What can I say about this band that far more skilled writers haven’t said already? A band that has been a Phoenix area pillar of Rock ‘N’ Roll prominence for quite a while now, they’re working on their sixth LP! For those of you who have yet to delight in the sounds of The Love Me Nots, I shall attempt a brief description. A lead singer that prowls around the stage radiating Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Chrissie Hynde, while pounding a keyboard so fervently as if attempting to exorcize demons from within its mechanical bowels. Then there’s that tall, ominous guitar player that’s relentlessly hurling down sonic depth charges at the hapless spectators. Not to mention a rhythm section sturdy enough to keep this out of controlled freight train on its rails and on a collision course straight towards your soul!
Interview by Jay Castro
Who’s answering the questions here?
Who is in the band and how do you earn your keep in it?
Nicole Laurenne – organ, vocals
Michael Johnny Walker – guitar
Michael Johnny Walker – guitar
Sophie O – bass, vocals
Jay Lien - drums
Are all of you originally from the Phoenix area?
I grew up in the Chicago area. Michael and Jay are Phoenix natives but moved in and out of state occasionally. Right now Jay lives in Brooklyn, NY.
What is the bands origin story, how did you all come together?
Michael and Jay played in The Sonic Thrills, a great trash-rock band here in Phoenix, and Michael was looking to start a side project. He was shopping around for singers when came upon my old new-wave band, Blue Fur, and came to see a show. After the show he asked if I might be interested in fronting his new project. Eventually we got it together and Jay signed on. Christina Nunez from The Madcaps was our first bassist, followed by Kyle Barron from The Dames, and Sophie took Kyle’s place a couple of years ago. Jay left the band for a little while, replaced by Vince Ramirez from Flathead and then by Bob Hoag from Pollen, but when he came to a show of ours in Brooklyn, he decided to come back on board and we were thrilled to have him back.
A couple of you have another musical endeavor called Zero Zero, which is more electronic. How did that project come about?
Michael and I write a lot of other styles of music on our own, for licensing projects and whatnot, and I especially have a good time writing electronic-based pop. When The Love Me Nots decided to take a hiatus after touring and recording for about six years straight, we decided to pull together some pop tracks and put them out as a side project called Zero Zero. Michael and I did all the performances and recording on it in our home studio, so it was a real labor of love and a nice change of pace while the garage band was taking some time off.
With a line in the sand being defined clearer and clearer every day between electronic music and rock n roll, do you feel like electronic music really is taking over with younger audiences? Being on both sides of the fence so to speak, I feel like you guys have a unique perspective on this.
No, I think people still like great music, regardless of the genre. That may sound naïve, but when you talk to people about what they like, they usually have a pretty wide range of styles on their ipod playlists. In Zero Zero, we’ve tried to blur that line a little bit, with rock guitars over electronic-sounding stuff, and people have really responded to it. If you pay attention to what people are listening to on their own time (not fed by media sources), I think there is actually a wider tolerance for variety than ever in the US population.
With your style lying heavily in the 60’s with hints of New Wave and Punk, It’s hard to pinpoint obvious influences. What were some of your musical role models and why? Who inspired you to learn how to play music and pick up an instrument in the first place?
I studied classical piano from an early age and played competitively for many years. I didn’t really fall in love with pop music until later in life, although it was always around and I had some favorite pop tracks over the years. I liked Blondie, The Cars, Sinead O’Connor, Nirvana, The White Stripes – good beats, good melodies, not too complicated. When I met Michael, he introduced me to The Sonics, The Animals, The Seeds – blues-based garage that was deliciously primitive, huge and even lo-fi at times. It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I think until that moment my role as a keyboardist in a rock band seemed a little dull compared to everyone else jumping around on stage. Listening to those 60’s garage bands gave me all kinds of inspiration I didn’t have before.
If the band could tour with any band/musician from times gone by, who would it be and why?
The Animals. Elvis wouldn’t be bad either. I think those fans would really get what we are trying to do, and they wouldn’t have heard decades of garage yet so we’d have a real chance at making an impact on them. Plus, I would give my left foot to sit in the front row and listen to 60’s-era Eric Burdon sing “Inside Looking Out.” I figure I could make that happen if I was on tour with him. I’m sure I don’t really have to explain the thought of being on tour with Elvis. I think he would have dug The Love Me Nots as an opener.
I recently read that out of all different art forms, music has the power to alter a person’s disposition the fastest. Do you agree with this? Do you have any favorite music that you can put on that will always lift you from a slump?
Absolutely. Music sets the scene more than anything else, even more than the lighting or the company. At our house we usually find ourselves putting on vintage tracks, like Chet Baker and Billie Holliday, or just basking in the negativity and putting on Nick Cave. But when I’m ready to jolt out of a slump, I think early records by The Hives and The Makers will usually do the trick.
What is the relationship with Atomic Au Go Go?
That’s our label. Michael and I started it up back in 2006 just to put out The Love Me Nots’ first record ourselves. Since then we’ve branched out in association with other labels (Bad Reputation, May Cause Dizziness, Project Infinity) for various releases, but we still basically do everything ourselves for the band and the label.
Your albums have been produced by Detroit producer Jim Diamond (White Stripes, Dirtbombs, Fleshtones). How did your relationship begin with him?
We liked his early White Stripes recordings and wrote to him out of the blue one day in a fit of courage. He listened to our demos and told us to come out to Detroit and do a record with him in four days flat, for a pretty reasonable fee. So, we did. And we never looked back. We count him as a good friend now, even taking him on tour with us to Europe once.
If a year from now you were celebrating the best year The Love Me Nots have ever had, what would you be celebrating?
A hit song.
What music have you unleashed on the world and where can people hear it or buy it?
We’ve released five albums: In Black & White (2007), DETROIT (2008), Upsidedown Insideout (2009), The Demon and The Devotee (2011), and Let’s Get Wrecked (2011). (The last one features essential tracks, remixes and French-language versions). It’s pretty easy to find them all on iTunes, Amazon, CdBaby, and the band’s own store site www.thelovemenots.com. Pandora and Spotify are popular places to find us these days too. We also regularly stock small record stores around the world when they come asking for a supply – Greece, Seattle, South Africa, Paris, Boston, all kinds of random places.
What does the band have in store for us in the not so distant future?We are busy writing a sixth record right now, and hope to get back to Detroit this fall to record it with Jim. Before we record, we’ll schedule some US shows to get our blood boiling again. We’ve taken almost a full year off, so we’re all chomping at the bit to get back at it.
Photo by Clint Kirk