What Kind of Animal Are We: An Interview with Sara Lov

sara lov

In the late ’90s, Sara Lov co-founded Devics, an influential duo that blended trip-hop and shoegaze to make melancholy but sensual lullabies. The band’s most recent album, Push the Heart, was released in 2006, showcasing the band’s ability to create moods and textures that sound fitting for a David Lynch soundtrack. After living and recording in Italy for several years, Sara has returned to Los Angeles to focus on writing songs as a solo artist, setting her rich voice against a more organic, folk-tinged bed of guitars and pianos. She has released a three song EP, while finishing work on a full-length album, which is due in 2008. Every Wednesday in April, she will be performing at Tangier in Los Angeles.

Do you find yourself approaching your songwriting differently as a solo artist?

Definitely. It’s different now that I am coming up with the music as well as melody and lyrics. With Devics, Dustin came up with music and I would add whatever my part was, then we would work together to arrange the whole thing. Starting songs is easy, finishing them sometimes is where the work is. And, of course, there are always those little gems that just sort of fall into the world without any effort. I love those.

How do you feel about lyrics in music? Are they the focal point? Are they a distraction?

Absolutely the focal point, although I can’t say it’s more important than the music. They go hand in hand for me.

Do you draw inspiration from fiction, films, music? Do you often write autobiographically?

I almost always write autobiographically. Film, music, and books help to inspire. They have always influenced how I see the world so they play a big part in my music.

What is your approach to translating recorded songs to the live setting?

With Devics we always tried to get it as close as we could to the recordings. With my solo stuff it’s a whole new world. I am still figuring all that out. I am new at playing shows. The first few were just me, and I realized quickly that it didn’t work. For the next dozen or so shows, Zac Rae (who produced my record) joined me for all the shows and we were often joined by a cello player, too. I have finally gotten together an amazing group of players who will be my band next month for my Wednesday night residency at Tangier [in Los Angeles]. It’s been so fun playing these songs and hearing all the parts live, I’m really looking forward to these shows.

What music did you grow up listening to? Do you feel that your sound now incorporates the music of your upbringing or denounces it?

Everything I love eventually finds its way out of my mouth… When I first started making music, I tried so hard not to sound like my influences. At some point I stopped fighting it. When I was really little my dad played lots of Beatles, Elton John, and Beach Boys–and I loved it. My first discovery of music as a teen was The Smiths. Then it was just one band after another and still to this day I’m finding new music all the time that excites me.

Was there a particular album that made you first consider becoming a musician?

Yeah, that would be Grease when I was about five. I made up my mind then. I thought I wanted to be Sandy.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Making my solo record. I never thought I could do it on my own. Not that I didn’t have help, but I just never thought I could write the songs entirely on my own. It’s been a very empowering experience.

How did where you grew up influence your exposure to music and your tastes in music?

I moved around a lot as a kid and music was the only consistent thing in my life. It was the only stability I had and I cherished it. I was always really into music, since I was very small. It kept me sane and still does, I suppose.

Is the concept of "the album" important, or are you more invested in songs as individual experiences?

I guess I’m old fashioned… I love hearing an album, with the songs in the order that the creator intended for me to hear them. I feel like the album is an experience and each song is part of it… Of course, once I find my favorite song I’ll listen to it a million times.

If you could live inside the world of a pre-existing motion picture, what film would you choose?

Maybe Amélie, or just for the time period and location maybe Band of Outsiders or The 400 Blows.

Are you a proponent of music theory education and vocal training, or do you believe artists should just do their thing?

Both. I am not one who comes from an education in music, so I don’t know what it’s like to write in that way. I have always come up with stuff instinctually and I have been told that it’s good that rules don’t bind me. Now that I am doing the writing on my own, I wish I did have a music education so that my vocabulary could be bigger… Also, I find that I love working with people who DO have a music theory education.

What are three things that you love?

My dog, my friends, and good food.

What makes you unhappy?

Jealousy and fear.

Is there anything about music as a business and industry that is off-putting to you?

Wow, that’s a loaded question… ummm, in the words of Tom Waits: “It’s a strange business, this business we call show." There are so many different parts of it and so many different worlds. It’s strange to me that so many hands can have a part in someone’s self-expression. It puzzles me that what I think is so bad can be considered to be so good by so many, and something that is so good can go undiscovered.

What have you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet?

Make babies.

What recent albums or artists are you enjoying?

Sea Wolf, Grizzly Bear, Emily Haines, Bat for Lashes, Bon Iver, and Port O’Brien…

Visit Sara Lov at MySpace.

Identity Theory’s recommended listening: "New York" by Sara Lov and "Red Morning" by Devics

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