INTERVIEW: True Love
New York's Finest... Pop Band
By: Alex Steininger
New York's best kept secret, True Love delivers one the year's most developed, thought out pop albums of the year, their self-titled debut. Warm, rockin', and quite saccharine, True Love is a true collective. Each of the three members writes and sings their own songs, giving the band a three-dimensional feel that is hard to match.
IMWT: True Love is a true collective. How are you able to achieve that? I mean, most bands have a dictator and the rest of the members follow their lead, though it is my understanding this is not the case with True Love?
Ray (drums): When we started True Love, we were fully aware that we were 3 guys who were songwriters and I think we were willing to each get involved in something that would benefit each other's songwriting. We simply dig each other's songs, too. ...And it makes us work harder to present songs to the group that are worthy. Call us crazy, but we each seem to enjoy getting the other two guys' input about our songs. Sometimes we're at wit's end about a part or song, and the other two save the day with their idea. It could only make the song better, I would think. ...and it's a smart way to run a band.
IMWT: Most bands that have several songwriters manage to lose themselves in everyone's vision. How do you maintain a cohesive sound with everyone writing their own material?
Ray: We have a lot of the same influences and we have a pretty good idea of what the songwriter has in mind for the song. Keith will say, "Play it kinda like something off of Raw Power" and I'm there. We are getting to know each other's individual style, so we try to emulate it. Play it thinking the way they would think. Or at least try to get it as close as possible. We all sing on each other's songs(there are exceptions) so you're hearing the same voices. We look to Queen as a model. You had 4 songwriters...but when you hear it, you KNOW its Queen.
IMWT: True Love is sugary and sweet, with a lot of pop hooks, but also has the power-pop sound going on. Is pop music what you like to be called or have you come up with some sort of alternative title for your style of music?
Ray: Steadfast, Unalterable, and Unyielding Rock. It's power pop, it's rock. I'm not afraid to pigeon hole it. You've got to or people think you're weird.
IMWT: A lot of people might not get the band's sense of humor with a name like True Love? Why did that name stick and how do you think it applies to the band?
Ray: True Love was among the many names Keith had come up with and it seemed to stick. For me, it immediately reminded me of the band X and had kind of a hopeless romantic thing or frank reality to it. Like, "Can one ever really find true love?" Kind of like Keith's song, "All Lovers Are Doomed". I think it takes balls to call yourself True Love. Most heterosexual men think it's...well, you know. Have we found true love in our music? I don't know. But I know it's an obsession.
IMWT: What have you learned from previous bands that you're applying to True Love?
Ray: Don't try to let trends steer you. Go with your gut. After all, The thing that changes the style of popular music is usually something that hasn't been done yet(or in a while). Don't do anything you really don't want to do. We won't play certain gigs because we know it really won't benefit us. It's good for the psyche. Playing in front of nobody on a Tuesday night is no fun any way you look at it.
IMWT: What have you learned from previous bands that you want to, but can't seem to apply to True Love?
Ray: I can't think of any...A lot of what I learned from previous bands is what NOT to do. I'm STILL learning.
IMWT: I don't want to kiss your asses or anything, but True Love is quite amazing. My girlfriend hates everything, but really likes True Love. A band this good has to tour. Any tour plans?
Ray: Thanks! You've got to come down to see us live...or we need to come up there! We get the "my girlfriend hates everything but loves you guys" thing a lot. Interesting. Tell her thanks as well! We love that the girlfriends love True Love! The boyfriends, too!
Ray: We were talking about doing some long weekend things up & down the east coast and possibly do a week long thing westward. But the timing has to be right and we've got to plan. Right now, we're focusing on recording new songs...
IMWT: What do you feel is the essence behind True Love?
Ray: Rock. Rock. Rock. When we play live, it's like a ritual or something. The rounds of shots, The hands in the air. Kind of like a GBV kind of thing. It's gotten more like that. Like, we don't get all "shrink-wrapped" before a gig. Confidence. I mean, we don't get blasted out of our minds or anything, but we get a high off of the experience. Maybe it's like sky diving or mountain climbing. It's hard to explain without sounding like a hippie. Peace.
IMWT: On the same note, what do you feel is the underlined theme or message for your debut, self-titled album?
Ray: A do-it-yourself attitude, of course, but also a focus on songs coming first. Do what's best for the song. We are what we are, take it or leave it. I'd like to think of the album as an introduction to us. "Here we are, We have arrived". There's more rock to come...
IMWT: What would you like to do differently on your sophomore release that you didn't get a chance to do on the debut?
Ray: More variety in styles, sounds, & production. The next one will have a wider spectrum of sounds, definitely. ...just going by the new songs I've got.
IMWT: What are you most proud of on the self title debut?
Ray: The sound of it. The singing. I listened to some of it the other day. I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. Also, the cover. Keith pointed out how great it looks in print, black or white, no matter what size. We just got a review in Modern Drummer and it just looks cool to see it there next to the text. It's not too busy, just perfect. Our good friend Mike Demko did it. He's the man.
IMWT: What things would you change about the debut?
Ray: Just some performance things.... stuff only I would pick up. "Oh, I wish I did that vocal line this way" or "I should have gotten a little more crazy the drums on in the 'rock chaos' part of System" ...stuff like that. I don't think you could ever be 100 percent happy with something you create. It's an ongoing thing. ...always learning, growing...
IMWT: Have you ever had to tell each other that you just don't dig their songs and that they should go back to the drawing board?
Ray: It's happened twice already...and we're still together!!! It hasn't happened to me personally yet, but it's made me learn to go to Tom & Keith when I'm stuck with a part or an arrangement...to not take it personally when someone says, "that part's not doin' it for me, try this". Let go of your ego! I was talking to a friend of mine who cans songs just because he's afraid to tell his drummer that he doesn't like the beat he's playing. That's no way to run a band... It's like a dysfunctional family. We're pretty lucky to have each other, really. We were talking the other day about how it's been studied that you can't get anything done that's good with more than three people.
IMWT: How about rejecting another member's song while trying to make the band do one of the songs you just wrote?
Ray: Well, obviously, when someone drops the bomb on another guy's song we go, " ok, 5 minute break and then who's next?"...gives the guy time to cool down! We used to take turns presenting songs, but sometimes one guy wouldn't have anything completed at the time of his turn(me). It's kind of become a competition. I think Tom's in the lead right now. We're all very patient, though. heh, heh.
IMWT: Anything I left out you'd like to mention or cover?
Ray: Just that everyone should seriously check our CD out. Y'all need to have some rock in your lives...