If you're looking for an example of the old platitude that "attitude is everything," you could do a lot worse than Love Me Nots vocalist/organist Nicole Laurenne. Less than a year removed from a breast cancer scare that forced the band into a five-month hiatus, Laurenne is back onstage and ready hit the road in support of the band's new album, The Demon and the Devotee.
After the break, check out a stream of "The Girl Lights Up" from the new album and an e-mail Q&A with Laurenne about her cancer scare, the new album and Lien's return to the band.
Up on the Sun: You took the last half of 2010 off after being diagnosed with breast cancer last summer. How are you doing these days, health-wise?
Nicole Laurenne: I'm actually feeling better than ever. They caught it as early as they could catch anything and after a few surgeries, some reconstruction, and a lot of healing, I'm back to 100 percent. Plus I'm taking better care of myself these days -- after a scare like that you make a few changes, of course -- and that has made a difference too. I feel great. Doctors and nurses are true heroes. I was amazed by the whole experience.
UOTS: Obviously, cancer treatment is physically draining, but it's got to take a mental toll on you as well. Has it been tough getting back into the swing of things with the band and everyday life?
NL: Last summer, we were just about to leave for France and record this new record in Detroit when we found out about the diagnosis. It was really hard to put everything away and cancel things and lie low for so long, with songs spinning around in my head all the time. But we used the extra time to basically re-write the whole record, with the whole band involved in the process this time, and we probably would not have taken the time to do all of that if I hadn't been laid up for so long. It turned out to be a really rewarding experience and my bandmates constantly inspired me through the whole thing. So by the time I was on my feet in late 2010, I was champing at the bit to get back at it. I guess when you realize it could all be over sooner than you thought, it leaves you hungry to get some things done.
UOTS: How did your brush with mortality affect your songwriting?
NL: During the whole illness, I was lucky to be surrounded by friends and family whose attitude was always focused on having fun, feeling good, getting better. No one was wallowing around in the dark sides of it. "The End of The Line" is the closest I got to writing a song about the experience; other than that, it bonded the band together in subtle ways and I think that had the biggest impact on the writing. Everyone's ideas come through on this record, even on the production and arrangements and instrumentation, which is what makes it better than anything we've done before, in my opinion.
UOTS: Why was your new album, The Demon and the Devotee, released in France before it came out here? Did you have an exclusive arrangement with the label?
NL: Our label in France, Bad Reputation Records, is really good to us. Back when we had to cancel our France dates last year, we rescheduled them for this April. We had no idea at that point whether we'd have a new record done by then or even whether I'd be healthy by then, but we crossed our fingers and booked it. Bad Reputation was able to scramble and put out a European version of the CD over there in time for the tour, while we scrambled here to get the US version ready for a May release. That's how it went down, just freak timing.
UOTS: Your original drummer, Jay Lien, is back in the band, following stints by Flathead's Vince Ramirez and local producer Bob Hoag. What's the story behind Jay's departure and eventual return?
NL: Jay played on our first two records and toured with us extensively for the first few years. During all of that, he moved to New York and had a young family and it got difficult to maintain a cross-country schedule at that point. We were really lucky to have Vince and Bob step in when we needed them -- they are both top-notch musicians and good friends of ours. When we toured through Brooklyn in 2009, Jay appeared at our show unannounced and he and Michael talked for hours after the gig. The more contact we had with him over the past year, the more we all missed each other, and when he wanted to come back to the band it was like having a member of the family back again. He and Michael have been playing together for so long, they can read each other's minds. There's really no substitute for that kind of feeling -- it frees you up mentally.
UOTS: What's up next for the Love Me Nots after the CD release show? Do you have any national or international tours planned?
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NL: We are headed to Southern California for a couple of events in June, to big festivals in France and Switzerland in August, and we're planning on another European tour in November. We'll probably start thinking about a video for one of the tracks on this record. Kyle is moving to New York for school in the fall, so with two of us here and two of us there, we anticipate more East Coast dates in the future. But right now, we're just -- for once -- sitting back and watching to see where this new record takes us. I'm learning to stop and smell the roses once in a while, instead of constantly working on them and trying to grow them as fast and as big as I can. It's a good feeling.
Nicole Laurenne on The Girl Lights Up": "[This song] is about letting go of that 'the-grass-is-always-greener' mentality and learning to love what you've already got. (I had a fight with cancer last year and this is one of the things I learned from the whole experience!)
The Love Me Nots are scheduled to perform on Saturday, May 14, at the Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.