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|Fully Engaged: Love Is All, December 13 at RIBCO|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Written by Jeff Ignatius|
|Wednesday, 10 December 2008 02:36|
Parlophone - the label home to everyone from the Beatles to Colplay in the UK - found the Swedish quintet Love Is All a touch hard to work with.
The label released the band's 2006 debut, Nine Times That Same Song, but dropped it after receiving rough mixes for the follow-up and getting resistance from the group about employing some outside producers to shape the recordings.
It was a union destined for failure, but Parlophone simply discovered what the members of Love Is All knew already: They are difficult.
"Everybody has so much say about everything," said lead singer Josephine Olausson in a phone interview last week. "It can get really frustrating."
The band, which will be headlining an early, all-ages Daytrotter Presents show with Crystal Stilts on Saturday evening at RIBCO, fuses a jagged, punk-ish pop with dreamy '60s textures and features a saxophone.
AllMusic.com raves, with enthusiasm that's telling despite its hyperbole, that "you'll be left wondering if the band can possibly top these two albums. Taken together, they position Love Is All as one of the best post-punk revivalist groups, and arguably the equal of their influences. ... As good as indie rock gets in the late 2000s."
The band generated significant buzz three years ago - the ever-fickle Pitchfork lauded the group's first record - but that is certainly not a guarantee of big sales.
On Parlophone's decision to sign Love Is All, Olausson said in our interview: "It's ridiculous that they would even sign us, because ... we're never going to sell millions of records." And with the second album, "there was definitely pressure from them - not so much in the songwriting, but production-wise - trying to have something that would meet their standards." The problem, she said, was "doing that without losing what we think we're about."
Of course, nobody forced Love Is All to sign with the label.
"It was obviously because they offered us a lot of money," said Olausson, who sings with a theatricality somewhere between childhood and playfulness. "But there were several labels that we spoke to, and they seemed to be the most open-minded. ‘They're so nice. They really just love us, and we can do whatever we want.'"
That ended after disappointing sales for Nine Times That Same Song. The band wrote and recorded the 11 tracks for A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, sent them to the label, and got a backhanded compliment, Olausson said: "‘So these are great demos.' And we're like: ‘They're not demos.'"
The label hired producers to take some cracks at the songs, and the band rejected their work, Olausson said: "We sat in the practice space listening to it and just shook our heads. ‘What do they want from us? Who do they think we are?' It was just so terrible - the most typical, how to make a song powerful, like Cheap Trick. There's no way we can do this."
In the spirit of cooperation, the band enlisted a Swedish producer to mix the album, with similarly disastrous results. "We didn't like it," Olausson said. "And that took us a while to realize. ... We just sat down and started from scratch." And that's how A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night, which the band hoped to release on February 14, came out in November.
She conceded that "I think we're probably very hard to mix, because our music can be pretty crowded. If you're not careful, you can just suck all the energy out really easily, or you can make it over-the-top well-produced."
The challenge, Olausson said, is that each band member approaches each song as his or her own. "There's always a long struggle with people trying to get their parts in the song," she said. "There is not always just one songwriter, and the others play along to that song. Each member of the band is sort of making their interpretation of the song."
The difficulty is compounded because the band members have very different musical sensibilities. In one interview, Olausson related that she excitedly brought Vampire Weekend to her bandmates: "We listened to it, people took it to pieces, and it was just like, ‘Ugh, we shouldn't really talk about music.'"
Yet that tension is also a major source of what makes Love Is All special. On "New Beginnings," for example, the sax and guitar compete for attention over the vocals, and the result is thrilling.
Not everybody gets his or her way all the time, though. The band essentially forced a "We Will Rock You" style on drummer Markus Görsch for "Sea Sick"; Olausson related that he's "really embarrassed to do that." And for a stopgap covers EP this past summer, each band member was allowed to pick one song to perform, and "nobody in the band had any right to complain." The result included everything from Dire Straits to Prince.
But that was a tossed-off affair, and outside of that type of experiment, Love Is All apparently only knows how to be contentious. As Olausson said: "Everyone is always way too involved to be blasé."
Love Is All will perform at RIBCO on Saturday, December 13. The all-ages show also features Crystal Stilts and begins at 5 p.m. Cover is $5.
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