Ted Leo grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He graduated from Seton Hall Preparatory School in West Orange in 1988 and the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 1993 with a degree in English. His brothers Chris Leo and Danny Leo are also singer-songwriters, and members of Native Nod, The Lapse, The Van Pelt, Vague Angels and Holy Childhood. He is a vegan. Ted is a fan of and frequent contributor to WFMU, most notably to Tom Scharpling's "The Best Show on WFMU." In 2007, he rewrote and performed The Jam's "That's Entertainment" as a tribute to the station.
You might remember Ted Leo from his exploits many years back in the New York hard-core scene with bands like Citizens Arrest and Animal Crackers. More likely, you remember his inspiring role as songwriter and leader of the legendary DC mod-punk band, Chisel, from 1990 to 1997. You may even be lucky enough to have caught the short-lived but long remembered Sin Eaters, whom Ted fronted from 1997-1998, or his touring stint with the Spinanes during those same years. Probably, though, you are most familiar with the understated but forceful path he’s been blazing as a solo artist since 1997. His songs are fragile but proud, and exalt in social and musical purpose, with inescapable melodies and tangible yet romantic lyrics that could easily draw comparisons to greats such as Billy Bragg or Alex Chilton, and somehow leave you thinking of Curtis Mayfield and CRASS...
Ted Leo started the Pharmacists essentially as a solo project in 1999. His previous band Chisel had broken up in the late 1990s, after which he spent time with The Spinanes and The Sin Eaters and acted as producer for The Secret Stars. In 1999 he recorded the album tej leo(?), Rx / pharmacists, a solo effort which was highly experimental and mixed elements of punk rock, reggae, dub, and audio experimentation. In 2000 Leo expanded the project to a full band including James Canty on guitar, Jodi V.B. on bass, and Amy Farina on drums. He named the backing band The Pharmacists, and the group released the EP Treble in Trouble. The EP moved away from many of the experimental elements of tej leo by relying on more traditional rock structures and instrumentation, though it still explored some non-traditional characteristics.
The band signed to Lookout! Records in 2001 and experienced more lineup changes as V.B. and Farina left the group. For the album The Tyranny of Distance Leo and producer Brendan Canty utilized a number of in-studio backing musicians. The album incorporated multiple styles including Celtic rock, acoustic folk balladry, and pop rock. During the supporting tours for The Tyranny of Distance bassist Dave Lerner, drummer Chris Wilson, and keyboardist Dorien Garry became permanent members of the band. The group's next album, 2003's Hearts of Oak, drew from punk rock and new wave influences. The EP Tell Balgeary, Balgury Is Dead soon followed and featured a number of Leo's solo songs and covers. The band's video documentary Dirty Old Town was released the same year.
Prior to the recording of 2004's Shake the Sheets Garry and Canty left the band, reducing the group to a trio. The album explored social and political topics and experienced some success with the single "Me and Mia." The iTunes-exclusive EP Sharkbite Sessions followed in 2005.
In 2006 Ted Leo and the Pharmacists signed a new contract with Chicago-based Touch and Go Records. The band's popularity continued to expand through constant touring and performances at large festivals such as the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Pitchfork Music Festival. Their fourth full band album, Living with the Living, was released on March 20, 2007. First run copies of the album also included the Mo' Living EP. The band also announced that former guitarist James Canty would re-join them for touring in support of Living with the Living.
Bassist Dave Lerner played his last show with the band at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn, NY on August 12, 2007. Marty "Violence" Key of the (Young) Pioneers replaced him on tour, and has remained with the band to the present. In April 2008 the band recorded a performance for the Beautiful Noise concert series in Toronto. They then performed as openers for six dates of Pearl Jam's 2008 U.S. tour in June. They toured with Against Me! and Future of the Left in September and October 2008.
On September 15, 2008 the band released a surprise digital EP, Rapid Response, in response to the violence at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. The EP is available on the Touch and Go website for a choice of prices with all proceeds going to Democracy Now! and Food Not Bombs of St. Paul. Ted Leo's most recent album, The Brutalist Bricks was released on March 9, 2010, and the band is currently touring the United States and Europe.
He has put out four records with Lookout! followed by two releases with indie Stalwart Touch and Go Records. His march 2010 release on Matador Records is entitled "The Brutalist Bricks."
Here is a link to the Ted Leo catalog page.
For all the current information regarding tours and current happenings with things Ted Leo, visit his website here