Artist Feature: The Love Language
I would guess that at least ten indie rock bands are formed each day in America. Such an honest guess, as exaggerated as you may believe it to be, can be translated into an annual total of almost 4,000 bands per year. If that seems like a high number to you, think about these factors. First, there's this fucking Rock Band video game craze which, if it had guts, I'd hate them. Second, there's the general notion that being in a band makes anybody cool. I can't argue with that. Look at John Mayer. On second thought, don't look at John Mayer. Third, and probably the most prevalent factor, particularly in rock music, is the constantly-rising number of broken hearts. Heartbreak is a global epidemic that has carried the ice cream industry for years, resulted in a record number of late-night phone call lamentations, and, unfortunately, it is the catalyst behind millions of bad records. So, you would think that when Stuart McLamb, leader of North Carolina's The Love Language, broke up with his girlfriend and made a record about it, it would become just another speck of ash in the inferno of heartbreak. However, you would be delightfully mistaken. But, what's even more surprising is that the result is something far, far better than just a great lo-fi rock album.
I won't venture into the details about McLamb's break-up because I don't know anything about it and, frankly, I don't give a fuck - nor should you. I know that sounds harshly inconsiderate, but let me explain. The resulting self-titled album is something to care about - nine tracks that jump from upbeat to downbeat, but maintain an overall somber tone - overcast with light showers and some scattered bouts of sunlight. Such a tone is relevant to the context of the lyrics for obvious reasons. But, it is also relevant to the lo-fi recording that muffles each and every instrument on the record, which McLamb played entirely on his own (with the exception of some percussion here and there). Some may argue that lo-fi production is a curtain for the talentless to hide behind. In certain cases, this is definitely true, but with McLamb's undeniably catchy hooks and melodies, such a statement has no foundation. Rather, the distortion that causes the instruments to collide into one another actually accents the tone that McLamb is attempting to project. It is simple pop music, but these songs aren't just breezy summer days. There are layers of cold nights on top of each sunny melody and the hooks in songs like "Lalita" and "Sparxxx" will surely grab you.
It didn't take long for McLamb's hooks to start grabbing an audience outside of his circle and before the thought even crossed his mind, McLamb was asked to play a show. Though the show was a mere two weeks away, McLamb jumped at the opportunity because he was personally asked by The Rosebuds to open for them. Scrambling to find bandmates, McLamb looked to his family, friends, and musical acquaintances. He managed to put together a seemingly rag-tag band of seven musicians. But, beneath the surface of what could have been a one-night only band lied something far greater. To put it simply, they just clicked. All outgoing and hilarious in their own rite, the band got along very well and a band that clicks off-stage most definitely follows the same wavelength on-stage. And so, the band continued on as The Love Language. But, this was not Stuart McLamb's The Love Language any longer. They were certainly McLamb's songs, but the band brought them out of the depths of heartbreak and translated each self-loathing lyric into something self-empowering. "Goodbye to blue skies, these white lies have set this heart on fire, and now you want to watch it burn," sings McLamb on "Sparxxx." But, in a live setting the tamborines shake violently, multiple band members loudly harmonize, and a look of relieved despair is painted on McLamb's face. The woe-is-me song is transformed into a confident accusation - a firm stance on ending a relationship that had failed from the start. On record, it's waving the white flag, but on stage, it is a moment of self-actualization. It's amazing what this band can do.
Initially, The Love Language was the result of a failed relationship, where the world had caved in on Stuart McLamb. But, the outcome of the record was not just a cathartic conquering of sorrow, but more importantly, the formation of a band that pushes itself beyond its original intentions. The Love Language has become a musical force that is comparable to The Arcade Fire with a penchant for pop like Saturday Looks Good To Me. They are not just a group of musicians playing McLamb's songs. Each member has made those songs their own and when they finish up their first must-see tour, it will be very exciting to hear what this band is capable of making when writing as a whole.
- Caleb Morairty
*photo courtesy of Matt Miller.