Rolling Stone (FR), June 2011
The Love Me Nots: Band On The Run
Departing from the simple parenthetical of sixties garage retro, The Love Me Nots, two girls and two boys from Arizona, have progressively evolved into a powerful, melodic, seductive rock outfit.
Incandescent garage-rock by the gang from Phoenix, Arizona, continues to win new fans with each new release.
By Eric Tandy
Let us remember, for after all, it wasn't so long ago. Following the global success of the White Stripes with Elephant, to believe some of the predictions of certain “enlightened” experts, the world should have become a huge garage. From the United States (The Dirtbombs, The Detroit Cobras and others) to Japan (Guitar Wolf), passing by Portugal (The Legendary Tiger Man) or even France (Jerry Spider Gang, Neurotic Swingers), gimmicks borrowed from the times of Link Wray, to the Count Five and to the Cramps, flavored with punk sauce, would sweep away everything in their path. The end of the 20th century's version of garage rock would be the next big thing.
In reality, nearly ten years after the initial fury (although, of course, the origin of the genre goes back much farther), it still does not quite have the market power that was anticipated. Some bands truly made it (The Black Keys, The Kills); others quickly deviated toward a more polished sound (The Strokes, who more closely resemble The Cars than the New York Dolls); and others, finally, repeatedly release the same good record (The Bellrays), to a growing general indifference.
The intentions are there, and so is the spirit, but alas, no one has yet been able to compose a universal hymn as big as Seven Nation Army… Yet, in the pool of thousands of groups ready to travel the world by van between two gigs in dirty clubs, a few have enough arguments – attitude, songs, and presence – to make themselves heard above the local, underground, or even independent scale.
Take, for example, the good-looking (which is not necessarily the case for all garage rockers) and extremely interesting band The Love Me Nots, a quartet unique even in its composition of two girls and two boys from a place, Phoenix, Arizona, where one expects to find lazy pedal steel rather than big heavy seventies riffs… Ah well, that reveals enough of their home's qualities and differences to make us hope they would stand out in the neosixties scene today. And – who knows? – to carry the day.
Their new album (the fourth in five years, which in itself demonstrates a certain creative fever), The Demon and The Devotee, has the allure of a unifying party at which most generations can recognize themselves and have a good time. Their sparkling drum intros (The End of The Line), hooks that sound a bit like early Blondie (Demons), their Pretenders-like choruses, but with organ (Cheap Knockoff), or a guitar staring down some good old hard rock (I'm Not Okay) even to the point of glam, combine excellent skills with overall good culture.
A large knowledge of rock came first from Michael Johnny Walker, guitarist-founder who, after starting out in rockabilly, one day decided to turn up his amp a few notches: "in a band that mixed a lot raw stuff – some rock'n'roll, some punk, some garage, a little Led Zeppelin – there were a lot of influences".
And then, in parallel, during the summer of 2006, he embarked upon another adventure, The Love Me Nots so, initially envisioned as a sort of busy hobby… "Actually, in my mind it was only going to be a little side project based on what Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez were doing with Boss Hog. But then I met Nicole and we started rehearsing together, and I realized that it was going to be pretty different than what I first imagined".
The vocal tone of Nicole Laurenne, who Walker spotted on Myspace, does not much resemble Martinez's. The sound of her Farfisa organ, which she plugged into a fuzz pedal, doesn't bring Boss Hog to mind either, but rather the groups on the Nuggets compilation and sixties garage punk. A genre that the singer actually knew little about at first: "I started out playing classical piano, that's my background. Then later I found myself playing new wave. Little by little I discovered The Seeds, The Animals, The Sonics, and all the others, through Michaels record collection…"
You can guess what happened next… a premiere bassist and a premiere drummer jumped onto the project, which became more essential than parallel, and concerts began to fall into place. Although, as Nicole explains it, life on the road is obviously no picnic for a new group: "In the United States, it's an endless competition. There are too many bands and, actually, too few venues to play at. Nothing is easy…" "If you don't have lots of press behind you, you're dead", adds Jay Lien, the current drummer for the quartet. Bassist Kyle Rose Stokes arrived in 2008.
In an attempt to make it big fast, but also to continue the buzz starting on MySpace, the four quickly released – in the Fall of 2006 – their first album, put out on their own label in January 2007. "There wasn't much time between our first gig and going into the studio," Nicole Laurenne remembers. "The idea was to get the record out, without a lot of delays, and just see what would happen".
What followed was quite exciting, as the demand for more concerts grew and the web and independent radio helped get out the name “The Love Me Nots”. "But actually it was with our second album, which was a little better produced, that things really started to take a turn for the better and stuff began to happen for us", she says.
That second release, Detroit, was made quickly like the first one in Jim Diamond's studio ("an awesome and horrible place at the same time", says Walker), a producer known for his work with The Dirtbombs, The Go and dozens of others including The White Stripes. Diamond also produced the rest of the band's discography, that is to say Upsidedown Insideout, released in 2009 ("the most polished of them all", according to the singer-organist), and The Demon and The Devotee, the latest, on which they spent some time prior to its recording, a first for Nicole: "Until now, we never really paused before jumping into a recording. But on the new one, over a period of six months, we hit the songwriting really hard and collaborated a lot together. Each one of us brought in musical ideas or pieces of lyrics. The goal was to remove ourselves from the traditional garage sound. To evolve into something more modern. Although, of course, the foundation is still there".
In less than five years, The Love Me Nots have indeed become a perfectly “evolved” rock group. Able, for example, to slide from an catchy radio-friendly chorus (She's Nothing Like Me) to an eighties-sounding pop-ska rhythm, to a folk-rock-inspired Spector-esque refrain (The Girl Lights Up).
The garage doors are now open.