8201 Interview - Love at 20

I was able to catch Clap! Clap! a handful of times during their run here in Austin. After seeing them by chance in San Marcos I was instantly hooked. I say by chance because looking back I have no idea why I was in San Marcos in the first place. They were an exciting band and it was cool to see them growing in popularity. Then suddenly they called it quits. The band splintered into to different groups that have been exciting the local scene over the last year. The latest project is Love at 20. We finally had a chance to get some questions in with Mike about the band, social networking and why it took me so long to get the interview done. I have apologize for taking over a month after setting up the interview to finally getting it done. On to the questions....

Was there ever a moment where you felt this interview would never happen?

Yes, every night before my head hit the pillow, I doubted myself and the legitimacy of Love at 20. I commit so many social faux pas’ that I was certain I had offended ultra8201 if not EVERY Austin blog. But as it turns out, you were just busy being an entrepreneur and successful social coordinator. I can respect that, but it won’t bring back the hours of lost sleep.

Explain the formation of Love at 20? After Clap! Clap! who left to do what? and how is your working relationship with Missions? We noticed they did a great remix of "So Bad".

Love at 20 was initially a studio project until I knew it could translate to a live setting. I sought out to write what could be classified as a “cliff notes” of my life. The record is my footprint in the cement. It’s something permanent and is very representative of my musical romances. In a sense, the songwriting stemmed from a deluge of indie dance riffs from the Clap!Clap! days. CC was an amazingly large project. There were so many voices, and so much participation that it was intrinsically too big for its britches. It was nice though, to be able to write specific types of songs. We may not have consciously written tracks that would appeal to the fans, but in some way they provided the thesis for our songwriting. CC wanted to write dance hits that would bring people to the shows. Problem is, from a creative perspective, we painted ourselves into a corner. I was more of a rock guy, Josh was more of an electronic guy, and Nick was a lo-fi indie devotee. In effect, much like how an iceberg splinters when it starts to melt, ClapClap was losing creative momentum as a whole, but gaining it on individual levels. So now here we are a few years later and people still know of CC. I would have never thought I could use the CC name to book shows or gain notoriety, but alas it’s still an Austin brand and I’m very thankful.

In a post CC world, Nick Whitfield has shifted his band “Haunting Oboe Music” into the “Lean Hounds”. They are certainly more in tune with his indie rock sensibilities. Louis Lemuz joined the now defunct, Always Already, before joining me in Love at 20. Josh Mills has formed “Missions” which is my favorite band in Austin. It’s funny actually; how Josh is able to capture the atmosphere of everything I love about listening to 80’s electro-pop at night. MISSIONS is an unbridled journey into the electronic landscapes of sex and dance floors. You can hear the intimacy Josh has with the music and I hope he’s successful with it. Suffice it to say, after hearing the initial tracks when I was mastering them, I really loved them. In effect, I felt Josh could shape a “Love at 20” remix in ways that other people couldn’t. I could tell from listening to the tracks that we shared the same perspective on the 80’s, which made him the perfect person to treat the song. The remix ended up really helping us both out in the blog community. I hope he can do another remix soon. I’ve even talked to him about doing a “Love at Missions” type of EP where we cover each other’s songs. It might rule, we’ll have to see.

You are using videos and giving away music for free in order to present this music breaking away from the "old" way of doing things. What challenges have you seen in doing this? What are the benefits?

If the four major record labels can’t make money on albums sales, how can I? They are sinking millions into an artist and still getting little to no return. First, I don’t have those kinds of resources. Second, if a “tried and true” process is no longer working, then why would I operate the same way? I think paying for recorded music should be a choice. I don’t necessarily condone illegal downloading, but I can understand the cause. Ultimately, I think that fan relationships are the biggest facet of being an artist. The concept of “celebrity” further distances a fan from an artist and I want to always ensure I’m accessible to fans. In effect, giving away a free record is a great conversation starter. People, on Twitter especially, have been really open to listening to new music since they don’t have to invest anything (besides time). Also, I can have that conversation with them directly and find out more about them. That connection with a product, whether it is art or electronics, creates loyalty. And in the long run, fans are the only thing that supports the career of a band. Giving the record away for free is a small price to pay.

