Sorry, Midwest geekout for a second. Especially in Texas, anytime you meet someone from the Midwest you’re like, “Oh! You’re my people!”
As days go by, that’s what happens at SXSW. You start running into people either you know or from your town or city. It just happens. First night, for instance, Koala Fires ran into me, who were handing out flyers for their new remix. Little did they know, I had reviewed their album months earlier and had met one of their members in Chicago some time earlier. It can get eerie at times, in the most mysteriously delightful ways. Love Inks is just about to release their debut album, E.S.P., in May via Hell, Yes! and City Slang. A mixture of dream pop with electronic undertones that hypnotize the senses. While the addictive “Blackeye” has been causing a stir in music blogs, I can assure you the rest of the album does not disappoint. Sherry Leblanc, Kevin Dehan and Adam Linnell and I sat down one afternoon in Austin to talk South By, the city and its charms, and E.S.P.
How’s this SXSW compared to others?
Sherry Leblanc: It just seems to get bigger every year.
Kevin Dehan: It’s different. Some years you just gotta skip over it. Every other year I get into it.
Sherry: Yeah, you get your bike and you have your schedule of things.
Kevin: Yeah, that’s what’s fun. You’re biking around and you get your ass kicked. Then the next year you’re like, “I…don’t know if I can do it this year!” But then by the next year, you’re ready!
Sherry: I think what’s weird for us this time is that we’re involved with stuff downtown. Because we’re usually doing things on bike, I never realized how bad the traffic is. We live ten minutes from downtown, but it took us over an hour to get to where we needed to be yesterday. It’s a small town so when it gets packed with thousands and thousands of people, the traffic just goes to hell.
That’s what we’re feeling to. Though thankfully we have bikes.
Sherry: Oh yeah! Very good! That’s the key to having a good SXSW! The cab system doesn’t work because it’s overloaded. You can’t really drive.
Kevin: It’s foot and bike, that’s the way to go.
I was trying to find information about you, but all I could find was a Spanish interview…
Sherry: Yeah! There’s not a lot out about us. We just got interviewed by a guy from the Stool Pigeon, which is an English music sorta thing and he said the same. But he could read Spanish, so he could read into it.
Adam Linnell: Have you read that thing? That guy is incredible!
Sherry: So yeah, what can we tell you about us?
Adam: We started a year ago. We’re [Adam and Kevin] friends from a long time ago from high school. They’ve [Kevin and Sherry] known each other for eight years.
Sherry: The two of them have always played in bands that I was always a huge friend of.
Adam: This is the first time we combined forces. She’s been in her bands over the years. We’ve been in our bands over the years. A year ago we all came together.
Kevin: It would always be a late night Friday where it’d be like, “We gotta do this!” Then finally one night we decided, “We got to do this.”
Sherry: What else was there about us? The band started, not only because we all wanted to play music together, but Kevin made a mixtape for both Adam and I. He said, “I think this is in the aesthetic we want to go for. Here’s some songs I’m really into right now that I think we could use as a jumping off point. Both Adam and I really dug the mixtape, so the seed of the band was a mixtape.
Who were some of the people on the mixtape?
Kevin: It wasn’t as much inspirational stuff as like The Raincoats and Young Marble Giants. A lot of old Rough Trade bands and…who else was on there…There was N.W.A. on there it wasn’t like completely, “This is what we’re gonna do.”
Sherry: But the overall feel was, “Hey, these people made simple, pure, honest music and made it fly.”
Kevin: Yes, it was simple stuff and…
Sherry: Except for N.W.A. [laughs]
So it was half, “Hey, I’m going to make this mixtape for inspiration”, half, “I’m making a mixtape”?
Kevin: Yeah! Once you start making it, you’re like, “I wanna hear this right now!”
You have the album, E.S.P., and it’s really good.
Sherry: Let me tell you about that. We just had our digital single released on March 7th. Then we have a 7″ coming out March 28th. We just saw it for the first time last night, and it’s so beautiful. It’s on white vinyl. It was put together by Hell, Yes!, which is one of our two labels. He did just a really amazing job making a piece of art. The LP, E.S.P., we saw that last night for the first time too. That comes out May 10th.
Kevin: We kind of freaked out though. “Okay, this is real? Ok. Put it on the record player.”
Sherry: It felt real when we saw it on vinyl. And we sound much better on vinyl than all the digital stuff we’ve heard. “Is this us! This is so good!” And we’re already working on new stuff.
Where did E.S.P. come from as a title?
Adam: I like paranormal psychology, and I’m interested in all kinds of fringe sciences. So that’s part of it. There’s this thing called astral projection, which is where you leave your body in the form of a spirit. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I like to read about it-it’s fun to think about.
Sherry: Just cause you’re into that whole…
Adam: That whole area. And it makes you wonder what kind of E.S.P. is happening in the realm of your life.
Sherry: Our name, Love Inks, comes from this old book about witchcraft called Magica Sexualis. It was printed in 1932 and was the first published book on the occult in the U.S.. There’s a chapter in there entitled “Love Inks” and it’s all about teaching you how to make an ink to write a love letter to woo a potential lover. So you do that by burning all of your old love letters, and with the ashes of your old love letters you make the ink to write letters to your new potential lovers.
