“Black Eye” By Love Inks.
In many ways Texan trio Love Inks’ debut album ‘ESP’ is the complete antithesis of much of today’s fast food, battery farmed pop. Unlike those hyperactive, homogeneous big label ‘stars’ who rely on heavy handed high tech production trickery to obfuscate their glaringly obvious lack of talent, Love Inks have no truck with such deceit. They have stripped down their music to its most elemental, thereby ensuring the emotional purity of their work is preserved and not lost in a hellish vortex of honking horns, synth strings and robotic auto-tuning. Love Inks have adhered to the old maxim that ‘less is more’ and ‘ESP’ is an example of minimalist, D.I.Y. music at its finest with the whole project being self-recorded in their own homes and then mixed by a friend; It’s a debut rich in promise and shows that if you have the talent and the belief you don’t need a huge budget or ‘big name’ producers whose egos often far outweigh their talent.
The minimalist production affords tracks like ‘Black Eye’ ‘Leather Glove’ ‘Can’t Be Wrong’ and ‘Skeleton Key’ the space to breath and resonate with shimmering beauty whilst showcasing Sherry LeBlanc’s warm, beguiling vocals. The listener may be drawn to Mazzy Star, The Sundays and even the XX in terms of musical reference points, but Love Inks are very much their own band who knew exactly how they wanted this album to sound, as Sherry explains ‘The album reflects a time and place for everyone in the band. A time to pare down to what is necessary, essential. Cut out complexity, and you’ll find a deeper layer that is thicker and stronger. Like the human body, you’ll eventually end up at a nerve; once it’s hit, that’s when we know we’re there, and that’s when we press the record button.” .
It’s an album that effortlessly manages to weave its magic upon the listener and has a poignancy and an almost timeless quality that is an increasing rarity in today’s musical landscape where the ‘let’s cram EVERYTHING into one song” style of pop production is de rigueur.
Just because you have the technology and the budget doesn’t mean you have to use it all at once, indeed Love Inks prove you don’t need to throw everything plus the kitchen sink into the mix and that restraint and subtlety are often far more rewarding qualities than brashness and gimmickery.
We chatted to Sherry about, amongst other things, their ethos with regard to making “ESP.”
Album rating 8/10.
VP: Hello Sherry congratulations on your marvellous album E.S.P. , it’s been described as stripped back and minimal, what was the ethos behind recording it? Was it very important that there was room to breathe in a musical sense, that subtlety and nuance wasn’t lost under invasive and heavy handed production?
SHERRY: Thanks for the kind words – you’ve really hit the nail on the head. When Adam, Kevin and I set out to make music together, we started with long debates over what exactly we wanted to do. Before we had our first ‘practice’ we had determined that we wanted to make music that was simple, clean and emotive. We realized that silence in a song can be equally powerful to the music itself. That’s also why we insisted on recording it on our own, at our home on our reel to reel and trying to use as little reverb as possible. It’s hard though, because reverb is like butter, you don’t want to overuse it, but it just makes everything so much better!
VP: You’re a trio, there’s a husband and wife team in there too, you’ve played in other bands before ? but how did Love Inks take shape, what was your overall vision for the band and do you ever sacrifice domestic bliss for artistic vision.
SHERRY: The timing on this question is perfect, as I’m writing to you from the back of a van on a California highway, surrounded by piles of merch, sleeping bags, and clothes. Domestic bliss has been traded in for rustic, band living. On the other hand, we’re creating a new sort of domestic bliss with the band as a family. We all take care of each other in different ways. Adam, the guitarist, is our closest friend and was the best man at our wedding. We’ve just added a live drummer as well, who was one of our bridesmaids. It’s probably the closest knit friends you could have in a band.
To answer the other part of the question, we’ve all played in different bands before. Adam and Kevin have played together since they were teenagers. Forming the band seemed to be common sense with the amount we were all hanging around together and talking about music.
