San Francisco rock quartet LoveLikeFire have been building some momentum in recent months as they opened for bands like The Teenagers and Mates of State. Before heading out on a headlining tour a couple of weeks ago, they finished recording a new LP at Tiny Telephone studio, owned by John Vanderslice. They’ll be playing at the Courtyard Cafe tomorrow (Saturday) night with Drew Danbury. The show starts at 8 p.m. and is $3 for students and $5 for everyone else.
Smile Politely caught up with LoveLikeFire vocalist/keyboardist Ann Yu a couple of weeks ago as the band was traveling between Salt Lake City and Albuquerque. The interview is after the jump.
Smile Politely: How long have you guys been a band?
Ann Yu: This is our third year, so we started in early 2006. Actually we’re almost going on three years.
SP: So is this your first national tour, or have you been out and about this way before?
AY: This will be, let’s see, this is our third national tour, but this will be our longest tour we’ve ever done. Like, the first two times we went out across the country, we just hit some of the bigger cities, but this time out we’re pretty much hitting as many places as we can
SP: How’s that going?
AY: So far so good. We started the tour September 8th, so this will be our sixth show, so this is really our first week of touring, so I may have a different story in a week or so (laughs). Right now it’s going great, everything’s going really good, all the shows are really fun, we made a lot of new friends, and, yeah, it’s been a really good time.
SP: What town have you gone to that you had more of a following than you thought, or where have you had a surprisingly good show so far?
AY: The funnest show so far, well, they’ve all been fun because they’ve been interesting for different reasons. We just played Monolith over in Colorado, and that was really fun. They placed us really early in the day, and I wasn’t thinking that there would be very many people there to see us, but they were pretty much packed, and everyone was really enthusiastic, and it just went really good. It was a really good show, that was pretty awesome. Last night we played in Salt Lake City, and it wasn’t a very big turnout, but the kids that did come out were super enthusiastic and just having a really good time. That made it a lot of fun. It’s been, you know, varying degrees of awesome (laughs).
SP: That’s cool. As long as you can keep it in the awesome spectrum somewhere.
AY: Yeah, or maybe I’m just looking at it like the glass is half-full or something, but it’s been pretty good. For one reason or another, every show’s been pretty great.
SP: That’s good. How big of a group do you have on the tour?
AY: It’s just the four of us. We can’t really afford to take a merch person or a roadie at this point, so we pretty much do everything ourself. After we do a set, I’ll just run offstage and work the merch table, Dave and Robert do all the driving, it’s just a family-run operation at this point.
SP: How did the band start?
AY: Actually, how it started was, I was playing in a different band, and Dave, who plays drums in LoveLikeFire, was playing in a separate project, and we met doing a show together, and kind of kept in touch and stayed friends. We wrote a couple of songs and we were like, this is cool, it’s pretty promising, and it became kind of the principal project, and we quit our respective bands and found other members to join LoveLikeFire and it just sort of grew organically that way.
SP: Have you had the present lineup for the full run?
AY: No, we’ve had one other bass player, for the first year and a half, but other than that, everyone’s been with us since the beginning.
SP: What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
AY: Oh, a wide range. You know, before I discovered music on my own, it was basically a lot of the stuff my parents listened to. My dad was a big Carpenters fan, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, so the ongoing theme was he loved stuff that has strong songwriting, great melodies, that kind of stuff, so I think that element has stuck with me. When I started to discover music, you know, I kind of dabbled in different things. But at the end of it, I really love pop music. A lot of the songwriting and the songs we make together is kind of based out of a very strong pop sensibility, so that’s sort of where we’re coming from.
SP: Yeah, I think that definitely comes through, it’s very hooky, very catchy stuff. Is there a band you’ve been compared to that you don’t think fits at all?
AY: Pretty much all the bands that we’ve been compared to except for maybe… I don’t know. We’ve been compared to so many bands, and I think primarily because I’m a female singer, so yeah, I think the Cranberries is the biggest comparison that I don’t think we have anything in common with. But it’s been pretty much the whole gamut, like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cranberries, Lush, Paramore, Duke Spirit (?), Blonde Redhead, any girl bands, you know, girl singer in a band, I’m sure we’ve been compared to them. It’s really hard to explain where we’re coming from with those comparisons, but at the same time, we don’t feel like we really fit any of those comparisons, so…it’s one of those things where whoever’s listening can just kind of take whatever they want from it, and we just do what we’re inspired by, which, you know, changes all the time as we’re growing together and experiencing different things.
SP: How do you think your sound and lyrics have evolved since you started?
AY: When we first formed the band, we put out an EP pretty much within a few months of the band’s existence, and that was to be able to play shows and to be able to sell, and you know, have something that people could take home. So the songs are kind of a hodgepodge of different perspectives and different places we’re coming from, and I feel like as we’ve continued to play together as a band, it’s sort of become more cohesive, more specific, more focused. Lyrically, it’s definitely become more focused, less… If you listen to the first EP, it’s more, I don’t want to say poetic, but more vague, lyrically vague, more stream of consciousness, just thinking about several things and putting them in one song. With our later stuff, it’s more isolated experiences. And then, we have an album that we just recorded a week ago, that we just finished recording, I guess, ten days ago, technically. That’s the album that I’m talking about, but the album that comes out after that, it could be totally a different style lyrically and a slightly different take, but it’s always going to be us, because that’s what we bring to the table, and facets of it will always be there, but the themes will change.
SP: As far as songwriting goes, is it something where the whole band is involved in the music, and one person writes the words, or how does it work for LoveLikeFire?
AY: Usually Ted, our guitar player, or I will bring an idea to the table, and then we’ll kind of work on it together as a band and structure it how we want to. If Ted gets an idea, then I’ll work with him on the melody and lyrics, or if it’s an idea that I came up with, then I’ll work out the progression and the melody, and then we’ll bring the song to fruition together. It’s a process. I’m making it sound really simple, but it’s a process.
SP: I was just reading the blog portion of your website, and it looked like it was a pretty lengthy recording process, like 36 days in the studio?
AY: Yeah, basically in the studio. We spent a lot of time getting tones, and it’s one of those things where it’s never enough time. We could have two months in the studio, and it would be the same thing. You always find something you can do to fill up that time. It went by really quick.
SP: Does everybody still live in San Francisco?
AY: Yeah, we all live in San Francisco.
SP: What’s the scene like there? Are there any bands there that you feel a kinship with?
AY: I definitely feel a kinship with several San Francisco bands. There’s not too many similar style-wise, but there’s definitely a strong San Francisco music scene, with different kinds of music but the sheer fact that we’re all kind of doing the same thing. We’re trying to grow and build our fanbase locally, and that bonds us together. So, that’s pretty much how the scene works. It’s a really small city, so you don’t have like concentrated stylistically, like one scene of this, and that.A
And then the interview ended, as most do, with a cell phone signal fading out on some distant stretch of interstate. Thanks for bearing with me this long.