Posts Tagged ‘Meredith Van Woert’

The singer and guitarist of Los Angeles based punk quintet SPANISH LOVE SONGS is referencing his band, but he could just as easily be talking about himself. Since forming in 2014, Spanish Love Songs certainly have been heard, from legions of underground audiences at The Fest and South By Southwest to outlets like NPR, who hailed the group’s 2018 album, “Schmaltz”, as a “wellspring of big ideas, bigger riffs and the biggest possible feelings about love, war, fear and existential crisis.”

“Schmaltz” was an album coloured by guilt and self-doubt, an insular collection of soul-searching songs that found the singer amplifying his grief while kicking back at a world that seemed to be doing its best to keep knocking him down. It was a cathartic album, one that admittedly took a lot of Slocum’s soul to create. (“I don’t want to be the band where each album is me complaining about myself for 40 minutes,” he says.)

So instead, Slocum decided to look outward for Spanish Love Songs’s third album, “Brave Faces Everyone”, released in February 2020 on the band’s new label, Pure Noise Records. Steeped in the same detail-rich storytelling of Bruce Springsteen, The Menzingers and Manchester Orchestra and filtered through the band’s sweat-soaked punk fervor, the songs on “Brave Faces Everyone” represent the situations Slocum and his bandmates — guitarist Kyle McAulay, bassist Trevor Dietrich, drummer Ruben Duarte and keyboardist Meredith Van Woert — experienced during 30-some weeks of rigorous touring during the “Schmaltz” album cycle.

These are character stories set in small-town America and anxious urban jungles alike, unfurling heart-breaking tales of addiction, depression, debt and death juxtaposed alongside looming societal bogeys like mass shootings, the opioid epidemic and climate change. They’re all at once personal vignettes and universal truths of life in the 2010s, the lines blurred between Slocum’s own experiences and those of his friends and acquaintances. Because, as he sings in “Beachfront Property,” “Every city’s the same/Doom and gloom under different names.” These are the things that affect us all.

But for all its emotional heft, Slocum doesn’t see “Brave Faces Everyone” as a pessimistic album. Rather, the album — produced by McAulay at Howard Benson’s West Valley Recording  seeks to find balance between realism and optimism. It implores us to harbour less judgment and more empathy, to talk less and listen more. To understand that life never goes off the rails all at once. Rather, it’s a years-long series full of seemingly imperceptible events that snowball into life-altering issues like heroin addiction, mental illness or suicide. But just as things didn’t break overnight, happiness and redemption aren’t as simple as a flip of the switch. It’s a day-by-day, step-by-step climb we have to work to attain.

Ultimately, “Brave Faces Everyone” boldly declares that even though things might be bad, they’re not hopeless. On the appropriately named “Optimism,” Slocum sings, “Help me weather this high tide/But don’t take me out back and shoot me,” while the album-closing title track bears the album’s central thesis: “We were never broken/Life’s just very long.”

Ultimately, Spanish Love Songs are trying to break through that pessimism however they can. Sometimes that’s as simple as a hopeful lyric or soaring chorus to cut the tension in an otherwise weighty song, a brief respite that gives listeners a comforting melody to rally around.

“If you sing something loud enough and long enough,” Slocum muses, “hopefully people are able to find some peace in that.”

Experimenting with more traditional song structures and fewer forwardly caustic moments this time around haven’t dulled the band’s sound. If anything, they’ve accentuated the most important parts of it. When everything is loud and urgent, nothing is. But when Slocum’s voice swells to a roar on a song like “Generation Loss,” the undeniable power grabs you by the collar and forces you to pay attention — and that’s the difference between simply being heard and truly being understood.

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Spanish Love Songs, are a band much too sad to actually be from Los Angeles., has taken the Springsteemo cocktail mastered by Philly stalwarts the Wonder Years and the Menzingers and spiked it with more concentrated Hollywood angst, courtesy of tormented frontman Dylan Slocum. Ravaging tracks like “Routine Pain” and “Loser,” highlights from the band’s killer February LP “Brave Faces Everyone”, smack you square in the sternum — hurtling pop-punk riffs and tales of depression, addiction and existential crises, born from the band’s rigorous pre-pandemic touring schedule. But as with all good emo-punk, it’s only fun if there’s some catharsis tucked away, too. And deep within the bleak, there are glimmers of redemption. Maybe we’ll all be okay. Probably not.

The too-real opening verse of “Generation Loss,” where Slocum wails: “You 29-year-old panic attack / And not the fashionable kind / The kind where you wake up and say ‘Man, I just wanna survive.’” 

 

Band Members
Dylan Slocum – Guitar and Vocals
Kyle McAulay – Guitar
Trevor Dietrich – Bass
Ruben Duarte – Drums
Meredith Van Woert – Keys
Originally released February 7th, 2020

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It’s not that Spanish Love Songs are sad,  Sure, the California-based band’s jangling, heartfelt punk rock exudes the feeling of returning home to your shitty town for a family gathering, and guitarist/vocalist Dylan Slocum’s lyrics are full of crushing phrases that sum up the overbearing weight of the world. But neither feel self-indulgent or emotionally manipulative — instead, they just point out the honest-to-God truths of what it is to struggle in the modern day. And maybe that’s overwhelmingly depressing, but maybe that says more about the world than Spanish Love Songs.

Losers 2, the new single from Spanish Love Songs off of their upcoming album “Brave Faces Everyone”, tells it like it is, and rips your heart out accordingly. From the opening vignette of staring at the house you grew up in that you can no longer afford to own post-financial crisis, to the classic Spanish Love Songs bridge in which Dylan solemnly sings, ‘You know, if we weren’t bailed out every time by our parents, we’d be dead,’ the track is a throttling series of truths that cut deep into the millennial psyche.

This is another case of taking what we do well and trying to focus it outwards,” says Dylan. “I’ve had plenty of people ask why the songs continue to get bleaker and bleaker, but I feel like the answer is pretty obvious. This is the world we know. It’s the world I see my friends stuck in, and that I’ve seen my family stuck in. Everyone works themselves to the bones to just survive. Not to say that we’re not incredibly privileged — I’m aware — but I wanted to look outward and just acknowledge that for the roughly 99 per cent of us, life is an endless grind,

Band Members
Dylan Slocum – Guitar and Vocals
Kyle McAulay – Guitar
Trevor Dietrich – Bass
Ruben Duarte – Drums
Meredith Van Woert – Keys
Brave Faces Everyone is out February 7th via Pure Noise Records