Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Love Language: Stu McLamb's take on pop

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 1:40 PM

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  • Merge Records

The Love Language, Howlies and the Soft Company play The Earl, Fri., Sept. 3. $10. 9 p.m. 488 Flat Shoals Rd. 404-522-3950.


"Brittany's Back" mp3

Bedroom projects and quarter-life crises (especially of the breakup and self-destructive variety) stand as two of the most overplayed themes in indie-rock. These type of musical acts often appear to be a dime a dozen, and The Love Language seem to fall into this trap at first glance. But give their 2010 release Libraries a spin, and most doubts about this Raleigh five-piece quickly succumb to their lush and catchy style of pop.

While songwriter Stu McLamb may have initially created The Love Language his own personal heartbreak, doubt and despair, it has since transformed into one of one the more alluring indie-pop acts in recent memory. Before making the trip down from Raleigh to perform at The Earl this Friday (Sept. 3), McLamb spoke about Libraries, Of Montreal’s influence and playing with Atlanta rockers Howlies.

Max Blau: In the past you’ve said that the Love Language was never intended to be a band. Why did you think that?

Stu McLamb: I guess it was more along the lines of how it started with the first couple of songs that happened. I didn’t look past it much more than a MySpace page. I know you heard the story about the breakup, I’ve told that a million times. Basically, there were a couple of songs that I wanted the girl to hear and maybe a couple of other people; it was just kind of a small-scale project, just a couple of songs. I was so happy with them that I just got onto a roll creatively and kept the project. It grew to a point that I obviously wanted to share it with more people.

When did you realize that this project was becoming something bigger than just a cathartic exercise or a bedroom project?

Once I had gotten about three or four songs deep. I thought I was really onto something, I thought this was good pop music that connects really fast with people. You know when you hear a good pop song? It was the same way—I just finished and was like ‘damn, that’s a good pop song.’

Was there anything at the time that you were listening to that was particularly influential?

I was listening to Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal. I got it at local CD store and it stuck with me. I listened to that a lot. The Love Language album sounds nothing like that. I guess some of my influences are just more embedded in me. I listen to a lot of different stuff—it’s hard to pinpoint the exact stuff I was listening to. There’s that, Phil Spector and Motown stuff.

How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard the Love language?

I would say it is one person’s take on pop music. That particular brand of pop, influenced heavily by pop from the 60’s to the 80’s. And definitely some modern influences, but it relies heavily that.

What has been the biggest change as a songwriter for you between The Love Language and Libraries?

Not really so much in the songwriting, but I definitely grew a little confidence like any artist would naturally do. Subject wise, and in terms of musical influence, I didn’t venture too far out on Libraries than I did on the first. It’s a lot of the same things musically and emotionally. There was just a natural progression for me in both periods. With some of the songs, the time periods bleed together when they were written from the first and second record. A lot of the romantic themes were relevant in my life and I kept with that.

The first album was just demos and recorded by me—pretty much for all of it just alone and isolated, setting up the mics myself, performing the tracks myself. You’ve got a lot of raw emotion of the first record and vibrancy in spirit, but I lacked some of the engineering expertise for better or worse. On the second one, I did it in a studio with an engineer who I was able to work with very well. He made it an equally enjoyable process.

How do you feel about Libraries now that you’ve had some time to reflect?

I feel great. I feel we went in and captured a period in time—which is what any recording should do. I think the most interesting thing about the record was that it was done all during about a month and a half—not even.

The song writing as well? Or just the recording?

Just the recording. There’s so many sounds on that record, things going on—I just love the fact that it was all squeezed into a big session like that. I think you hear it, there’s a lot of unity of that record. You go into a little world like that. The thing I’m most excited about a month after its release is playing with the band.

How has changing from a one-man act to a full band effected the Love Language?

I played with a band after the first record too. I record multi-track and do it myself, so the songs are pretty much fully realized on a dynamic level. I can obviously show the parts, but they take on a lot of life with the band too, because they are actually played live and you are feeding off of each other, communicating with the musicians.

Do you see yourself doing the same thing moving forward, where you have a band adapt to your creation, or do you see yourself incorporating others into your creative process?

I definitely see myself incorporating other people into the process. I still would want to orchestrate it, but I would be very open to collaboration….There’s a lot of songwriters out there that are in a similar position to myself where they record on their own and then tour with a band. Sometimes those are just their buddies taking a tour here and there and the band is changing. I feel like with this version of the band we’re really gelling; spending a lot of time together and everybody is living in the same place. It’s still very much like a band—there’s some great songwriters in the band so who knows. I wouldn’t rule anything out.

How did you meet your touring members?

Well Missy [Thangs] and Jordan [McLamb] had toured after the previous album. Some of the members from that band went their separate ways and worked on their own projects. Missy and Jordan, our keys and drums respectively, and then BJ Burton (who recorded Libraries) joined the band. He’s playing guitar. And a good friend of mine Justin Rodermond is on bass. I really knew BJ just since January when we started recording. Obviously I’ve known my brother Jordan forever. Missy about two years and Justin about four. They’re old friends.

What’s it like working with BJ Burton as both producer and band mate?

Me and him have a great dynamic. As a creative person or artist you’ll meet another artist that you converse with musically and get points across, and we have definitely got that. And it seems like even playing live we’re thinking about tones. He’s great in his role as a guitar player.

He might hate me for saying this, but when he joined the group to play guitar he came from a punk and hardcore background. So I’m teaching him one of my songs, and in response to an A diminished, he was just like ‘what?’ I think I even showed him a D chord and he didn’t know where that was. He was like ‘dude, where do I put my fingers?’ He’s a great guitarist, but that was an awesome moment. I was a little freaked out that he didn’t know where the D chord was.

You were down in Atlanta not too long ago performing as part of One Music Fest. What was it like playing as a part of a primarily hip-hop festival?

We started it out. We started the show and it was as hot as shit that day. The concrete was just burning out there — just a big open space with no one there when we started. I don’t think a lot of these people had heard of us. But midway through the set, people started to come out. I remember there were a lot of people sitting down under the tent…and we finished the first song and just heard a great big roar of applause from all these people sitting down. So it went really well. I always think that it’s good to be part of things outside of indie-rock. I hope we can do more stuff like that.

Atlanta garage rockers the Howlies will be opening for The Love Language at the Earl this Friday night. How did your acts first meet?

They come to North Carolina quite a bit and we’ve done some shows together. We actually did a house party in Greenville, North Carolina — it’s where East Carolina University is — and that place can get pretty crazy. That night was nuts. I actually played naked, which halfway through I realized that the wine was getting to me. I think that stuff works better in a hardcore setting. I think that stuff works better in a hardcore setting. There’s something crazy about playing music butt naked. That night got kind of nuts. But yeah, we’ve known them and they’re great dudes—they’re phenomenal. We were opening for them, but now I’m a little freaked out that they’re opening for us.

What do you enjoy most about coming to Atlanta?

Great question. I guess I love that it’s a major city and that it’s Southern. I grew up in the South, and it’s a great combination of that modern, progressive mentality of a city paired with a more conservative, Southern attitude. I think it’s a great thing. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to spend in the city, but when we’ve played I just ventured out to a couple places here and there.

Any last words?

Yeah. Soft Company is also playing with us and that is Missy’s project. She writes all the material and arrangements. She doesn’t do a lot of shows because Love Language is keeping her way too busy, but her songs are fuckin’ brilliant. I would definitely like to promote that. People should get out there early to see them; it’s pop music, more in like a Roxy Music influence and 70’s quirky stuff.

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