What a difference two years can make. This time in 2011, Slough upstart Lee Newell found himself playing Glastonbury’s Other Stage with his hotly tipped “gritpop” band Viva Brother. After their debut record was panned by the same publications who had championed them from the start, Viva Brother dissolved during recording sessions of their second LP with producer Ally Young, formerly of Brighton band Mirrors. Newell, who suffers from a mild form of bipolar disorder, relocated to New York with Young and the pair began releasing music under the name Lovelife. Lovelife’s brand of infectious synthpop has earned them blog attention and a spot supporting buzz band The Neighbourhood across America. They have released two EPs for free off their website with their third, entitled Stateless, set to drop this summer. We spoke to Newell about his past experiences in bands, why he believes it is important to be as self-sufficient as possible and why Def Leppard would be the ideal football opponents…
First thing’s first, you packed up and left for New York after the dissolution of your former bands, what was it about the Big Apple which attracted you?
It’s essentially a giant movie set. It’s easy to get lost in New York and at the time that is exactly what I wanted. We had a few friends over there that helped us get on our feet, so we didn’t go in completely blind. We all needed to time to find out what we wanted from music.
The grandiosity of New York seems to transcend into your music. Lee, you are originally from glorious Slough, so was the sheer scale of New York something which affected your musical output?
New York is very cramped and compacted. More so than London. There is a sense of claustrophobia in the songs we wrote there, especially as a couple of the songs from The Fourth Floor were written during Hurricane Sandy. Wherever we are in the world will dictate the nature and direction of what we are writing. We wrote most of Stateless in L.A. and you can hear that. You can hear sunshine, you can hear the people.
You’ve only played one show on English soil since you started Lovelife (with another scheduled for August 6th). Do you ever see yourselves touring here again?
Yeah of course. We just announced another London show, like you said. Plans are being made as we speak.
Something which I’m a huge fan of about your music is that it seems to encompass a whole host of influences. Some parts are clearly R&B inspired, whilst the lyricism is almost self-deprecating (something you wouldn’t necessarily associate with R&B). Which lyricists inspire you?
Thank you. Well, I have something to sing about. With the first two E.P.s I had a lot to get off my chest. Breaking up with a long term girlfriend, which I found about 7000 times harder than I thought I would to get over. Having your band split up. Moving homes. etc. etc. Stateless however touches on some of the positives from being alone. But I’m not going to go in to that right now. I’m inspired by a lot of people but Morrissey mainly.
You seem to be 100% self-sufficient (you create and promote all your releases yourselves). Is that a fair comment? Do your past experiences in bands make you want to rely on nobody but yourselves?
It’s important to have as much control over your art as you can. Because that’s what this whole thing is. It’s art. We made sure that we are in control of everything, from artwork to who will be mixing our music to where we want to play etc. We’re starting to talk to labels about releasing an album and it’s important that we retain this ethic.
You have famous fans in the likes of The Killers and Marina & The Diamonds. Is that slightly surreal?
I suppose so. But we’re all just people at the end of the day. I’m a big Marina fan, so that one was very special.
Crowds in America seem to really have taken to you. Why do you think this is?
I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess. Good taste I suppose.
Your forthcoming EP Stateless is released this summer. What can fans expect?
A lot of blood sweat and tears has gone in to this E.P. Each song is it’s own mini film.
If you were curating your own festival and had to fill only five slots, which five acts would get the nod?
Lady Gaga, The Smiths, Kraftwerk, The Flaming Lips, The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
I read an interview where you were given a British-themed marry, shag and kill, so here’s an American-themed one: Anna Kendrick, Chloe Sevigny and Lana Del Rey?
I don’t know who Anna Kendrick is, so we’ll bin her off. I’ll wed Lana, purely because the name ‘Lana Newell’ is ridiculous . And Chloe Sevigny can do whatever is left.
Commiserations on QPR’s relegation (Lee) and Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement (Ally). If you had to take on a band in a game of five-a-side, who would it be?
Def Leppard, drummer’s in goal.
Many thanks for your time lads. I look forward to the EP.