VP: It’s been documented that “Love Inks” isn’t actually a rude name and has a rather more romantic origin, but “E.S.P.” as an album title ? Is there a special meaning behind that?
SHERRY: E.S.P. was Adam’s idea and came to him in sort of a Gary Busey moment as an acronym for our music. Emotive, simple, pop. I’m sure part of the influence came from the fact that we’re all a bit intrigued by fringe sciences.
VP : Do you all share the same musical influences? Is there any music any you like that as a band you find particularly divisive? Heated discussions in tour vans etc ? 😉
SHERRY: Oh no! We have very different tastes and backgrounds. If you were to individually ask us our influences, you would such different answers; it would seem that we were in different bands. The only argument we’ve had in the tour van so far over music is about Jonathan Richman. He’s one of my very favourite musicians and on the first rotation of a Modern Lovers’ album I think Adam almost tore his own eyes out. However, we all agree on the classics – Dylan, the Beatles, etc. We also can all love the Strokes and Radiohead. I guess those all go without saying. Pick our brains sometime and we’ll most likely make you a mix tape.
VP: Would you say there was a defining moment in your lives that made you think …(maybe upon hearing a record or seeing an artist) you thought ‘YES, this is what I want to do?’
SHERRY: I can’t speak for the guys, but I’ve always wanted to be a singer. I know we all have wanted to play music for most of our lives. I used to sit in my room for hours with my Little Tyke tape recorder writing & singing songs about Alf, flowers, taking baths – all the important kid stuff. My parents gave me a Monkees record and I’m sure I played the grooves right off that thing by the time I was five.
VP : On to song writing – how do you go about it ? Do you pick up ideas as you go along or do you tak time out and say ‘Ok lets write some songs’.
SHERRY: It’s more of a personal process with us than a group songwriting process. Kevin stays up until the wee hours of the morning, composing on his synthesizer. He’ll have tapes of twenty to thirty song ideas that might be from one night of writing and we pare them down from there. Sometimes he writes the melodies and lyrics & sometimes he just hands me a tape with chords recorded on it. Same with Adam, he comes with tapes full of songs and we each add our individual touch.
VP: Have you been to England yet? The weathers an acquired taste and I’m sure you’ll love the unremitting grey skies that pass for summer….
SHERRY: Oh man! Unfortunately our trip to England was postponed so we haven’t made it there yet! I’m sure we’ll love the change in climate and atmosphere. We’ve really enjoyed just the little differences playing the various cities in North America. We’ll be in the UK in September and we can’t wait to play there.
VP: Is there one song on the album which is one you sense is a fan favourite. For example I don’t think there’s a bad track on ESP, but ‘Skeleton Key’ is the song that really drew me toward your work..
SHERRY: Skeleton Key and Blackeye have gotten the best reception overall, but I’d say when we play live, people have really been into Can’t Be Wrong and Too Late. It’s a mixed bag, ya know? We played last night in a bar in San Diego, California and after we played Blackeye, this Rastafarian in the crowd kept yelling, “‘MORE PARTY MUSIC, MAN!” during each of the slower ballads. Really harshing the mellow vibe… ha ha.
VP: What’s the one song you’d all like to cover giving it the Love Inks treatment, and why ?
SHERRY: This is hilarious. Since we’ve been on the road for weeks, there’s at least one song a day where one of us says, “We have GOT to cover this song!” It’s varied from George Michael’s ‘Freedom’ to Miley Cyrus’ ‘Party in the USA’. Kevin and I stayed in a hotel room the other night that had an upright piano. We were up until 5am hammering out Daniel Johnston’s ‘Why, Without You’. That song is mind blowing, so maybe that’s the next one…
VP: Five words to sum up ‘ESP’
SHERRY: Hmmm… it’s extra hard answering this, especially since I told you E.S.P. stands for emotive, simple, pop. How about “astral, malachite, dusty, dreamy, love.” First five words that came to my mind… xo.