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By Bobby Evers
Since the release of Somewhere Else, her breakout album from last year, Lydia Loveless has been keeping busy. She’s toured the US and Europe, releasing covers of Prince, Kesha, and Echo and the Bunnymen, and launched a kickstarter campaign for a new Lydia Loveless documentary which began filming earlier this summer. I was able to speak with Lydia over the phone before she played the Green Music Fest in Chicago this past June.
BE: So first, let’s talk about your recent European tour.
LL: Yeah, that was the whole month of May. We did quite a few countries. We did Germany, France, Italy, Spain. We normally just do Scandinavia, and we’ve done Spain once before, but yeah, it was really cool. It was our first 5-piece European tour.
BE: When playing in countries that aren’t primarily English speaking, was that ever difficult? Like do you run into any hilarious results or tragic results, or…?
LL: Yeah, no tragic results, but definitely hilarious. Most of the countries we went to were not English speaking which was kind of nice because I don’t like to talk that much. But there was one instance at a Hotel in Italy where there was a very old lady who was yelling at me for maybe a good ten minutes and I never did figure out what she was trying to tell me (laughs).
BE: Were you able to see any sights or were you mostly just working the whole time?
LL: Yeah, it’s usually pretty packed when we go over there; there’s not a lot of sightseeing. In the past we went to a couple museums. The bass player got to go to the Ferrari museum so that was really good for him, but mostly I was sleeping if I could.
When Lydia mentions the bass-player, Ben Lamb, she is coyly failing to mention that they are married; The tall, up-right bass player has a lion’s mane of wavy brown hair that quickly reveals was born to be a rock star. This aesthetic belies his generous Midwestern demeanor. Watching them interact on stage, it may be easy to miss, but they’ve been together for four years, since before Somewhere Else came out, and he continues as a member of the band today.
BE: How do American audiences compare to European audiences?
LL: Most European audiences are pretty quiet sort of listening audiences; I think Americans tend to participate more. Both have their ups and downs.
BE: I’ve been following the progress of the documentary you guys are doing. It says shooting is to start in June?
LL: Yeah, we’re actually shooting right now; we’ve been doing interviews the past two days. Tonight they’re filming band practice and then coming back in a couple weeks to film us recording.
The forthcoming documentary, WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS?, is being produced by Gorman Bechard, an independent filmmaker and novelist who, in the past, has independently produced documentaries on The Replacements, Husker Du, and Archers of Loaf. The promotional website uses the album cover of Somewhere Else as a backdrop for proclaiming Lydia the future of rock-n-roll, or at the very least, enough to restore your faith in it.
BE: That’s really cool, how’s that been going?
LL: It’s more work than I guess I anticipated; there’s a lot of talking about myself for 12 hour days (laughs) which is not the funnest, but it seems to be going well, so…
BE: What were your expectations going into it?
LL: I guess I didn’t really have any, because i’ve just never done anything like this before so it’s kind of hard to say. In some ways it’s easier, and in some ways it’s harder. But since it’s only been two days, it’s hard to really say what the experience will actually be like.
BE: Presumably there will be live performances? Are they filming you performing?
LL: Yeah they’re coming on tour with us in July for two weeks I think.
As of August 10, Bechard posted an update on the film’s Kickstarter page, which has been its primary source of funding, stating that the film was 60% finished. During the life of the campaign, the film has raised over $33k.
BE: I wanted to ask you about the new album. It’s done being written, I’m assuming?
LL: Yeah, mostly.
BE: When did you start recording?
LL: Thus far we’ve only done demos. And we started doing that in April. And we’re probably finishing up in June, early July.
BE: A lot of what I liked about the earlier albums is like… personal heartbreak, breakup songs; is this going to be like that?
LL : I don’t know if necessarily it’s personal heartbreak, but I’ve definitely lost a couple people in the past couple years, so my life has changed a lot. There’s definitely just as much loss, though maybe a little less breakup-y, if that makes sense (laughs).
BE: Yeah, I find that when you end a relationship, the feelings of grief are the same as when you lose someone, like when a family member passes away, or something like that. It’s the same grief centers in your brain.
BE: I’ve always wondered what the story is behind “Everything’s Gone.” Is it autobiographical or fictional?
LL: It’s definitely very autobiographical. It’s probably my most personal song, that’s why it’s kind of… I don’t really play it live very often because it’s upsetting. But it’s about my family losing our home when I was a teenager and it’s kind of one of those things I had to get out of my system.
BE: How has your songwriting been evolving since Somewhere Else came out?
LL: I think for me, I’ve gotten better at guitar, so my guitar style has changed a lot, and we’re also incorporating a lot of different instrumentation on this record. There’s more keyboard in this one. It should be interesting to hear.
BE: I also wanted to ask you some Chicago questions in general, basically just to give you an opportunity to tell Chicago how much you love us. What is your favorite Chicago bar?
LL: Yeah definitely my favorite bar to go to is The Hideout.
LL: I really like the Chicago Diner
BE: Oh, are you vegetarian?
LL: Not anymore, but I was for five years and I still dig… the cuisine.
BE: Yeah, me too. I’m not vegetarian, but whenever I go there, I get the chili, it’s bomb-ass. Do you have like... a life history Chicago where you would come here as a child? Or what’s your relationship with Chicago been like?
LL: I actually didn’t travel a lot as a kid, mostly just when I started playing music. But one of my first tours, instead of Chicago, I think I played Lake Villa. I think I was like 17. And obviously my label is there and I just visited some friends this past winter, and got stuck in the horrible blizzard, so I am there fairly often now as an adult.
BE: Is there any chance that your band will relocate to Chicago so we can just claim you as our own?
LL: (Laughs) I have thought about it many times.
When Lydia takes the stage at the Green Music Fest later that week, she carries herself with the precision of an accomplished performer. References to social anxiety appear to go out the window as she assumes the spot at the front of the audience, holds the microphone in her hand and gives the smattering of block party festival goers a show that all at once embodies their growth as a 5-piece, venturing into new avenues of a bigger, ambitious sound, and her ability to be vulnerable in front of a crowd.
The new material doesn’t sound like punchy, up-tempo, verse-chorus-verse country songs; if the live versions are anything like the studio version will be, we will be finding our dear friend Lydia taking her work in a more meditative, hard rock direction. Time will tell at this point, but I for one am looking forward to hearing what she comes up with.
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