Not sure if Spanish is indeed the loving tongue, but it wasn't two minutes into "Peregrina," the opening track of The Lovelost's debut album, Foreign, before I decided I loved the Lovelost. It didn't matter if Ixchel del Castillo was singing about a Mexican telenovela star or a mineral water; it was the sound of romance wafting through loud and clear through the computer speakers.
It's that romance that I realized was lacking in our Phoenix music scene. While lots of diverse styles of music abound, by design there is absolutely nothing romantic about genres like old school punk, hardcore or rap, and new indie music mostly peddles in depression or uncertainty, using lyrical obscurity as a smokescreen to keep from revealing too much healthy desire. The existence of romance reflected in the music that is supposed to reflect us doesn't seem to be a lot to ask. And on that score, The Lovelost delivers. Lovelost songs are sung in Spanish half the time, and if I was a betting man I'd say an A&R person at a record label would quick-classify it as Latin meets adult alternative, lose his hard-on and then probably lose his job anyway.
The band is essentially a couple, Ixchel, a native of Mexico City on lead vocals and bass, and her partner Frank Ippolito, who is from Chicago originally and plays guitars and ukulele for the band. There has been no new music since that fine album called Foreign released last year, but shows supporting it were infrequent. Come 2014, the band seems ready to gig more frequently. Up on the Sun spoke to the pair about the challenges of bringing a Latin Based pop, with rock and jazz mixed in to our local club scene.
Up on the Sun: How long has the Lovelost been incubating? There was another band before this, wasn't there?
Ixchel: Yes, the other projected lasted three years. It was called Leaf. We loved that band - it was our first creation together. It was a very unique style of rock and gypsy.
Ippolito: After that project dissolved, we took a second, well, a year, to catch our breath and decide what we were going to do next. The band business is very tough. And we are two people who are very black and white when it comes to commitment. We are all in or not in it at all, and that can lead to misunderstandings among band members. Ixchel being Latin, family is a big deal, and she has taught me that that is a very important part of life -- even when it comes to being in a band.
Ixchel: So, it was important for us to carefully choose our next musical move. We also wanted to create music that was different from what we had done previously. We wanted to reinvent, not recreate.
Ippolito: One of the things we wanted to do was have more of a Latin vibe to the music. After all, we had someone who is a wonderful singer but spoke Spanish. So while our songs in Spanish aren't "traditional" in nature, they have that feel, you know? Energetic guitars and percussion. We also wanted to incorporate a lot of instrumentation.
Ixchel: So Frank picked-up the uke and guitalele, (half guitar and half ukulele), we added keyboards, trumpet, floor toms reminiscent of Latin music and accordion.
Was it hard to find musicians not afraid of the ukulele?
Ippolito: Yeah, ha, when it comes to the ukulele, there's kinda of a raised brow, you know -- people expect you to be some kind of folk musician, you know, Phillip Phillips or Mumford and Sons, but I tend to write songs that are more in line with Beirut [the band], more melodic. As far as being a ukebox hero -- Eddie Vedder really opened my eyes to what the instrument can be and where the music can go from a rock standpoint. His playing is outstanding.
We decided not to form a "band" in the typical sense. The band would be us, and we would recruit musicians, to rehearse, record and play shows with us. After about six months we had a handful of songs and talked to our friend, Nick Kizer, a drummer with mad skills, to rehearse and record with us. He agreed and from there we went into rehearsals and then eventually into the recording studio.
Ixchel: We've been very fortunate to have so many talented friends who are not only tremendous musicians but are looking for something to play other than pop or rock. Don't get us wrong, we're not reinventing anything by any stretch of the imagination, but we are really trying to stretch ourselves musically, and in turn stretch the boundaries of the "genre."
Ippolito: We'd be remiss not to mention, David Cosme, trumpet; Chris Fiscus, percussion; Billy Keys, keyboards; Niki Kizer, lead guitars; and Robin Vinning on accordion; all who contributed their talents our record, Foreign. Of course, when you have these many players, great players, it's hard to reproduce the sound on stage. So, we are very grateful for Chad Einsinger, drums, Lawrence Ross, keyboards, Spencer Arellano-Haring, percussion, Don Hayes, accordion, and Ashley Creighton, keyboards, all who have helped recreate the album on stage.
The fact that the sound is jazzy and Latin, does that combination make it hard to book gigs with like-minded bands?
Ixchel: No, not really. And thanks for adding jazzy to the mix. Our sound has been called everything from lush to dream-pop, so jazzy is new and much appreciated. We think we are a good fit for any bill because we are a bit different sounding. You know, we're not that head-pounding band nor are we a dance band, we are somewhere in between and that makes us attractive to venues because we bring in a whole new set of fans.
Ippolito: We've played with everyone from Companeros, a wild garage/soul/funk band to Carol Pacey and the Honeyshakers, who play Americana, to Sweetbleeders, who are in a category all by themselves. And for the most part we deliver a good show and make a few friends along the way.
There are a lot of jazz-tinged acts around town people like Captain Squeegee, but the whole Latin scene seems far afield and different from rock in Phoenix in venues and in its audience. Is that an accurate reading?
Ixchel: You know, we're not really "Latin" in the most traditional sense. But, we do seek out bands that sing in Spanish and try to book shows with them and there a few of them out there. We also try to find World Beat bands like Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra to book shows with. So as far as the "Latin" scene, there's not much out there, but Phoenix does have a lot of bands that bring the culture.
Have you played to strictly Latin audiences? If so, how did they react to a rock song like "You Say I Say"?
Ippolito: We really haven't. But it's more of the reverse, you know. When we launch into a Spanish song like "Redemption," that features Ixchel beating on a floor tom and singing, in front of an Anglo audience, the response is great even though they don't speak Spanish.
Ixchel: We've played with a couple of "Latin" bands, and when we say Latin, we mean those who sing in Spanish. We played Tempe [Art] A Gogh-Gogh a couple months ago and we really enjoyed Tres Lunas and La Saga. They were awesome. They really brought the vibe.
Has the band ventured much outside Phoenix? Flagstaff? Prescott?
Ippolito: Man, we try. We were invited by Sidepony Music to play their festival in Bisbee, and that was awesome. We are currently trying to get up to Prescott to play with some of our friends up there. But then again, it's difficult for us to get attention from venues outside of Phoenix because, again, we're just not that kind of band. The one place we'd love to play is Tucson. Especially with our songs in Spanish.
The Lovelost will be playing Wednesday, June 18th at the Ice House Tavern.
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