Adam: It sounds like a jig. But we thought that it was a really romantic idea and, even though we’re not into the occult, they come up with some trippy ideas for how to get people to like you.
It’s surprising to hear that the album was recorded in a house, since it sounds so atmospheric and expansive. How was it recording the album, and having Kevin as producer?
Sherry: It was really great recording at home because there wasn’t any time constraint. You know, we could really spread it out and take time on each song without worrying about an hourly fee or anything like that. Our house was built in 1917 and seems as if it was made for recording… the acoustics and the atmosphere are both naturally warm. At the time, Kevin and Adam would record their parts together during the day, so I wasn’t really involved in those sessions. For the vocals, Kevin and I would stay up until the early morning hours recording those parts. It was just a lot of fun all around. Kevin is a great producer, he gives you a lot of freedom but is always honest if it’s a bad take.
What’s the story behind the lyrics of “Blackeye”?
Kevin: I don’t remember coming up with these words, so I don’t know what that says. I was coming from the perspective of the Ramones song “i don’t wanna go down to the basement.” It’s super simple and really vague. The only thing you know is that this guy does not want to go to the basement and that some bad shit is going on down there, and then for some reason he mentions Romeo? It’s so great. Sometimes you don’t need much to tell a story, it can really leave it to the listener to apply it to their own experiences.
So where are you from?
Sherry: I’m from the Midwest, the northwest side of Chicago. It’s like where Harlem and Foster intersect. So there, to Wisconsin, to Forth Worth, to Austin. But I’ve been in Austin for 11 years, so I’m from Austin.
Adam: I’m from south Austin. My mom’s head of daycare, my dad’s a P.E. teacher. Went to school in Austin, went to college in San Jose, came back. Been here since being back from school.
Sherry: Kevin never left.
Kevin: I never left. I’ve lived in every nook and cranny in Austin, which has been cool. The weirdest part is when you’re going somewhere in Austin, and all of a sudden you’re at your old house. Someone’s throwing a party (Sherry: at your old rental house). Then you smell it and you’re like, “Oh my god. The smell of this bathroom!”
Sherry: The smell of 2003!
Kevin: I love that! That’s my favorite thing. I’ve been here forever.
Sherry: Austin is such a close knit community, and really such a small town when you get to the nitty gritty of it. You think you haven’t met someone, then you remember that you worked at a coffee shop together ten years ago.
What’re your favorite nooks and crannies in Austin?
Sherry: Lala’s. There’s this bar up north that it’s Christmas year round. The story is that the woman’s husband left her in the 70s on Christmas Eve and she never had the heart to take down the decorations.
Kevin: Or her son died in Vietnam on Christmas.
Sherry: Yeah, either way sad stories. And it is this old sad woman that runs the bar. But she makes killer bloody marys.
Kevin: And they have a great jukebox.
Sherry: Every time you open the door to the men’s bathroom, these elves go flying across the room.
Sherry: And there’s a Christmas tree by the door. It’s crazy.
Sherry: It’s really 70s Christmas year round. And this is like that special old Christmas, the cheesy Christmas with the multi-colored lights.
Kevin: The one before we were born.
Adam & Kevin: Barton Springs.
Sherry: Originally when the Native Americans were here they thought of it as the fountain of us. It’s a good ritual to go there at the beginning of spring. If you’re ever going to come to town and stay at a hotel, and you want to woo a lady, take her to Hotel Saint Cecilia. It’s like a dreamland hotel where the Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam stay there when they come through. But when you go there, you can see why. It’s just the dreamiest place on earth.
We just discovered chicken waffles while being here…
Sherry: Chicken waffles! You got to watch out for southern food, you’ll get fat real quick! Breakfast tacos here are good, try all the breakfast tacos you can.
Kevin: Pretty much all the East Side businesses and bars. I don’t come downtown as much anymore because it’s so hectic. Cops will pull over anybody they want to give them a ticket. But on the East Side, there’s a lot of nice dive bars.
Sherry: And that reminds me! There’s this great food cart at this bar called the Liberty, which is this hipster hang out bar. But behind it is this food cart called, East Side Kings. This great sushi chef opened it and it’s asian fusion, and the best food you’ll ever get in your life for $2. It’s not sushi, but it’s a sushi chef who does Uchi. They do those sticky buns but it’s tacos with pork in it.
Adam: But what’s going on with cupcakes?
Sherry: Ahh! There’s a big cupcake thing in this town. We could talk about this forever!
Back to music, anything else coming up this year?
Sherry: We’re going to be touring. Dates to be confirmed, but tentative summer tour theoretically we’ll be on the East Coast, then hop over to the UK, Italy and some other places in that area of the world. We’re going to Germany because City Slang is in Berlin, and they’re one of our two labels. That will be in the summer, but dates aren’t confirmed. Then we’ll come back and do West Coast. We’ll be all over the US this summer, for sure. We’re really stoked about that, especially Europe because thus far we’ve had a bigger interest from Europe than in the US. We live in the music capitol of the world, and people are asking who we are. Then we have people in France drawing pictures of us.
Adam: Maybe it’s cause we’re an exotic thing to Europeans, the same way Europeans are to us. It’s possible.