When the Smoking Section was age eight, we knew every word to "Paul Revere," so it was certainly a fullcircle thrill to sit around the kitchen table eating a loaf of walnut bread with MCA, Mike D and AdRock at their Oscilloscope studio in New York. The Beastie Boys (decked out in suits and snap-brim hats, like the Specials) gave us the skinny on The Mix-Up, their dope new instrumental album. "The initial inspiration was 'Let's all get in a room and start playing instruments and see what comes out.'" says drummer Mike D. Bassist MCA adds. "It wasn't full-on jazz-odyssey improvising, but coming up with grooves." Soon, grooves piled up, turning into songs. "it was like, 'Well, we could add vocals to this,'" says Mike D. "But we felt it worked well as its own thing." They considered including rolling papers in the CD booklet, but no such luck. The beat drops in June. More good news: After dates in Europe, the Beasties will hit the U.S. in many towns they'll play two nights, the first at a big venue, offering the classic B-Boy experience, and the next go at a more intimate theater. Mix-up style. Adds MCA, "Shit is funky."
On our trip out to Coachella, the S.S. hit L.A.'s Viper Room to celebrate the kickoff of the Kings of Leon's U.S. tour, where we hung with the Arctic Monkeys and encountered Lindsay Lohan, who approached our booth and demanded we and our pals "get the fuck out of my face." Her baby sitter apologized, and Lohan scuttled out before she could get slapped across the face. Out in the desert, we caught hot sets by Ratatat, Arcade Fire and Satellite Party. Lily Allen told us she's renting a house in L.A. ("Paid for by the record company," she said) to get crackin' on Disc Two. Scarlett Johansson informed us she'll soon break ground on her album of Tom Waits covers, and, in perhaps the most random Coachella sighting, the S.S. sat down with Major League's Corbin Bernsen before the epic Rage reunion. "I've been going to festivals since the California Jam." he said. "I still dig it." Right on!
"Do you have to be a smoker to be in the Smoking Section?" asks Nick Lowe. "I was an enthusiastic smoker, but it's an avenue of pleasure that is now closed." On top of quitting the ciggies, Lowe – the suave producer and songwriter famous for the rhetorical question "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" – has a new romance and a young son. His latest opus, At My Age, reflects his optimism. "My last few records have been quite blue," he says. But now come killer tunes like "I Trained Her to Love Me" and "A Better Man," on which he sings, "Looks like I might have turned a corner." Yes!
This story is from the May 31st, 2007 issue of Rolling Stone.