Look, I can't tell you, OK? It's not that I don't want to, but when I tell someone it's "off the record," it's off the record. It's not like divulging the day job of Nicole Laurenne, super-saucy singer and Farfisa player for the Love Me Nots, would be some kind of huge, Valerie Plamestyle leak, but I refuse to be the Scooter Libby here. Let's just say she wants to keep her professional and garage-rock lives separate. Brain surgeon? Test pilot? Miniskirted, go-go-booted commando, doing the swim behind enemy lines? "Just tell them I'm a spy. I work for the CIA," Laurenne says during a phone interview from her office in stifling Phoenix, Ariz., or, perhaps, from her secret lair in the caldera of an extinct volcano.
Whatever it is she does, let's just say Laurenne and the rest of her black-and-white-garbed, pin-sharp quartet aren't quitting their day jobs any time soon. Not because the band doesn't pack enough full-throated, '60s soul, Mosrite fuzz, and hip-shaking, back-alley R&B stomp to rock the door off the proverbial garage because they do, in spades. This is clearly evidenced by their 2007 debut, In Black & White, and their newly dropped Detroit, both produced in a chicken slaughterhouse-turned-recording studio in the Motor City by Jim Diamond (the White Stripes, the Romantics, the Charms) and both on Love Me Nots' Atomic a Go Go imprint. "Our day jobs pay for everything," Laurenne tells me. "We're very careful to work around them. We decided a long time ago we didn't want to live in a van for a month and play on Tuesdays in Wichita." This allows them to practice an approach that more seasoned touring bands like Les Savy Fav have turned to after decades of midweek dates in nowhere towns: the tour as surgical strike. "We'll go out to the East Coast and do New Jersey on Thursday and New York on Friday and Boston on Saturday and fly home on Sunday," she says.
I can hear it already: "Man, that's not punk rock. Where's the DIY? I'm revoking their indie street cred." Sell out? Hardly. The Love Me Nots are an example of a new paradigm, or at least a rare one: they actually put the horse before the cart. While grinding away in various Phoenix garage outfits over the years with the exception of their new bass player, Kyle Rose Stokes, a 26-year-old grad student, they're all in their 30s the Love Me Nots realized they had to make money so they could do it right from the get-go: they release their own music on their own label, do the distribution, copyrighting, publishing, artwork not to mention writing songs, rehearsing, and playing gigs. They may not be gluing together 7-inch sleeves, but they've got more in common with the DIY ethos of bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag and the labels they created, Dischord and SST, than trustafarians trying to scam street cred by sprinkling a steady diet of ramen with cocaine binges, hoping to float to hipster heaven on the sparkly fart of the first A&R douchebag who recognizes their Casiotone genius.
"You've got to give 'em what they want," Laurenne advises an unnamed "little girl" as Detroit nears its crescendo, before adding, "without losing what you've got." And while it's delivered as romantic advice, it sums up the band's outlook: deliver the goods, on your own terms, in your own time. You can have the career, and the band, and the love life Laurenne and guitarist Michael Johnny Walker recently got engaged and not have to slack off on any element of being alive. It is, however, somewhat of a balancing act. "We try to avoid doing stuff that's too connected," the vocalist says when I asked her if the band's been asked to play Christmas parties. "We definitely don't mind people who enjoy that style of music coming out and enjoying it. They certainly need their own release.
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