Ovlov discuss how their new album was inspired by bossa nova, jazz, R&B, Bjork & more
This Friday (11/19), Connecticut indie rockers Ovlov will return with their new album Buds. It's their first in three years, and the band's stature has only risen in the time since their last LP. "Ovlov have been the biggest band in the world to me since around 2009 and I’m glad everyone else is catching up," Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis said in a recent Stereogum feature on the band.
The album channels the same '90s indie rock vibe that their previous records do, but '90s indie rock isn't the only thing influencing this new album. Vocalist Steve Hartlett spoke to us over email about the music that inspired it, and it includes everything from Frankie Valli to Bjork to Todd Rundgren to R&B singer Ari Lennox to Japanese hip hop producer Nujabes to 1930s jazz singer Mildred Bailey to bossa nova pioneer Laurindo Almeida to the early 1900s French composer Maurice Ravel, as well as a couple of Ovlov's peers. It's a very diverse list of music, and Steve had a lot of interesting stuff to say, and he connects dots between some of these artists in ways you might not have expected.
The album officially comes out 11/19 via Exploding In Sound (pre-order), but you can stream it in full (via FADER), and check out Steve's influences list below...
DISCO DOOM (the band, as a whole, but also more specifically Anita and Grabriele)
I chose to start with DD because after 13 years of them remaining my absolute favorite creators of sound (of music), they also seem to remain, in my eyes, of all the world’s song writers, the ones that put more thought and care into what they create than anyone I have at least ever met, heard, or read about. I have been blessed and lucky enough to become close friends with them both, and from them learned a few books worth of world knowledge, and a new found love for creating sounds. For buds, my hope was to apply ALL the knowledge and musical love they had bestowed upon me years prior to create the most truly perfect indie pop post grunge rock album the world has yet to hear!!!!
The rest of this list’s order will have nothing to do with the place it holds in my heart, for I can confidently say that anything and everything that inspires and/or influences me is love by me a more or less equal amount. A lot of anything’s worth is entirely contextual and subjective; other than Disco Doom, of course.
Let’s continue, shall we?
“Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli
It’s entirely possible that this song actually IS, factually, the greatest pop song ever written and that maybe that it is not just my opinion, man. There’s an article’s worth of reasons as to why I at least think this, but again, I’ll sum this up as best I can. Quite simply, the chord progression of the chorus is my favorite chord progression that the chorus of a pop song can have. There are almost definitely thousands of pop songs with this chord progression as it’s chorus, or at least some variation of it. To be as specific as possible, in obnoxious music theory terminology (as best I can do THAT lol), for the first 2 chords of this progression to start with the minor 2nd, and then switch to the major 5th. Then, next up, anything within 1 through 9 of that pentatonic scale of whatever the major root note of said song is. Preferably, for me, a minor 3rd, major 1st, or minor 6th. This particular song I’ve used as an example, for I feel it portrays this chord progression most beautifully, for a pop song. I wanted this album to be “poppier” as a whole, but did get to use some variation of this chord progression in the chorus of “Land of Steve-O.” Now, I’m really only focusing on the chorus for the sake of saving space on the internet for more ads, but I believe it was the late but still great Dave Grohl that said, “Don’t bore us, get to the chor-us.” Forgive me if that was never something you said Dave, assuming that you are almost DEFINITELY reading this, but I was told by an old friend who claims to be your friend, so if you must be upset with anyone for being misquoted, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will tell you myself which friend of yours it was that told me this. Also, feel free to email me if you need anything. I’m here to help man. You might not remember but we’re also friends. I’ve attached the photographic proof (from 2008) of the night we met. I can’t imagine you’ve forgotten cause it obviously meant a lot to me so I’m assuming it did to you as well. I’m not sure I said anything, but actions speak louder than words and I know you noticed how hot I was, back then at least, cause you literally came like RIGHT up to our mutual friend as soon as you laid eyes on ME, pretending like you wanted to catch up with him but I had this weird feeling that it was actually because you knew how important it was for us to meet. Anyway, hmu bro! miss u ;)
Lomelda (everything Lomelda)
It’s just about impossible to please everyone in anyway, but especially with music. Of all the song writers whose blood is currently pumping, Lomelda may be the closest to achieving goal. They seem to capture so many of the things I love most about what each separate decade of the past 10 has to offer melodically, and roll them all up into one perfect little sphere in every song they create. Having first heard them in 2017, I’ve hoped to create an album with ovlov that could be a bit more accessible to people of any age and not just specifically people in their early 20s-early 40s, whom also like excessive distortion and just a general loudness in their music. Lomelda is one of the few songwriters within 10 years of my age that I could show to someone as old as 101 years and have them possibly and probably enjoy it. Buds could maybe reach a person in their 60s, but for the next album, I hope to create something for an age beyond death.
Vespertine (the album as a whole) by Bjork
This particular Bjork album has been my favorite of theirs since I first heard it in 2008. I think if you’re able to enjoy one of the songs on this album, you will almost certainly like the rest, at least an equal amount. Each song is unique in several of its own specific and different ways, but they all also share a consistent energy that truly remains evident from start to finish, without having somehow made every song sound similar, but rather, truly its own. Subtle consistency of any kind seems to be the thing I’ve noticed to be the greatest similarity throughout the majority of my favorite albums; it’s something I’ve wanted to try and create throughout an album of my own, but I do feel buds is the closest that ovlov has come to it, as far as our full length albums go.
