“Please allow us to seduce you and give our album a listen,” says Love Crushed Velvet frontman A.L.X., and I encourage you to do so. Formed in 2008, New York based rock quartet just released their self-titled debut album on July 12th. Highly influenced by new wave and post-punk with catchy dance beats, “Love Crushed Velvet” impress and intrigues. Tracks are well-crafted and each one has its own valuable input to the overall sound. What strikes you at the beginning is an amazing resemblance to Billy Idol, and no wonder, since behind the drums sits nobody but Thommy Price himself, legendary drummer who worked with Billy Idol on all his big hits. I had a chance to ask A.L.X. a couple of questions and below is the story of this very promising formation.
First off, let’s decode the A.L.X. What does this name stands for?
It’s actually a bastardization of the spelling of my first name that appeared on a promo poster in Europe when I was first starting out as a teenager. To this day, I still don’t know what type of banned substance prompted someone to turn “Alex” into “A.L.X.”, but I got a good ribbing about it and the name ultimately stuck.
How everything started with the band?
I had taken a several year hiatus from gigging and recording due to some personal things that needed to be sorted out, and decided to cut a solo album called “No Eyes for the Future”, which served as a “re-entry” record of sorts. The album was made by layering and building up acoustic versions of some recent songs that I’d written both on my own and with several collaborators, including my friend and writing partner Jay Stone. This recording approach gave the album had an understated, organic feel while still being “rock”. However, the backing band that I used to promote “No Eyes for the Future” was a different group of musicians from those I’d recorded with—the touring players gave the songs a more straight-ahead and muscular feel. After a year of gigging with this live band, I began to write around their playing style, and the result was Love
You were successfully performing as a solo artist. What made you start your own band?
While I enjoy playing solo, I thrive on the band experience and camaraderie. I’m a rock and roll creature at heart, and my writing style is best suited for a full band.
Tell me something about your shows, I heard there was many of them since you started the band.
Yes, very much so. Live shows are usually in one of two separate formats: the full band, in which we play fully-orchestrated and representative versions of the songs from our debut album, and unplugged/acoustic. These shows usually comprise a handful of band members, or just myself, playing small venues and presenting intimate, stripped-down versions of the songs. While the full band provides more of an “official” Love Crushed Velvet experience, there is something nice about the intimacy of the acoustic shows because there is more room for improvisation and a different kind of connection with the audience.
Performing live is essential to our band because it suits the musical style, and we pride ourselves on being able to deliver onstage. Not to mention having a love for performing. The era of the ‘rock star’ seems to be on hiatus in that a lot of today’s bands don’t bring a “larger-than-life” personality to their live shows, and we are determined to keep the rock star tradition alive. We make sure that it evaporates once we are offstage, but when Love Crushed Velvet steps in front of people, it’s our job to transcend normalcy and to take our fans on the ride along with us. Being in a rock band and not being enthusiastic about playing live is an oxymoron—the genre is all about projecting the energy of the music and feeding off the response of the fans and listeners. We could not imagine being in this band and not playing live, and during periods when we are not actively gigging, we all feel uncomfortably stagnant.
Your biggest or best show you had a chance to play so far?
We’ve learned over the years that the biggest venue isn’t always the best. For me, audience interaction is key, and a smaller group of people that know and love your songs is often better than playing a huge venue where nobody knows you and most people are just waiting for the next band to get onstage. In the latter case, it’s satisfying when you win the crowd over, but it doesn’t compare to playing for die-hards who are there for you and you alone.
Are you guys more into shows or rehearsing in the studio?
Rehearsals are a means to an end, and the “end” is the live show. If you use them to their full potential, rehearsals present an opportunity to experiment with different approaches to a song and to also try out new ideas. It’s also an important part of band chemistry, but at the end of the day, we are not a jam band. The purpose of rehearsing is ultimately about becoming a tight performing unit that’s ready to get in front of a crowd of people and hopefully transport them somewhere.
