Interview – The Love Inks by Lara McCaffrey

So this cool lil’ band, The Love Inks, based out of Austin, Texas, was on tour for a good part of last year and they ended their US tour in San Diego. I’ve been a big fan of their album they released last year and as a result, I was fortunate enough to set up an interview with them before their final show. Rather than go on any further, here’s a lovely little piece about them written by my homegirl Lara!

My fave cut off their album!

A Successful Experiment
Love Ink’s hypothesis of stripped down pop songs being emotive proves correct–the band sits down with Aural Gravy to explain their scientific method

It is refreshing to find a band that wants to push boundaries and is constantly seeking improve. Minimalist pop group Love Inks is that sort of band. Hailing from Austin, Texas, a town rich with loud electric music, Love Inks dares to be different with their stripped down short pop songs. The trio made up of of singer Sherry LeBlanc, husband Kevin Dehan who plays bass and newcomer Derek Brown on guitar often receive comparisons to the XX because of the soft vocals, simple drum beats, uncomplicated melodies. Although they are flattered by the comparison, they are not looking to be like any particular band. They are constantly testing their hypothesis in an experiment to see how minimalist a pop song can get.

To tell us more about this project, Love Inks agreed to meet with Marcus Rosario (AKA DJ Mawkus) and I at the Soda Bar before their last show of their tour. After fifteen minutes of eating peanut M&Ms with Rosario instead of drinking beers at Soda Bar, I spot Love Inks walk in with take out from Mexican restaurant Pokez in hand. They sheepishly walk up to us when Mawkus waves them over.

“They told us Pokez was only three minutes away,” says Dehan, explaining their tardiness.

“We’re usually very prompt!” LeBlanc assures us.

Despite their hunger, the trio politely put aside their burritos to speak to us. Their show in San Diego was supposed to be the second to last stop in their tour promoting ESP which debuted on May 10, 2011. They were due to play in Tempe, Arizona but plans had changed. Being a college town, most of the student audience would be out of town on winter break. It is time for a break anyways–the group has been touring on and off since May of 2011. A European tour supporting Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnances preceded their US tour. Their San Diego show makes this the second time the group has set foot in San Diego. During their first visit in an earlier tour in May, a San Diego native friend showed them the tourist spots including Mission Beach (“It’s the most 90s beach ever,” says LeBlanc) before their show at the Tin Can Ale House. LeBlanc has other ties in Southern California–Bambi of the Dum Dum Girls is a close friend of hers.

Despite the relentless touring, Love Inks appears excited to discuss their band rather than burnt out. They explained that to make their experimental music work, Love Inks made sure their songs had certain qualities. The title of the album ESP stands for three words the band tries to capture in their sound: Emotive, Simple, Pop. They believe that short two minute songs with simple melodies backed by a crisp, repetitive beat from a drum machine can create pop music that is more emotional than songs with complex arrangements.

In a line up that now includes Derek Brown on guitar replacing Adam Lindell (who left the group to become a teacher before their US tour began), Dehan is the main song writer and LeBlanc writes the lyrics. Dehan’s reign over the song writing is visible as most of the songs consist of a leading bass line. However, the vocals, bass, guitar and drum machine are all needed to make his songs truly work. In many of their songs, each instrument plays one note of a chord, therefore making them reliant on each other. The new song writing process will also be an experiment: “All three of us–I’m not sure how it’ll work but all three of us will work on the album together,” LeBlanc says. “[Songwriting is] always better with more people… It makes for a better end result,” says Dehan.

While Dehan handled writing the music, LeBlanc took care of the lyrics and vocal melodies on ESP. Real life events influence the subject matter in her lyrics, but the cryptic style in which they are written make the song more general therefore more relatable to listeners. “It’s like [she’s] singing to them,” says Brown. For example “Wave Goodbye” was a song about LeBlanc’s friend Jackie moving to China because she was tired of life in Austin. The song encourages her friend to say good bye to her old life and move on to new adventures. However, after one of their shows, a Love Inks fan expressed to LeBlanc that she associated the song with her recent break-up. “I sent [my ex-boyfriend] a tape of ‘Wave Goodbye’ on both sides!” said the fan.

Although the sound and lyrics of their music achieves the desired emotive and minimalist effect, the short Ramones style song length has been a small problem. Although the length of their songs adds to the minimalism, two minute long songs make it hard to fill up set time. “That’s why when we get home we gotta work on some more stuff,” says Dehan.

With a list in hand of future goals and problems to fix, the band heads back home to Austin. They are humble in admitting what departments their experimental band needs help in and are determined to become better. However, as far as the critics and fans are concerned, this is an experiment that is working.

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