A couple of years ago, The Loveblisters arguably were the hottest band in Arizona. They played out nearly every week — often several shows a week — and they still drew, which isn't easy. Their 2005 record, Silver White Sunlight, was beloved locally and labeled "one of the finest slabs of music by a local act in recent memory" in New Times.
Recently, though, things have been quiet. Two 'Blisters are busy with other bands, and shows have seemed few and far between compared with their packed schedule of yore. But with the New Year come big changes. A new record, The Nowhere West, emerged in December, seemingly from nowhere. It's easily their strongest effort to date, and the band seems once again focused on making it, even if it's not going to do it by sweating its ass off on Valley stages every night of the week.
"I feel like we're kind of getting our buzz back in a lot of ways — at least virally and on the Internet," says singer Rob Kroehler. "Some good things are starting to happen. We're trying to broaden our scope past Phoenix, as well, and I think that's really starting to happen."
The Loveblisters are scheduled to perform Friday, January 9, at Modified Arts and Saturday, January 10, at the Yucca Tap Room.
Things are starting to pay off for the band, kicking it upstairs in the Casey Moore's dining room on a recent Friday night. The 'Blisters recently bested 796 bands for the Boru Vodka Bar Band contest, winning free Boru Vodka for a year, $10,000 worth of gear, and a music video to be filmed in the Big Apple.
Not bad for a band that didn't really plan to be a band. Kroehler got together with bassist Lou Kummerer, guitarist Ryan Casey, keyboardist Jessica Stanley, and drummer Scott Gunshore in 2002 "for fun" after dropping out of the music scene.
"We never really intended to become a band," says Kroehler. "It was really, really clicking, so with much finagling on my part, I really pushed these guys to drop the solo thing and be a band. They were opposed to it at first because they thought what we had was working, but I was so excited about working with these guys that I convinced them to be a band and be more of a collective thing. So we dropped the solo projects and became The Loveblisters in '03 and put out our first EP, and the rest is history."
The group followed the EP with the release of the ever-so-poppy Silver White Sunlight in 2005. The Nowhere West, the band's latest and greatest, was released digitally in December. The hard copy will hit stores next month.
The Nowhere West includes the bouncy pop ditties — such as "Sunshine's Song" and "Hell Is a Rainbow" — that made Silver White Sunlight so damn good but goes even further with an amalgam of sounds that make this disc more than just sugary ear candy. And that was the idea, says Kroehler, noting that the band didn't want to spend too much time trying to craft a really good three-minute pop song, as it did on the previous two discs. This evolution is, in part, how the band once again finds itself in the proverbial buzz bin.
"With this album, it was like, we don't have to do that anymore," he says. "We can write weird stuff. We can really pursue some off-the-charts different ideas and really push ourselves in different directions and that's what this album really is . . . it's very much like if you were to take late Beatles, kind-of Queen and ELO, and even some ragtime and some old vaudeville and also just some straight-up kind of like Birds-y, jangly pop and throw it all together. That's a lot of what we were listening to and inspiring us when we wrote the record."
"We had no idea how ambitious it actually was until we started recording it," says Stanley. "It took us a year to record the album. I remember hearing it for the first time and getting blown away. Everybody contributed and everybody had different ideas and we tried it out and it just worked."
"Now we want to establish ourselves as a little more ambitious in a rock sense," says Kroehler. "Some of the songs are seven, eight, nine minutes and some of them are more meandering in their structure. I think, now, we've come full-circle because some of the songs we're working on lately are three-, four-minute pop kind of standards."
Ironically, for a band that cut its teeth onstage, the thought of performing some of the new tracks live is scary to The Loveblisters.
"It's going to be really bad when this album comes out because there are songs on here that there's no way we can wing," says Casey.
The rest of their newfound buzz has to do with how the band is marketing itself. Perhaps taking a note from bands like the recently split The Medic Droid, which found international success before it'd even played a gig in Phoenix, The Loveblisters have been building a fan base through Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter.
Kroehler and Kummerer have also been spreading the word when they perform with other projects. Kummerer plays bass in local indie act Miniature Tigers, while Kroehler recently toured with Fun, the New York-based band featuring Nate Ruess, formerly of The Format.
"I went to L.A., San Francisco, and with [Miniature Tigers] to do CMJ [Music Marathon]," says Kummerer, who is a New Times employee. "I handed out a bunch of Loveblisters CDs."
Kroehler also pimped The Loveblisters while touring with Fun. Before the Fun tour, Kroehler says, he didn't know Ruess, but they soon became friends.
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"We played Montreal and had finished early so we went to this dinky little bar in Montreal where there couldn't have been more than 30 people there and no one under 40 or 50 — kind of rough around the edges," he says. "They were doing karaoke, and it was hilarious because they all had super-thick French accents and they were doing really campy, bad songs.
"We thought it was awesome and decided to camp out there for the night. Nate decided to do 'Edge of Seventeen' by Stevie Nicks. Right before he went on, I snuck up to the guy and snuck in 'Mambo No. 5' by Lou Bega, so when he got up to sing 'Edge of Seventeen,' 'Mambo No. 5' came on the screen. He went with it and he brought down the house. I'm not kidding you, the whole place, all senior citizens were on the dance floor dancing to 'Mambo No. 5.'"
You might expect his time with Ruess, Phoenix indie royalty, would have dulled his desire but, Kroehler says, it just whetted his appetite to find success with the band he fronts. That, more than anything, has him buzzing on The 'Blisters.
"Touring with Fun kind of lit a fire under my ass even more to do more with us. And I don't mean this with any disrespect to Fun because I think Fun is a great band, but that market — college [kids], high school kids — you don't even have to be a good band for them to love you," he says. "I kept thinking all The Loveblisters need is just a couple of good tours like this and we would blow up. Kids would be blown away."