The second ever Hearts Bleed Radio Showcase Show Event Thing is going down at Cake Shop on 5/8/13, and we are so totally, incredibly, psyched/pumped/stoked, to have LUFF kicking off the night. I sat down with the guitarists, Sheila Sobolewski (<-- lead vox too) and Robin Pickering via internet chat, and here is what transpired:
Hearts Bleed Radio: For starters, give me a little history of the band. How long have you guys been playing together? Has the lineup changed over the years?
Sheila: Jeez that's a tough one! I started LUFF as a project with just me and a cellist quite a while back, maybe early 2000's? It really was heading towards rock-bandness from the start though. Things didn't work out with the cellist and I started playing with a drummer and a bass player. Friends of mine. It's evolved a lot since then and lots of people have been in the project. I love the current line-up that we have right now. Aleks Gylys and Mike Hurst on drums and bass. Robin and I both play guitar. It's been this line up for a couple years now.
Robin: Yeah I joined about 5 years ago or so.
Sheila: I couldn't get Robin in the band fast enough! I was like, hey so if you ever wanna play with us, um...
Robin: Haha. I was in Triple Creme at the time, so I was a little bizzy...
Sheila: I "borrowed" you.
Luff plays Sealab in 2021.
HBR: You released the "Maybe It's Just Sleeping" EP (which I think is incredible BTW), about a year ago, but you guys haven't played a show in a couple of months. Why the hiatus?
Robin: Thanks!! We've been writing new stuff!
HBR: How many new songs do you think we'll hear on 5/8?
Robin: Probably like 4 new ones. Keyboards, too!
HBR: Who is on the keys? Robin?
Robin: Keys/piano was my first instrument actually, long time ago in jr. high band kind of stuff. I play keys on two songs, just for part of the songs. So it's a keys/guitar double duty.
Sheila: I'm really excited about adding the keyboard! A few years ago I used to use a microkorg for live shows. I sold it. Definitely regretted that sale.
HBR: Sheila, one thing I notice about your guitar playing is that you don't use a pick. I think it gives a certain delicate touch to the quieter parts. How did you develop that style?
Sheila: So I've been playing guitar since I was 13. At some point I took a break from guitar and played drums in a couple bands. I wasn't very good, but it was fun. When I decided to start picking up my guitar again, I couldn't find any picks laying around so I just started using my hands, sans-pick. It really appealed to me and it just kind of stayed that way. I keep a pick on my guitar for looping a couple things on a couple songs, but that's about it. I feel like it's good for dynamics.
Robin: Yes, the thing about LUFF is that some of the songs naturally require non pick playing. I'm much more pick-heavy, but definitely some songs benefit from the more controlled tones and non-attacky sound from hands/fingers.
HBR: Yeah, you guys have GREAT dynamics. A lot of shoegaze-y bands run through so many effects that it kinda just compresses the whole sound. LUFF can really change dynamics, and it elevates the whole experience.
Robin: We work extra special hard on dynamics.
Sheila: Thanks! We work really hard on that aspect actually!
Robin: Oops I said "hard on". Sorry.
Sheila: I wasn't gonna mention that but... Oh I said "hard on" too. You should see us at rehearsal. Non stop stuff like this.
HBR: Robin, not only did you say "hard on," you said "extra special hard on."
Robin: You'd fit right in at rehearsal!!
HBR: How do you guys write? Is it a group effort or do songs usually start with someone bringing in like, a verse/chorus thing?
Sheila: I'd say the song writing process usually starts with Robin and I. The next step is to bring in Aleks on drums. Mike is the cherry on top.
Robin: Yeah Aleks helps a lot with the arrangement. Sometimes also when something's not really ready, we'll bring it in anyway to kind of hash around with it, which sometimes is just a mess, and other times helps give more direction and shape before we really have it ready for the whole group.
HBR: Who are your main influences? Who is your most unlikely influence?
Robin: I love minor Indian scale kind of stuff... We have epic battles about major v. minor, but sometimes get to sneak it in... We're obsessed with MBV (My Bloody Valentine) at the moment. I listen to a lot of Mogwai (no surprise there), and stuff like Beastie Boys, Santigold, Polvo, etc. I think I'm accidentally influenced by too much Classic rock as a high school-er with like, two radio stations and no CD player in my car.
Sheila: We love and are influenced by so many things! Neil Young circa After the Gold Rush. I was just talking to a friend of mine and we realized we really loved Heavy Vegetable back in the 90's. We are listening to the new MBV right now. Love it.
Robin: Who's Heavy Vegetable?
Sheila: Robin doesn't know Heavy Vegetable, apparently.
HBR: I don't either! Looks like we all learned something today...
Sheila: Pinback, way back.
