Get Laid, Get Huge 

Why the synth-popping Lovemakers stopped whining and started fornicating.

Attention dreary, undersexed indie rock bands of the Bay Area: Do you long for fans who peel off their clothes at your shows? Do you wish local scenesters would clamor to be added as your Friendster? Take it from the Lovemakers' Scott Blonde -- once deeply dreary and undersexed himself, but now just the opposite -- when he says that the solution simply lies in a change of perspective.

"Someone asked me for songwriting advice recently," says the singer/guitarist from his Berkeley home. "I told him, 'Stop writing about how you're not getting any, and start writing about how you're going to get some. No one wants to hear about your failed relationships.' "

Deepak Chopra would concur: Project outwardly your desires in order to actualize them, rather than wallowing in the same insecurities that corduroy-and-Chucks-clad rockers have mined for emotional content since time immemorial. Blonde played bass with East Bay veteran mopers Applesaucer for years, then "started feeling really stupid singing about ex-girlfriends I didn't even know anymore," fell in love for real, got kicked out of the band, wrote some songs with his new girlfriend, Lisa Light, about getting kissed and dancing, took a few press shots with her naked and riding him, and instantly began selling an impressive number of records at Amoeba.

Jason Fish, the synthesizer player who anchors the two lovemaking Lovemakers, claims it really wasn't that simple: "To bands that have been struggling locally for years, it might look like it happened really easily, but it was really because of all the work we've put in developing connections and talking to people and networking with bands. That's what's produced all this, all the legwork behind the scenes."

The fact that your female member wears nipple tape onstage might be a factor too, no?

"It can't hurt," he chuckles. "Well, it might hurt for her when she takes it off. ..."

Like the tiny hairs around an areola being pulled free, so too are fans snatching up the Lovemakers' self-titled CD and tickets to its shows. A month ago, a store buyer told Blonde that on a monthly basis, the band's self-titled CD was outselling all other local bands, and even moving more than Justin Timberlake. A recent call by the Express confirmed that it was still selling well "but not quite flying off the shelves either," according to a different buyer. The Lovemakers' last show, at the cramped Hemlock in San Francisco, was sold out well before the band took the stage. Light, the band's raccoon-eyelinered singer, bass player, and electric violinist, says they have at least three major labels sniffing around their wet sheets, with one now evidently ready to jump right into bed.

So what's the dealio? Besides the hard work, the boobies, and the fun lyrics, the Lovemakers have synths. Everybody loves synths right now -- a blando indie rock band like the Faint becomes the toast of the tour circuit just because it uses them, and the media seems to get so blinded by the contraptions lugged onstage by Chicks on Speed that they don't realize the band is awful. Fish, though, is quite the vintage keyboard virtuoso, not so much in complex playing, but on the programming end -- getting his Moog and Prophet VS to moan and shimmer just as Visage and New Order did. He's from Manchester, so it's in his chromosomes.

The Lovemakers have been accused more than once of being electroclash, that little surge of electro-punks coupling with cyborg-throated women singers. But the title doesn't quite fit. "Clash" implies a friction between cultures; the Lovemakers aren't really rubbing against anything except each other. "Neo-Romantic" or "Old Wave" are also stupid descriptions; let's just call them a synth-pop group. The qualities that redeem them from mere defrosted Depeche disciples are their more intricate drum machine rhythms, the violin, and their cheeky and endearing performances (Light and Blonde often make out, and Fish wears white suits and two-tone specs).

Furthermore, the Lovemakers have the male/female call-and-response thing down to such a sassy science, used most effectively on "Internet Girlfriend," a conversation between Light (who meets an online hottie named Jen) and Blonde (who claims to not be jealous, but grumbles about having to watch TV while she's drooling over Jen's JPEGs).

That, Light swears, is the only true story about their relationship in the lyrics. "When Scott and I first got together and started writing songs," she explains from her day job at Oliveto Restaurant, "we swore we weren't going to write about our relationship. We also promised not to write about people not liking us or feeling un-self-confident. And we're never going to look at our shoes -- we're going to wear sexy, cool clothes, and jump around and make everyone dance!"

