An old maxim avows that the best thing a young band can do is sign with a major label. Oakland pop group the Lovemakers believed it once themselves. Now, of course, they know better. A failed marriage with Interscope over the last few years yielded enough frustration to last a lifetime. So the Lovemakers decamped to San Francisco start-up music company Fuzz, where they've begun to launch their band ahead of the ailing music industry. After only a few months, there's no doubt the plan is working.
"We've already gotten way more press and radio than we did on Interscope," boasted singer, bassist, and violinist Lisa Light backstage at Bimbo's prior to the band's July 21 CD release show. Scott Blonde, vocals and guitar, sat a few feet away on the dressing room couch: "The entire span of three years on Interscope we have topped in four months." With their brand-new, low-budget, independent label, they've walloped the majors at their own game. Working hard and smart, apparently, has trumped conventional industry clout.
The Lovemakers' lone release with Interscope 2005's Times of Romance, which fueled a national tour and sent two singles to the top of the Billboard dance chart offered a sense of what the five-year-old band could accomplish, even with limited push. Light and Blonde hope the fans they've earned through "Shake That Ass," "Prepare for the Fight," and "Falling Apart" will follow them into their Fuzz years.
Easier said than done. The new record the Lovemakers unveiled at Bimbo's is evidence of marked creative growth. Misery Loves Company, a five-song EP and Fuzz Records' first release offers standard fare like "We Already Said Goodbye" and lead single "Whine and Dine" alongside a view of the territory the Lovemakers hope to visit next. "Save Me" is a righteous piece of '90s alt-rock built around a stadium-sized lead guitar riff. "Naturally Lonely" is a dark, brooding ballad. Both top five minutes. This is not the sort of stuff Lovemakers fans are used to hearing.
"We definitely plan on going in some pretty crazy directions," Blonde says. "In the future, people aren't going to get radio pop songs." After Times of Romance, losing one member and adding two new ones altered the band's chemistry. "I know for a fact that it's gonna be, "Oh, well, because they didn't make it big with the pop stuff, now they're gonna try to be cool.' We just don't care anymore."
For a band whose singers are known for stripping down, making out, and riling up audiences' libidos during concerts, it's a risky move. Do fans want anything more than lovemaking from the Lovemakers? At Bimbo's, the well-lubricated crowd of about eight hundred responded feverishly to the dance hits. A few couples danced real close while ex-couple Light and Blonde playacted a game of sexual teasing onstage. Seven-minute songs about fantasy worlds sure sound like a tough sell to this bunch. But Blonde insists they're coming.
Pop a copy of Misery Loves Company into a computer and the new ideas keep flowing. Each song is accompanied by a professional-quality music video. These range from the digitally animated "We Already Said Goodbye," which depicts Blonde and Light as metallic, mannequin-like figures roaming San Francisco before eventually drowning themselves in the bay, to the airy "Naturally Lonely," filmed in the woods outside Salinas. It features Light adorned in furs and walking with live wolves supervised by an animal trainer ("It's actually really fucking hard to find wolves," she admits). The overnight shoot left pro bono director Victor Solomon with a kiss of frostbite.
These five videos turned out so well that the Lovemakers intend to keep new ones coming. Likewise, the Misery Loves Company EP is no mere teaser for a follow-up full-length. It's the first in a string of four EPs they plan to release over the next two years. With the videos and unusual release schedule, the band hopes to keep fans' interest piqued while providing an added incentive to buy each record. At the same time, in a different arena, the Lovemakers are giving their music away: Unmixed tracks are available online for fans and DJs to download, reassemble, and share with as many people as possible.
The band's partnership with Fuzz is no less progressive. As one of the first two bands to sign (alongside Oakland's Maldroid), the Lovemakers own a stake in the company through stock options. They also enjoy a degree of decision-making power within the business. That's a far cry from the band's Interscope days, when the musicians were lucky just to have a say in their recording schedule.
Indeed, little hasn't changed since those times, just a few years back, when the Lovemakers aspired to get "really, really big" by landing their sexualized '80s pop alongside Justin Timberlake on MTV. "For sure, our priorities have matured," Light says. "The chase of that whole thing is really damaging to what we're doing." That's putting it lightly. Blonde and Light are never going back.
It's a whole new world at Fuzz. Early sales figures for Misery Loves Company look promising three days before the release date, the band authorized pressing an additional five thousand copies to meet demand. Distribution has reached small record stores in New York. Radio stations across the country have picked up their songs. And Blonde is absolutely thrilled: "It's literally as great as you could possibly imagine for a band."
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