Todd Rundgren (the man, as a whole)
Only recently could I call myself a real Todd fan. Although, I did fall in love almost immediately with what I was hearing. I of course already knew some of his biggest hits without knowing he was the writer of at the time, let alone his name. In this particular moment that I remember truly discovering him, however, it was his song “A Dream Goes On Forever” that officially hooked me. I was in awe of the blatant pop song it was, but with some of the strangest instrumental layering of anything from the 70s that I had yet ever heard. It was Todd who taught me the importance of distinguishing what you do on your albums, versus how you might perform them. This is the first time I went into recording an ovlov album without the intentions of making it sound as close as possible to what we sound like live, but rather, just wanted it to sound good. That new found intention for recording is all thanks to Todd Rundgren, for TODD IS GODD!
Ari Lennox (if the world truly is a good place, then Ari Lennox will be a name we all know and love, sooner than later)
Though I hadn’t actually heard their music until after we had finished recording the instruments for buds, Ari Lennox taught me that it can still be cool to have your vocals upfront in the mix and truly give that vocal take all you’ve fucking got. Hands down, my absolute favorite voice of any current blood pumping body out there. They also became the driving inspiration and influence for my intentions with this new album of ours. I first heard their music during an interview on NPR on one of my many drives to and from CT to NYC, but their words about their music and even just themselves were truly inspiring on so many levels. “What an overwhelming sense of confidence they portrayed, while simultaneously expressing some terribly vulnerable shit!”, I thought to myself. Not in the greatest of detail, but for me, it was imaginably a very rocky road that led to their album Shea Butter (10/10 album in my book). Still mysterious af. The difference in their confidence that struck me to be unique was their outright genuine composure within their expression of thought and personality. Nothing about what I heard felt fake, forced, or even awkward, which is especially rare in a one-on-one interview. In the past, I certainly was never so relaxed and/or genuine with my answers, so hearing Ari Lennox do so within this interview, so elegantly and articulately at that, inspired me to try doing so myself.
from Nujabes, to Laurindo Almeida, to Mildred Bailey, to finally arrive at Maurice Ravel
The reasoning behind my choice to lump these 4 drastically different musicians together for my final few influences and/or inspirers will take a bit of explaining. Sure, I could have very simply separated them into 4 of their own paragraphs, but I felt this was the best option for several more reasons. Though they have almost nothing to do with each other whatsoever, there is a truly special link between these 4 that was discovered through none other than a night of youtubing between my dear friend Alex Molini and I over a few spliffs. We were going back and forth showing each other all the fun things we’ve found on youtube since the website’s birth. Within this youtube game, at this time in my life, I would have almost always shown the opponent the Nujabes track Aruarian Dance from the Samurai Shamploo soundtrack. Alex decided to do some research and find out where the guitar part was sampled from, which led us to discover Laurindo Almeida, whom remains my current favorite classical guitarist. The song of his that Nujabes sampled was released in 1969, but is actually an instrumental cover of a song from the early 1930s called The Lamp is Low, by Mildred Bailey, which remains the most beautiful and spooky pop song there is, simultaneously, to this day. But it didn’t end there…where it ended happens to be, quite possibly, the most important musical discovery of my lifetime, Maurice Ravel. Upon further research, we discovered that this song from the 1930s was based simply off of a few melodies from Ravel’s piece, Pavane for a Dead Princess. My mind was blown; every sector. Needless to say, Ravel immediately became and is still my favorite composer, with this particular piece also remaining my favorite of his. Right then and there, I decided I had to write a song based on all 4 of these pieces to add to this small collection of completely differently styled songs, all stemming from this brilliant little seed planted in the late 19th century by this most beautiful being from France. I of course did not get to work on my piece right away; it would require true thought, time and care. It would take all of the most beautiful and also awfully ugly things my life could see. Well, I got exactly what I wanted. I would say all of the best and worst things of my life yet had happened within the coming few years after deciding I needed to create this song. With all that beauty and pain came one of my favorite songs I’VE ever written, Feel the Pain. It’s mostly just the chord progression that relates audibly to the previous 4 of this tree to be, with a few little hidden nuggets here and there for me and me only to enjoy. My real goal with creating this song was not to ever be considered part of the stalk of this tree, of which consists the OG 4, but rather to simply be the first bud of this tree to possibly grow out into branches, which will then bud seeds and leaves of their own, to grow and sway with the wind as they change colors to inevitably fall and become a part of Planet Her (some way earth) to help create a whole forest of entirely new trees. Hence the title of our 3rd full length, buds! Here, I’ll spell it out for all you Type-As, and maybe even Bs, for I am a C section baby and often forget how to talk to most of ya’ll... I just want my song to maybe introduce people to these past 4 songs that lead me to writing mine, and hopefully they will love and be as amazed by this connection as I still am which will then inspire them to maybe write a song of their own. Do you understand the tree metaphor yet or no? If not I’m sorry/not sorry. I can’t try to explain any further. I have a headache from starring at the screen too long and have developed a serious pain in my wrists, hands and fingers from typing this entirely pointless article. Just listen to the album and if you like it, awesome, if not, fuck you, go listen to nirvana then cause nirvana rules. Why did you actually read this whole thing? It’s only ok if you already read about something important and scary in real world news and are now just trying to take a break from horror, but otherwise, yooooo, get off your computer or phone or whatever the fuck you read this on. Don’t get me wrong; it means more to me than you’ll ever know that you care enough about whatever I have to say about anything at all, to have spent this much time reading an article of no real value. Thank you, truly, thank you, but it’s time for your bath. Wash your ass.