There will always be challenges for new artists in this ever-saturated Internet era. I talk to a lot of people that really aren’t interested in listening to a new record. Or even better, they won’t respond to my email or twitter inquiries. Realistically, I’m the same way; bombarded with new bands, new singles, videos, movies, etc. This is the age of Internet media and I understand it becomes really difficult to sort it all out. But again, the whole process ties back to relationships. As long as I’m meeting people and exchanging feedback, good or bad, I’m really content with the way I’m “selling” this record.

In regard to videos, I am a huge film lover and relished the opportunity to create vignettes for tracks on the record. Likewise, I didn’t want the videos to be banal little skits or overly polished. They were a great opportunity to pay homage to the way films had impacted me. I have close friends that work in film, so I found this a perfect opportunity for collaboration. When I approached them to direct the videos, I only proposed one guideline- we had to pay tribute to one of favorite directors. A few months later, we had visual tributes to Warhol, Lang, and now in this post Miike. I feel the visual aesthetic remains consistent with the themes of the record and our fashion as well, so they make the perfect companion to the record.

Why Love at 20?

From the beginning, film has been a heavy impetus for the songwriting and image of the band. Love at 20 is literally a short film by Francois Truffaut in which he shares more lovelorn mishaps of his Antoine Doinel character. Symbolically, Love at 20 represents a very confounding era in my and most people’s life. I think that my definition of love at the age of 20 vastly differs from how I feel about it now. I don’t think there is any more idealistic perspective on love than that of a 20 year old. It’s that naivety and quixotic context that shapes how we interact with the world. Lastly, regardless of how cliché writing about love is, it is something that we can all relate and connect with. Love and music are inextricably linked. I hope Love at 20 is a phrase that is familiar but yet nostalgic….Enough about love, we should now discuss death metal…

You came right out with an LP and steered away from the usual step of putting up an EP. What was the motivation behind that?

EP’s can be a great thing. I can remember really enjoying the fact that despite having already released 3 amazing albums, Jimmy Eat World still found the right material to make a memorable and emotional EP (Stay On My Side Tonight). There’s a time and a place for everything. I think that this record contains almost too much material. “Time to Begin” has so many different types of songs that some people may think it’s too ambitious for a first album. And you know, I’m ok with that. I’d rather release a full length that goes into too many areas, than not enough. Also, it’s a way to make more money on iTunes. LP’s are priced higher.

We follow @Loveat20 on Twitter and I have to say I reading your "Tweets" is always fun, what are your thoughts on the site?

I really enjoy Twitter. I think it’s a challenging medium. It’s also a great indicator for how functionally illiterate many people are becoming. Personally, I consider Twitter a semantics game. You establish what you want to say with as much detail as possible in 140 or less characters. I mean from the start, you’re at a disadvantage (me especially since I can be described as verbose). You want to construct an eloquent and cogent sentence, but the clock is racing. Contractions are the new duct tape for social networking.

Also, Twitter is an amazing way to reach out to prospective listeners. In a sense, I consider Twitter the final frontier for promoting new music on a personal level. Myspace has become so wrought with band requests and junk posts that it has generated its own obsolescence. Facebook is so awkwardly arranged that it’s almost impossible to promote an event. (however, I do think with Facebook that they have intentionally designed the site to deter selfless promotion of the music kind) They probably will release their own unique way to inundate users with band requests.

All in all, Twitter is essentially a site to post “headlines” for your personality- “Today I went to the store, now I’m covered in chocolate”-from this, people can ask many questions, both comical and worrisome. You can develop your persona in such a unique way that Twitter has secured its relevance for years to come.

What shows do you have coming up?

Saturday 5/8 (flier above) at Emos, supporting Bright Light Social Hour. 5/29 at the Ghost Room at which I hope we’ll have our light rig fully operating. June booking is still in the works, but we hope it will be a great month for shows.