The Oakland, California based four-piece The Love Songs creates punk and hardcore-influenced rock music complete with funny lyrics likened to Weird Al. Whether their energetic, aggressive songs tell bizarre stories, make you root for the underdog, or warn you that life will be full of challenges, you’ll never be bored while listening to them. The Pop Break interviewed The Love Songs about their origins, influences, distinct sound and their most recent album, Oh the Places You’ll Go Wrong.
Who are The Love Songs? (Names of your band members and the instruments you play): Bradley on drums, Salem on bass and vocals, Frank on guitar and vocals and “Craigums” on vocals and guitar.
You guys started back in 2000, right? How has it been to consistently be in a band and create music over the years? What’s kept you guys together: I first met Bradley when we heard his death metal band practicing across the street from a friend’s house. He was 12 and the year was 1989. A year or two later, the drummer for a band I was in called Your Mother vanished off the face of the earth. Like, I had his drum set in my house for two years before his older brother reclaimed it. We replaced the missing drummer with Bradley and he and I have been playing together for over 25 years. He’s got a pretty low tolerance for disinterest, so I spend a lot of energy just trying to keep him challenged and laughing, which probably keeps us both interested. Frank and Salem bring the chops to flesh out Brad and mine’s tomfoolery.
I see that you are based out of Oakland, CA. What brings you over to Asbury Park, NJ? From your experiences, how would you compare the music scene here on the East Coast with that of the West Coast? What’s different—or what’s the same: Frank is from northern NJ so he’s been instrumental, if you will, in getting us out here. I mean, where else is he going to do his laundry but at home?
I wouldn’t make any generalizations about how the East Coast differs from the West Coast, musically-speaking. But it does seem safer to admit to liking Billy Joel out west whereas here it seems kind of polarizing. Also, touring the East Coast is way less taxing than touring the West Coast. Richmond to D.C. to Philly to NYC to Boston is the same drive time as San Francisco to San Diego, and the truck stops are better.
How would you describe the attitude or overall “personality” of The Love Songs? What does The Love Songs stand for: Bradley and I figured we should just call the band Love Songs (and later, The Love Songs) so people knew what they were getting into and couldn’t possibly be disappointed when we actually played love songs. Of course, our sound/aesthetic/attitude doesn’t quite fit that preconception, but that makes it more fun. Honestly, this band has been one big exercise in shooting ourselves in the collective foot. It takes some guts to fess up publicly to liking a band with our name, much less scrawl it on your school notebook or get it tattooed. But hey, when that happens, we know it’s genuine.
One plus to having our name is that we kill it on streaming services. Think of how many people generically search for “love songs” on Spotify or Pandora or iTunes. It is a lot, and we come through that feed right alongside Elton John and Adele and Toni Braxton. Without planning it, that experience basically sums up our whole musical experience – being misunderstood, mis-categorized, and probably way more aggressive than anyone expects.
What genres have the most influence on your music? What name would you give to describe your genre: For lack of a better description, we’re just a rock band born from the punk and hardcore scene. Sidebar: autocorrect made that “pink and hand core.” Maybe that’s what we are? A pink and hand core band.
I see that you mention Weird Al in your Facebook bio and have some covers of his songs. How does his music have an influence on The Love Songs? Along with Weird Al, what bands or musicians do you draw inspiration from? Who are they and what do you like about them: When I mentioned earlier how Bradley had a death metal band, we also learned at the time that he only listened to two things: death metal and polka. (His grandfather is in the Concertina Hall of Fame, fwiw). Polka naturally lead to Weird Al and that was our first real common ground. For a while, we actually followed Weird Al around like he was the Grateful Dead. He has had the same band for 35 years, and that says as much about their character as it does their talents. In many instances we employ the WWWAD? (What Would Weird Al Do?) approach.
Aside from that, we primarily listen to guitar-based aggressive music. Current favorites include Mutoid Man, Extremity, Baptists, Night Birds and Power Trip.
What would you say is the main message of your album Oh, the Places You’ll Go Wrong? What ideas or themes come across to listeners while they’re listening to these songs: I’m not sure what sort of ideological cohesion exists on our records—I suppose that’s for someone else to distill. I know I’m not fond of victim-y lyrics, or banal “angry” lyrics, so I probably try to avoid those, and I like underdogs (“I Hope It Leaves A Scar”) and unusual stories (“All Branches, No Trunk”) and balanced perspectives (“Sex or War”), so hopefully that comes across in the subjects I pick and the words I use/misuse to describe them.
How did you decide that “Oh the Places You’ll Go Wrong” would be the title of the record? Does that track just encapsulate what the record is all about: Titles and cover art are always such chores. We always have grand, ambitious ideas about them but when it comes to the execution of the always-lesser-version of the idea, it is hard to agree on anything, so we usually just go with something that hits at least some of the marks.
The song “Oh, The Places…” was written for my daughter as a sort of warning letter. It goes on about how she’ll get to face compelling challenges but along the way, will make mistakes and/or encounter naysayers. It also apologizes for the way the world at large is being left for her, and that while neither good nor bad will ever ultimately “win,” it is her responsibility to keep the scales tipped towards “good” whenever possible. It seemed like a universal enough idea to stand as an album title. No relation to the art, though. The cover was a watercolor done by a friend in Australia (Mike Foxall) who does art for Motörhead and AC/DC and stuff. He had a good idea of what our shows look like and we stuffed the crannies of the image with inside references.
What are some of your favorite songs to perform live on this album? What makes them so enjoyable to play: I like playing all the songs live that we can, but deep down we’re still just a loud, speedy, power pop band, so any song that is extremely fast and short is probably the most fun to play and is best received. But specifically on this record, I’d probably pick “Sex Or War.” It has a Subhumans/Culture Shock-y main riff, an Alice In Chains-y vocal part, a Samiam-y chorus, a Specials-y breakdown, a Metallica-y guitar break … it just covers a lot of fun ground.
How does your video for Oh the Places You’ll Go Wrong reflect who you are as a band: The fact that we did it all in one day, without any permissions, using the good graces of friends, and with an extremely limited budget most definitely reflect the band. The director and editor (Jamie DeWolf and Adam Parmalee, respectively) are also super talented and many points removed from basic society, which are two other common threads in people/bands that we work with.
How it doesn’t reflect the band is that it is a more serious story. A young, free-spirited girl goes about town encountering beauty and horror in an effort to make it to her dying grandfather. That’s kind of a more serious focus than we’re used to. If I had my way, all our videos would just be done by the Zucker Bros or Monty Python.
From all of your experiences and time spent together creating and performing as The Love Songs, what is the best part about being a musician: The ush … expressing yourself creatively/productively, challenging yourself artistically, making your friends laugh, and most importantly, having an outlet to run and jump and yell and scream and act like a spazz.
Side note: I used to be a professional air guitarist (no joke—well, it is a joke but it’s a joke I took seriously) and I would make more money in a month doing air guitar than this band has made in total since Day 1. So lest anyone see our inexplicable 150k FB followers and think we’re stumbling over piles of money, you can rest assured that gas in the tour van is food out of my kid’s mouths.
THE LOVE SONGS PLAYS TONIGHT AT WONDER BAR AT 7 P.M. WITH HICCUP AND PSYKIDELIC OVEN MIT.