An Interview with 'The Luvmenauts' bandleader, Alex Furlott.


The Luvmenauts

The Luvmenauts are an eclectic Toronto-based cinematic soul collective dedicated to the sounds of the past. With two full-length LPs, and an EP (not to forget a festive ringtone) their musical style ranges wide from psychedelic surf to spaghetti western to Afrobeat and more.

Studious discipline and sharp focus bring eagerness to the challenge of learning new styles of music. Their musical explorations have led them to discover the interworking’s and nuances of music, contributing to an authentic sound that is seemingly hard to find these days!

Over the last several months Bedtracks has commissioned The Luvmenauts to help us build a unique catalogue of music that is exclusive to Bedtracks. Founding member and bass player, Alex Furlott sits down with me to chat about the band and their process for writing multi-genre music in a cinematic context. 

Check out some of their latest exclusive commissions for Bedtracks! You can download and license their 'Retro Tarantino Vibes' album here! 

 

 

JC: How did the band come to be? And who are its core members?

AF: The band met at Humber College playing in many different contexts together. That formed the fundamental chemistry of the band.  Realizing our passion and ability to play many genres of music was the foundation for us deciding to form a group of our own.  In a given week we would have to shift gears from blues playing to old school soul to jazz to Latin and anything else.  How we improvised together gave us a window into what writing together would be like, and we always liked each other’s ideas a lot.

When we would play together these little riffs, basslines and motifs kept coming up that we would all jump on and use to steer the music.  There were so many ideas coming out night after night that we felt like we should start writing some of them down!  We wanted to have an outlet to explore as many different styles of music as possible and have complete freedom to be creative since we all have diverse musical tastes.

We felt left without a creative outlet in our former band and after realizing that we were coming up with different riffs for every song during our last band’s gigs we figured that we should be writing some of these things down! We wanted a band that would open things up musically because we all have very diverse tastes.

The Luvmenauts became a band that was rooted in the freedom and flexibility to record any musical idea that we wanted.

 

JC: What has inspired the sound of the Luvmenauts? And how has it changed from the beginning to now?

AF: I guess you could say any 60s/70s movie soundtrack. That was huge for us. Instrumental stuff that worked to picture in a cool way, but could also stand-alone. Soundtracks like ‘Superfly,' ‘Shaft,' ‘Bullitt,' or more recently, ‘Black Dynamite.' ‘Black Dynamite’ was huge because I thought those songs worked so well in the movie, but could also stand on their own, for me, anyway.  

That’s where a lot of musical inspiration came from for us, aside from already being into instrumental music. None of us can sing, so it was that. {laughs}

Our sound has changed by not being married to the bass, drums, guitar, sax format. We’re broadening things a lot more with the instrumentation.

 

JC: Can you describe a typical writing process for The Luvmenauts?

AF:    When we write together now there is a lot less discussion than there was before. It’s more that someone will start playing an idea, and we just go with it. It wasn’t always like that, though; in the beginning, we would hang out with instruments in hand and call out scenes like “car chase” or “walking in the park.” Someone would count off a tempo, and we would jam ideas that would work to whatever scene that was described.

I’m not sure about the other guys in the band, but I like writing Luvmenauts music to picture. I’ll put on a movie with the sound turned off, and I’ll write to it. This way I’m not influenced by the original score, and I can watch things that I’m into, which is an inspiring and fun way to write. 

But for the most part, we’re a heavily jam-based band when it comes to writing.

 

JC: Did writing music as production music for Bedtracks change your process? If it did, how so?

AF: No, if anything it simplified things. I find that the four of us have very intuitive brains when it comes to listening to a reference {track} and being able to identify the essential elements. It’s been a natural process for us to be able to get inside of a song and then move out from there without it sounding like a copy of the reference.

 

JC: It’s perfect you mention that because it seems as though you have honed in on the distinct characteristics of whatever style you’re playing. What are you listening to specifically when taking on a different genre? And how do you absorb it into your playing?