Robin: I was also a huge fan of Lords of Acid, Timelords, Skinny Puppy, all that stuff back in the day that when you lived in Maine (with two radio stations) was about as progressive as it got. I didn't know that people could be in bands unless they were famous already until I went to college. I had no idea there was an alternative/indie scene.
Sheila: Yeah I think basically we don't actually sound like the things that influenced us. Or maybe we do?
Robin does that neck bending thing that always makes me nervous.
HBR: Robin, what's your most valuable pedal? (in an artistic sense, not which one costs the most.)
Sheila: Oh good question!!! Tell him about the Black Arts Toneworks I discovered for you!!!
Robin: I love my new fuzz pedal. It's called the "Pharaoh". But really the pedal that I've integrated into many songs is the Freeze.
Sheila: I could talk about pedals all day!! Ask me! Ask me! She really is quite good with the Freeze pedal...
Robin: It's like the ultimate sustain pedal. Sometimes I use it as sustain, but other times just cause it adds this beautiful choral tone to whatever is being frozen.
HBR: Sheila, go for it!
Sheila: We are always switching out our pedals to try to find that "sound"! I am getting to know my new looping pedal, since I blew up another Line 6 dl-4. I got a Rang III, I have a fuzz called the Team Awesome made by one of the guys in Cymbals Eat Guitars. I also love my White Light, and my Frantone Peach Fuzz. I just got a Diamond Tremolo. Expect to hear that at the show!
Robin: That tremolo is pretty awesome!
HBR: Going back to MBV... I always think about like, how much of an endeavor the making of Loveless must have been... But now, there's such a crazy array of pedals available, really, any sound you want is available (it just takes some mixing and matching, and trial and error).
Robin: Right! We were talking about that with Morrissey and that song, can't remember the name, where now all you'd need is some kind of pedal, but back then they had to do all this stuff with the tape.
Sheila: It's the Smith's song "How Soon Is Now?"
HBR: What are you guys using for amps these days?
Robin: I use a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. Used to use a Fender SuperAmp but it weighed a million pounds and was a little harsh sounding.
Sheila: I have been trying to find an amp I like as much as this heavy heavy back breaking mesa boogie amp from the 80's. Right now I'm using a Mesa Boogie TA-30 head with a 1x12 made out of Italian poplar. The cab weights about 12lbs and the head weighs about 20lbs. I'm still not happy but it's better than dragging around an 80lb amp. Nothing sounds as good as that old boogie though!
HBR: Yeah, portability is super important, though... That being said, they really don't make light weight tube amps. Those Fender Hot Rods are still pretty heavy.
Robin: Yeah, it's a trade off. That Marshall was literally about 75 to 80 pounds, though...
HBR: If you were super famous and went on a world tour, who would you want opening for you?
Robin: Tough question!!!! It's so much easier to say who we'd want to open for...
Sheila: Well, since we'd have to hang out with them, they'd need to be fun...
Robin: I'd make Grandaddy get back together... And tour with us.
HBR: Oh shit! Good answer.
Sheila: Oh good one! Polvo! We just saw the Breeders at the Bell House. We were total front row! The Breeders! Although I don't think they drink anymore.
Robin: Yeah but Kim is still fun even if she's not drinking! Kelly too!
HBR: I'm kinda surprised that Grandaddy hasn't gone on a "Grandaddy plays Sophtware Slump in it's entirety" tour yet. (or did that happen and I missed it?)
Robin: They did do some west coast shows recently but won't come over here.
HBR: Maybe I'll get them (Grandaddy) for the next Hearts Bleed Radio showcase. We can start a kickstarter...
Sheila: I just want to say one more thing about the new MBV record. If you only have 21 seconds to spare, listen to "Only Tomorrow" from 1:34-1:55.
HBR: Hahaha, that's incredibly specific.
Sheila: It's in the details.
Robin: I made Sheila listen to it on the street the other day. Just that section.
HBR: If you couldn't be musicians, what creative medium would you choose?
Robin: I would take painting lessons. I would also knit the 30plus projects I haven't started yet...
Sheila: Robin has lots of fancy yarn.
Robin: Writing, too. I guess just not writing music. Word writing.
Sheila: I always see songwriting as sculpting.
HBR: Music is such a collaborative thing. Like, people always answer that question with very individual pursuits...
Robin: Yes, true. Something like film producing might be akin.
Sheila: Noise magic!
HBR: Noise magic?
Sheila: I dunno why I just said that!
HBR: I think it's brilliant. We just have to figure out what it is.
Sheila: Good luck with that!
HBR: We'll save that for the next interview.
Info on the showcase is HERE.
LUFF's Bandcamp page is HERE.
And you can "like" Hearts Bleed Radio on Facebook, HERE.
Thanks for reading! Let's go to a show!