For Light and Blonde, the Lovemakers is very much a recovery group from indie rock drudgery. She met him through her then-boyfriend, who was the manager of Saturn Records, where Blonde worked. He invited her to play violin in Applesaucer (she's classically trained), and they hooked up. Then he got fired from his job, and the lovebirds got kicked out of the band. "Everyone hated us," Light says. "We were excommunicated from the neighborhood for a few months."

Blonde had been germinating an idea for an electronically based virtual band for years, so the couple decided to eschew a drummer for programmed beats and produce the band using ProTools, the workhorse of dance music. "Since high school, I wanted to do a band that had stereo sound onstage," he recounts. "I was really into electronic music at that point, and I loved how whenever you saw a DJ, it was coming at you from every direction. With a rock band, it just comes straight head-on. I wanted a little more versatility sound-wise. Plus, having the drum tracks already programmed would allow us to pay attention to performance."

They tapped Fish, a longtime software programmer, to help them figure out ProTools. Blonde knew him from one chance game of Dungeons & Dragons, a meeting which had spooked Blonde so thoroughly he stopped playing with him. It turns out Fish is very serious about role playing, and insists on playing in the dark, which just goes to show that not all computer people are nerds. He won't confirm whether or not he in fact has a full suit of chain mail, but D&D lives on in the Lovemakers. Light and Blonde are currently in a game together, and Light wrote a ballad, "Little Dru Dru," about her druid gnome character.

Light and Blonde were so clueless about making music on computers that Fish was just sort of absorbed into the band. Being a vintage keyboard collector and longtime fan of his hometown's crystalline synth sound, he brought along an unavoidable '80s aesthetic to the project. Songs like "Dance" -- an even more '80s-sounding takeoff on Billy Idol's theme of dancing with oneself -- just flowed out of Fish's plastic, primary-color riffing.

But the Lovemakers are not content with becoming the next electroclash splash, a genre that's quickly turning into the new college rock -- popular with hipsters, but invisible to the general masses. Each of the three members is hell-bent on getting nothing less than huge, and to this end they're constantly hustling, plying people on the street with demos and tickets to their shows. The Lovemakers has been together since April 2002, and already they've gone on four tours, with a deluxe, month-long jaunt through Australia planned for this summer. The group also just filmed a video with Ghetto Geppetto, the East Bay videographer who gets his stuff on MTV (and who sports the best name west of the Mississippi), which it hopes to show on Australian MTV. One of Fish's friends is an Aussie with deep pockets who wants to start a record label and has decided to make the Lovemakers into pop stars, at least Down Under.

Finally, just a couple of days before press time, the group made a potentially even more auspicious connection. "Because of the buzz about us locally," Scott explains, "our CD got into the hands of Mark Needham, who produced the latest Fleetwood Mac album and the big Cake record. He's working with an A&R man from Warner Brothers and they're going to record a demo with us and personally shop it around. Nothing might come of it, but with these guys, when they say something's going to happen, it usually does."

At this point you're probably thinking: What kind of prospects of crossing over does a quirky, throwback synth-pop group have? Well, the plan is to go all-the-way pop, in an urban radio sort of fashion. Both Blonde and Light are gaga over the Justin Timberlake record, and that's the sound Needham has promised them. So try to imagine a hyper-processed, smooth-but-jiggy Human League made for KMEL. That got your brain in a knot?

What the Lovemakers hope to pull off would definitely be a coup, and you've gotta give 'em credit for the chutzpah. As Blonde puts it, "We want to be really, really big. I'm not dissing the indie rock world at all, but I'm not concerned with staying 'real' -- I write pop songs. I write what I like, and I really honestly love Justin Timberlake. We want to be a big deal, be on MTV and the whole thing. You only live once: why not go enormous?"


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