Two years passed since you started the band and worked on your debut album. Did you face any obstacles along the way?
The recording of the album actually went quite smoothly—the delay was primarily due to the fact that we worked in stages. All of us have other obligations outside of the band, so we used this as a positive thing in that we made a conscious decision to not rush the record. We often took lengthy breaks between recording sessions, and that gave us plenty of perspective so that we were regularly able to listen to the material with fresh ears. Sometimes, a new song needs time to become itself, if that makes any sense. This is particularly true from a vocal perspective. I tend to hone delivery via repetition and will probably never be one of those singers that nails it on the first take. I like to go back a month later and resing a song after it’s had a chance to gestate. It’s a strange process, for me at least—going in and singing a song a dozen times sows the seeds, and living with it for a bit afterwards allows me to subconsciously develop those nuances in the final delivery that make the performance feel “just right”.
Not having a record company breathing down our back was also a huge plus, and this was one of the benefits about being an unsigned band. The additional time we had to “ponder” made this a stronger record. Even when listening to it now, we can all say that this album feels complete, and there is none of that sense of remorse that many bands have of wishing that they had changed this part or that. We gave ourselves time to evaluate our work-in-progress at our own pace, and I think that the final mixes reflect that.
What is most important for you as a band?
We have a relentless focus on the quality of our output. I am a very active songwriter and view myself as a chronicler of the world around me, so coupled with collaborations with other band members, new material is constantly being created. In fact, we honestly don’t have the time and resources to develop it all, which is a bit frustrating. Thus, I feel that it’s our job to really distill things down to the absolute strongest songs and to not get caught up in just trying to put out volumes of material. I’ve often left songs off records that had deeply personal meaning for me, but just didn’t feel ready to release. They might make it onto a future album after they’ve been reworked, but I’m really adamant about maintaining the quality of this band’s output. Many artists aren’t capable of being their own filters, and the fact that the CD format allows you to load more songs on there that you could’ve in the LP days doesn’t help matters. So we focus relentlessly on culling—while some really good songs didn’t make it onto our debut for one reason or other, we made the right decision in not including them because they would have diluted the energy of the record.
I recently did a photoshoot with the great photographer Anne Deniau and left her with a copy of the album. She later sent a very nice note saying that it was one of the few records that she’s heard that didn’t make her want to skip over some of the songs. We were incredibly proud and flattered to get feedback like that because it speaks to our commitment to putting out strong material. When I think back at some of the albums that were seminal parts of my life, they didn’t have any filler. Each song was worth listening to. The culture of having one or two good songs on an album that is supported by garbage is inexcusable bullshit and an insult to music fans. Masturbate in private, not on a CD! There are going to be listeners out there for whom Love Crushed Velvet is just not their cup of tea. Music is a subjective thing, and we respect those differences of opinion and taste. However, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who will say that we loaded our album with junk. If we ever get to that point, please send me my retirement papers.
What are the plans for the band for next 10 months?
We will be busy! The album only came out in mid-July, so we will be hitting radio shortly and then touring the markets where the album picks up some buzz. I just finished a short solo tour of Europe and we are already getting some requests to come back, so we’ll see if that’s in the cards. I’ve also been writing new songs since early this year and already have a ton of material. To add to that output, I’ve been collaborating with guitarists Jay Stone and Ryan Bull, which has also yielded some really good songs. We’ve demo-ed one new song already and it’s pretty fierce, so we’re off to a good start…but I don’t want to jinx it! I’m really excited to see how the band will interpret the other new songs, and that will be the ultimate arbiter of what makes it onto the next album.
Love Crushed Velvet is:
A.L.X. – lead singer, songwriter
Thommy Price – drummer
Jimi Bones – guitarist
Enzo Penizzotto – bassist
OFFICIAL WEB SITE: www.lovecrushedvelvet.com
By: Anna Grabowska