveling salesman. There were all these things where my heart wasn’t in it, so the one thing that was constant, the one thing that I loved, was writing songs. And I think I got better and better at it as time went on, and now obviously I’m still writing and I love to do all that. But I think I probably have less than zero desire to do any sort of promotion or to do anything to actually get the band going again. And I say this in the film, but I think I like the stuff that we do—I’m not sure. And I’m really most definitely unsure that anybody else still does. But that doesn’t stop me from doing it. I still like to write a song, even though I don’t particularly like the sound of my voice very well. But I’ll like some of the lines that have come out and that sort of thing. But that process is still very pleasing—to complete something and then sit back and wonder exactly where it came from.

Paste: It’s fun to watch Luxury’s early female fans in the film swooningly reminisce about how Lee always made eye contact with them from the stage at shows. But the band could go on tour today and scare the hell out of a whole new generation programmed into watching their cellphones, not a performer’s eyes.

Bozeman: Who knows? It’s been so long since we’ve been out there …

Hinton: No, I think they’ll still be on their phones at the show, too!