AF: It helps to listen to some of the originators of a particular genre. For instance, when we wrote gypsy tracks for Bedtracks instead of muddying the waters by trying to find out what every gypsy artist was doing, we would find out who was the originator that genre.  That way we get the clearest picture of what that style is trying to express.  As a style develops more and more influences creep in and it can become less distinct, not worse but its identity might not be as clear.  We looked to Django Reinhardt for the gypsy tracks because he invented the style and everyone else took from his influence and moved on from there, we tried to do the same thing.

I think a lot of our training has helped with that too. After having studied and listened to a lot of different styles the easier it became to pick out what’s different about one thing I’m listening to from this other thing.

 

JC: Can you give me a rundown of the recording set-up? Mic placement, pre-amps, how is the authentic vintage tone captured so well?

AF: It’s very minimal miking. We don’t have a lot of fancy microphones so we kind of only use what we have. Very minimal miking on the drums and we all use a lot of mutes on our instruments. Jon will use a towel over his snare, and I’ll put a sock or piece of foam in my bass and maybe play with a pick to get a defined no overtone kind of sound.

For Saxes we just layer it. Pretty much any of the horns on Luvmenauts music is one guy. It’ll be like ten sax overdubs that Andrew will do in his basement. {laughs}

It’s not a very sophisticated set-up. {laughs}

Josh Cavan: *Josh responds to this question via email* Nothing crazy at all about my recording setup.  Three mics on the drums, one on the kick, one on the snare, one on the whole kit, everything else has one mic.  The rhythm section plays together in the same room, and whatever overdubs need to be done come after. 

Gritty sounds are achieved while mixing on my laptop - a combination of saturation effects, lots of EQ, and usually spring reverb is never a bad idea.  Just listen to records you like and use them as a comparison point if you start to get lost while mixing.

 

JC: Those are some of my favourite set-ups! It’s inspiring to know that you don’t need the multi-million dollar studio to get a great finished product.

AF: That point makes we want to mention that Josh spent a lot of time cultivating those sounds. He would work on different mic placements, compressions and reverbs to get inside an authentic vintage tone.

When we had tried making a Soul and Afrobeat record in an expensive recording studio, we found we got the sound pretty close, but it was hard to make a million dollars sound like $300 dollars. You know?

The loss of definition of instruments in the recording works to our advantage when it comes to getting an authentic sound. I probably still have demos recordings that Josh sent me where he would say “I think I cracked drums today.” Once Josh had the sound dialed in we were able to work quickly as well as cheaply!

 

JC: What’s next for The Luvmenauts? Where would you like to see this band go?

AF: I see the band getting more conceptual. I think what working with Bedtracks has shown us is that we can get into a different style pretty well. So, I’d love to do themed albums like a whole surf record or whole Western or Kung Fu album. Instead of tracks with those flavours, we would be deliberate about it and have a beginning to end, full album of a style.

Ideally, I’d love to work with a director and score the whole soundtrack to a throwback 70s movie similar to the ‘Black Dynamite’ thing. You know? Like getting the script then writing to that and getting crazy with it.

 

JC: Getting into scoring?

AF: Yeah! Scoring would be great and to just keep our output high and branching out with instrumentation/sounds and genres.

 

JC: Are there any live shows coming up?

AF: I would love to play live more and pair up with bands that are in our bag and start getting on the scene. It’s energetic music, and the response has been great whenever we’ve performed live.

 

JC: But, your focus is mainly on staying more of a studio band and getting into scoring? 

AF: Yeah, my focus for the group is doing as much composing as possible. After having done so much jam-based writing, I’m personally really excited about bringing in scores and just performing tracks that we’ve written already. Then having the other players in the band tweak it with their sensibilities and influences.   

 

The Luvmenauts, Bedtracks Exclusive Music

Thanks for reading! You can hear The Luvmenauts music at Bandcamp.com and more of their music can be heard and licensed at Bedtracks.com.  

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