LOVEWHIP by Eric Baylies
For over a decade Lovewhip has been
tearing it up in Boston and beyond. The band currently consists of Erin
Harpe on guitar and lead vocals, Jim Countryman on bass and backing
vocals, Ryan Dryburgh on drums, and Sam Marshall on keyboards, samples,
loops, vocoder, and backing vocals.
Erin let me in on some of the band’s
secret history. She told me how and when the band formed. She said,
“Jim and I dreamed it up in his bedroom in Jamaica Plain in 1998.
His band, Usalos, had just broken up, and I’d never been in a band
before. We were listening to a lot of eclectic music, from Johnny Cash,
Otis Redding, some ska, to some African music I’d brought back from
my semester abroad in Kenya during college. We shared a love of African
music and loved listening to the African Kabisa Radio Show on local
college radio. The initial idea was to take our eclectic influences—African
Soukous and Highlife especially—and form a new kind of dance music.
We called it booty pop, which morphed into electro booty pop, kind of
like what Talking Heads, the Police, and the English Beat, to name a
few, did, mixing different world influences with pop and rock. We got
a practice space and started inviting musicians down to jam until we
found a group. There have been so many incarnations since then. We’ve
put out four albums, each one metamorphisising our dance music ethic
even further. We started more traditional, and ended up more futuristic
and electro, always with strong dance and pop elements.” They have
been described as a futuristic dance party complete with unicorns, icebots,
intrigue, electronic sex toys, and rock ’n’ roll.
I wondered where the name came from
and who wrote the songs. Erin informed me, “Love and whip are two
nouns/verbs that describe the effect we have on our audience. It’s
also a Reverend Horton Heat song. As far as the songs, for most of our
history, I have written a lot of the songs, and Jim co-writes some.
The rest of the band adds their own flavor. For the new album Love
Electric [Love and Electric are two albums by the
Cult] I collaborated for the first time with songwriter, composer, and
producer Jake Zavracky of he bands Cyanide Valentine and Quick Fix.
He is an excellent songwriter and brought our material to another level.
I’m really excited about the new album—great songs with lots of
hooks. I’m really proud of it.” Are there any Boston stories you
would like to share with our kind Noise readers? Erin said, “there
was the time we were presenters at the Boston Music Awards and we got
to see Mission of Burma play from backstage. Then there was the time
we got to open for the B52’s at the Campanelli Stadium in Boston.
The other band on the bill was a new breakout act called the Scissor
Sisters. We got to meet them backstage, they were very cool.”
When I asked if she has any good, bad,
or ugly road stories, Erin then furnished me with, “I’m sure we
have had each one of these scenarios, multiple ones, actually. One that
always stands out in my mind because it really shaped us as a band happened
on a three-week tour of the southern east coast. We were not even a
third of the way done with the tour when our drummer had a nervous breakdown.
His girlfriend lived down in North Carolina, so every night after the
show he would drive to her house, driving anywhere from two to six hours
after playing a full four hour show and loading our equipment. He was
spreading himself really thin, and drinking large amounts of iced mate
[South American tea] instead of water. He was developing a nervous twitch,
but we hadn’t really noticed. He had always been a very odd guy. We
had a day off where we were supposed to meet at his girlfriend’s place
to take a shower and relax. We had a partial address and he wasn’t
answering our phone calls for some reason. When we made it to the apartment
complex where she lived, we actually had to go door to door because
we did not have her apartment number. After finally tracking our drummer
down at he restaurant where his girlfriend worked, she actually came
out to speak on his behalf. He was afraid we were going to be mad at
him. She informed us that he’s had history of mental illness and hasn’t
had a breakdown in some time, but he’s having one now. She told us
he can’t get back on the bus, he doesn’t want to do any more shows.
We went to the nearest WalMart, because
we knew you can camp in their parking lot and they won’t bother you.
They also sell thirty-packs of beer and have Internet access. We started
drinking, cursing, and freaking out, trying to come up with a plan.
Our keyboardist at the time, Michael Potvin [Campaign For Real Time]
had just gotten a copy of Abelton Live [a music creation and sequencing program],
so we ended up learning as we went, and programmed drums for all twenty
five or so songs. We finished the tour as a three piece [guitar, bass,
and keyboards] with a computer playing the drums. Since then we have
continued to use electronics as part of our sound. We do have a live
drummer again, but he plays a drumset that includes electronic drums
and electronic drum triggers, mixing the electronic with the acoustic.”
Upon inquiring about where Lovewhip
records and who puts out their stuff, Ms. Harpe told me, “We do both
in our basement studio in Jamaica Plain. Our new album was recorded
at our producer Jake Zavracky’s Neon Palm Studio 1 in the South End
of Boston and finished at his Neon Palm Studio 2 in Brooklyn, New York.
I did most of the vocals in our basement studio in Jamaica Plain. I
find it a really great way to work. I can do as many takes as I want.
As far as our records, we have our own label Juicy Juju Records, which
also handles my solo stuff, Erin Harpe acoustic blues.”
Erin says that their major influences
are, as she rattled off, “Talking Heads, Blondie, LCD Soundsystem,
the Police, Prince, Nico, Femi Kuti, Beenie Man, Missy Elliot, the Slits,
Sean Paul, Peaches, the Steve Miller Band, the White Stripes, the Cars,
and the J. Geils Band.”
has won a Boston Music Award for best world music act and has received
four other nominations for best funk band, party band, and female fronted
band. They have had the song “Show Your Love” featured on Paris
Hilton’s Best Friend Forever
on MTV, and the song “Virtual Booty Machine” was on the show
Regarding touring plans, Erin told
us, “We have already toured a lot, playing all over the country since
1998. We have toured the west coast once and are constantly touring
New England. Our humblest of dreams has always been to be able to eek
out a living solely from music. We are not there yet, and in this economy
it is a lot to ask. We are willing to sacrifice. We have worked very
hard at it. Our plans include playing many more festivals throughout
the spring and summer of 2010. We will be going to Europe and beyond,
promoting our new album, our best yet! We’ll see where it takes us.
The Boston CD release for Love Electric is November 12 at Church.
Go to our website www.lovewhip.net to find out more.”