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The Lovekill Bio.Read More...
The basement of Stephen Pedersen’s Omaha home isn’t exactly what you would refer to as a “luxurious recording studio.” The ceilings are low. The walls are damp. Fourteen-hour days are pretty much the norm. “But that’s exactly what we needed,” says Lovekill singer/guitarist Chris Rager, now kicking back on his porch at home in Cleveland. “I think that it was clear to us what we needed to do. We were in fucking Nebraska. I didn’t have anything else to do but sit there and record vocals and overdub guitars all day. I didn’t have any other agenda but to make a great record.” And that, inevitably, is what they did. But the way that we’re going about explaining this is actually kind of backwards. To really understand how the Lovekill (Rager, guitarist Jonah Bayer, bassist/singer Carla Cherry and drummer Craig Ramsey) arrived at this point, you have to go back some 10 years earlier when, still in the early stages of their adolescence, Bayer and Rager bonded over a mutual love for rugged, mid-’90s hardcore bands.
Keeping in touch over the years (and even forming the necessary and forgettable teenage punk band at some point in between) Rager and Bayer wouldn’t find their collective musical voice together until they reached adulthood. Formed in the summer of 2001, the Lovekill originally began without Bayer (who was away at Ithaca College in upstate New York pursuing a mass media degree). “I remember seeing them play in Kent, and it was a totally different thing,” says Bayer of the band’s original line-up. The estranged guitarist would later join the group after returning to Cleveland from New York in 2002 when, sensing that they still hadn’t found the Lovekill’s definitive sound, Rager split with their original guitarist. The songs that they inevitably began writing with Bayer stripped the band’s sound to it core, resulting in their first, self-titled EP.
Recorded at 609 Studios in Cleveland with the Lovekill’s newly recalibrated line-up (which, at the time, also included original drummer Bob Olexa) the eponymous EP served as an admittedly modest beginning; hinting at the tense and propulsive art punk that they would bring to a sharp edge on their full-length Astro Magnetics debut. In the meanwhile, though, weekend tours were booked with like-minded contemporaries the Letters Organize and, after maxing out vacation days at work, so was a jaunt across Europe with Gainesville punks Army Of Ponch. “Once Jonah came into the picture, I think we had a line up that I really wanted to do something with,” Rager recalls. “The whole time, we were missing that one motivated person. For a while it was this very weekend thing [and] my outlook has always been that, if you’re in a band, you don’t just stand there. You do something.”
With the help of Bayer’s friend, Thursday singer Geoff Rickly, the Lovekill would eventually meet Rager’s own, personal expectations. Bayer had met the Astro Magnetics co-founder a couple years earlier on the Vans Warped Tour; by late 2004, he’d been told through a mutual friend that Rickly might even be interested in releasing the Lovekill’s first full-length. Still, the partnership caught Bayer by surprise. “When I gave Geoff a copy of our first EP I just figured, ‘Oh, here’s another CD for someone. He’ll forget,’” the guitarist says. “Lucky for us, he genuinely made a connection with it.” That following March, the band scheduled another weekend show, this time at a tiny club in the Lower East Side. Rickly was in attendance and, much to their surprise, before returning home to Cleveland the Lovekill would join the Astro Magnetic’s now blooming roster.
By this point, two other relationships had developed that would become crucial to the Lovekill’s future. A few months earlier, Olexa amicably left the group and had been replaced by Ramsey, who helped hone the Lovekill’s newer songs considerably. Then there was Pedersen, who the band had first befriended when his band Criteria passed through Cleveland on tour. Last May, when they arrived in Omaha to record what would become , Pedersen had developed into a genuine studio rat, perfecting his Pro Tools rig whenever his day job as a lawyer permitted. Though they would spend the better part of a week recording in his basement, Pedersen first brought the band to Presto! Studios in Lincoln to nail down all bass and drum tracks with AJ Mogis who, aside from working on records by Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint, had recently become a full-fledged member of Criteria. “It was interesting,” Bayer says, “because Stephen had never really ‘produced’ a record before. But we respected his opinion so much that we just let him run with it.”