Stu McLamb is living proof that heartbreak can be damn good for your career. On the heels of a nasty break-up (which followed his being kicked out of Raleigh pop geniuses The Capulets), McLamb sought to get his head back together by recording an album of sparkling, lo-fi masterpieces for his ex. The resulting album, recorded almost entirely solo under the name The Love Language, didn’t lead to a reunion, but did manage to charm the pants off of critics and fans everywhere. Now McLamb is touring with a full band, which will make a stop at The Pour House this Saturday night. Current buzz band Whatever Brains opens. In advance of Saturday’s show, McLamb answered five questions for New Raleigh.
1. You recorded your debut album mostly by yourself. Now that you’ve had the opportunity to play those songs with a set of live musicians,
how have those songs evolved, and do you ever wish you could go back and re-record them with your current bandmates?
I’ve gotten that question a lot lately and I see where people are coming from in asking it. The album is much more somber and wasn’t recorded in a typical hi-fi studio fashion while the live show is much more raucous and exuberant. To me comparing the two is like apples and oranges. I am very pleased with the way the record turned out and wouldn’t change a thing. I tend to be drawn to albums with a lot of passion and spirit and could care less about everything being in tune and EQ’d perfectly. I made the record right after a very dark period in my life and I felt it was appropriate to keep some of the stains on the songs in how they were recorded. So that being said the record was a very personal, almost therapeutic experience for me and i don’t think it would make sense to have recorded it with the band.
On another note my band is amazing and I’m still in awe of how seemingly effortless this group came together. The chemistry between all of us is really something special. Its really blowing my mind seeing some of the press we’ve gotten and we’ve probably only had around 5 formal rehearsals. We literally have gotten tight from playing shows in front of audiences, not in rehearsal spaces. It’s kind of ridiculous. Everyone in the band has very strong, lively personalities and that translates into the music when played live. I love seeing how these very melancholy, personal songs i wrote have become almost celebratory for the audience. It’s really beautiful actually. We’re about to start recording the second record pretty soon and it will be a joint effort between the entire band. I’m thinking about removing all egos and having everyone play all over the record where they sound best. Whether it’s Jeff (guitarist) on the drums and Tom (drummer) on bass. Whatever it takes to get those magical sounds. It’s really pointless to hypothesise though since the best recordings are the ones that surprise you.
2. Most reviews of the album go into great detail about is lo-fi quality. Do you think the album would be as popular if it had been
recorded with the full, professional studio treatment?
It might have had better chances of getting more “modern rock” radio play or landing us licensing deals but I don’t think it would have connected with people as much. There has been a lot of talk about how lo-fi the record is but I think it sounds great. I was working with pretty simple equipment. A Boss BR864 digital 8 track I bought off of Craigslist for $200 and one cheap condenser mic. So my equipment was a little flawed but that was all I could afford. But as far as how I achieved the sounds I think I put in just as much time and effort as the “professional studio” guys. I wasn’t lazily setting up a mic anywhere in the room and banging it out. It was an extremely laborious, exhausting effort. I was just going for gritty sounds and I think i succeeded.
3. What does your ex-girlfriend think about the CD?
Depends on which ex you’re referring to. Ha. Well my ex is probably sick of it by now but she was nice enough to do the album design. I still owe her a check for that. Ooops. Don’t worry Jess, it’s on it’s way.
4. Tell us more about your aunt, whose photo adorns the cover of the CD. Do you think she’d like your music?
Well that was my mom’s sister, Joanne, and unfortunately I never got the chance to meet her. She died in a car accident a few years before i was born. I was at my parents house one day sifting through old family photo albums and came across these photos she did for a modeling shoot. They were in the Sampson county newspaper and I was blown away by how amazing they looked. I just felt like that picture encompassed visually the beauty I was trying to convey in my music and it seemed to fit perfectly. And people say I favored her and since the songs were written from both the heart broken and heart breaker side of love, in a weird way it was like putting the female version of myself on the cover. That probably sounds wack but that’s what I was thinking at the time. I think she would have liked the album just as much as I like her photograph.
5. Who was The Band’s best singer?
While Levon Helm is probably is my favorite to watch sing, Rick Danko is my favorite to hear. There so much sincerity in his voice. He strangely sounds vulnerable and invincible all at the same time.
Want to know what else is happening this weekend? Check out my blog, Mann’s World for info on Bowerbirds, Roman Candle and more.