Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red
Jason Frederick has been in a lot of bands in a relatively short time,
busting out of Athens, Ohio with the hard-rocking Means, continuing to make
trouble in the rough-edged Spiveys, and most recently taking a turn toward
the pop as the frontman and songwriter in Chicago's Love Story in Blood
Red. Still, Frederick says that there's always been a melodic core to his
songs, even before he made the shift to Love Story. There was just too
much craziness going on around it for people to notice.
"Both the Means and the Spiveys were the most abrasive and rambunctious
bands, just spazzing out to the absolute Nth degree," Frederick said in a
recent telephone interview. "But the entire time I was doing that, I was
really into the lyrics, and basically wrote all the songs on acoustic guitar
anyway. Then I brought them to the band and, you know, we would get really
hyper and play them really hard.
"Eventually, I just got kind of bored with every song having to be really,
really intense and loud," he added. "So I started recording some quieter
stuff. It doesn't even really seem that different to me, though. It seems
like exactly the same thing, only mellower."
In fact, one song on the new album actually is the same. "Honeymoon
Rag" began its life as a Means song in full-on, garage-rocking style. In
its new arrangement it is vulnerable, sweet and the tiniest bit cynical,
sounding a little like a '50s rock tune retrofitted for the '00s. "I was
really into the idea that I could take a song that was bombastic and huge,
one where no one understood the words, and turn it into a really boppy,
head-shaking, finger-snapping tune," Frederick explained. "It turned into
the funniest song on the record."
Indeed, like this cut, Love Story in Blood Red's second self-titled album
has an almost perfect balance between spazz and croon, between cagey
romanticism and raffish bravado. It's a varied ride, alternating staccato
love songs and blues-tinged ballads, new-wave rave-ups and glorious pop
choruses. Relentlessly fun in an easygoing way, the album is also sort of
ambitious. It never lands on the same square twice, never slips in any
obvious connective music and somehow coalesces into a coherent whole.
That variation, Frederick said, was part of the plan all along. "When I
quit the Means, I was so sick of screaming my balls out. It was driving
me crazy," he said. "Every night, the screaming, it got boring the same
thing over and over again."
He began to listen to other, more pop-oriented
records and envied their variety. "Like Blur," he said. "On their
records, one song is like a waltz, and the next song is really loud, and the
next song is just a guy singing with a piano, and it's like you can be
whatever the hell you want to."
But the Means, just establishing themselves as a certain type of loud, rough,
punk-garage kind of band, didn't have latitude to explore other styles. "I
thought I'd vary the songs with the Means," he said. "But really, if you're
going to do something serious, it's important to [stay true to] what your band
That meant more of the same aggressive, loud, amped-up sound that
Frederick was so tired of. Finally, he solved the problem by quitting
and forming Love Story in Blood Red.
There are two Love Story in Blood Red albums now, both titled with the
band's name, so that the only way to tell them apart is by cover art. Let's call the
first one the black-and-white one; the second is in
Frederick says that there's another less obvious difference: the
first CD was more or less a one-man project, with musicians pulled in at
recording time with little or no preparation. The second was more of a band effort. Kris Poulin, a highly regarded
Chicago-based sound engineer, played guitar and recorded the album. Nick
Meiers, who runs Nodak Records, played bass. Jim Duffy was on drums. And
Devin Davis, the reclusive home-recording artist whose solo album Lonely
People of the World, Unite! made waves last year, sat in on keyboards
for three songs. "Devin Davis has played piano on basically every
recording that I've done since I was in Chicago," Frederick said, including
both Love Story records and three Means CDs. "It's been fantastic. But he
has been absolutely reluctant to join a band."
Since recording the album, Love Story
have added a new keyboard player, Casey Meehan, who will be touring with
the band and playing on future records.
Love Story in Blood Red just finished a quick tour of Ireland and will soon
be starting work on their next album. Recording, though, will have to
wait until Poulin finishes work on a new studio. Frederick said he
was looking forward to the chance to work on new material before
recording, a departure from his usual routine. "In almost every band I've
been in, the songs were being written and people are learning them as we're
recording them," he said. "This time, the idea is for me to teach them the
songs, and then we're going to play them a bunch, and then we'll
And the album title? We'd guess it will be anything
but Love Story in Blood Red again. Jennifer Kelly [Monday, April 3, 2006]