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Love Inks – E.S.P. Winter Tour – SXSW 2012

Here are some quick facts on the Austin band, Love Inks, which is comprised of Sherry LeBlanc (lead vocals, synthesizer) Kevin Dehan (guitar, backup vocals…original member and guitarist Adam Adam Linnell is no longer with the band, so Kevin’s moved into the guitarist chair), Derek Brown (bass, backup vocals…the new guy picking up the bass previously held by Kevin).

First: the band’s name Love Inks was inspired by a 1932 book on witchcraft, “Magica Sexualis,” and its chapter on writing a love letter with ink made from the ashes of old, burned love letters; intriguing and very romantic, in a Lars von Trier sort of way.

Second: Love Ink’s 2011 debut album title, E.S.P. may stand for Extra Sensory Perception, since the members’ interests dabble in paranormal sciences, but it could also stand for Emotive Simple and Personal, or Eeeks Santa Puked. Okay, I made up the last one.

Lastly: Although Sherry and Kevin are a married couple, it seems as a fellow music geek like me (and the rest of you), she finds herself going to shows alone because her friends won’t leave the house to venture out to a venue.

Actually, that last tidbit I learned during my short but sweet interview with Sherry as she was packing for the Love Inks tour that started that night in their home town (December 2), and which comes to Denver on Tuesday, December 6 at the Hi-Dive, performing with Bike Theft and Wanderdusk.

“I’ve noticed its really hard to get drag my friends out,” Sherry said while corralling her cat, “even if it’s an artist that they love. I think like, five years ago Jeff Tweety did this solo tour and he sang acoustic in these little, tiny venues and he came through Austin. And I was, ‘Come on guys, let’s go! Tickets are only $20 bucks and you get to see Jeff Tweety do this intimate set,’ and they’re like, ‘Well…that seems like a pain in the ass.’”

Amazing but true, but maybe that’s an American thing (side note: according to a Songkick executive who spoke at the Spotify announcement last week, Americans on average only go to one show a year…really pathetic. I do not include myself or some I know in that ratio).

[Listen to The Kaffeine Buzz Interview with Sherry LeBlanc, which aired on on December 5, 2011]

When it came to Love Inks’ tour in Europe, Sherry said that the whole experience was pretty damn exciting. “We were there almost six weeks total, and just kind of played non-stop; played 26 shows in a row without a break. But the turnout was so good. We had sold-out shows on and off throughout the tour, and our fan base there is a lot stronger than in the states. Oddly enough we went straight to Europe off of a kind of an east coast, Midwest tour. So it was really refreshing just to, I don’t know, to pack a house. It was very cool and very surprising.”

On to the subject of the album E.S.P., from track to track, warm undertones and pulsations simmer beneath Sherry’s heavenly voice, which echoes as if the studio was configured in an abandoned church that is at times, was haunted by those lost loves and burned letters. The studio, with Kevin at the producer helm, is in fact the couple’s own abode, which is ripe with a bit of architectural history.

“We’ve always recorded and put our own stuff out. We live in a big, old, crazy house. I think it just makes the acoustics better with original hardwood floors and really tall, vaulted ceilings. A good space is always gonna help when you’re recording.”

Amidst their original tracks lies a remake, but one that I for one, had never heard covered before – “Rock On” originally recorded by David Essex in 1973, retaining the bassline while stripping down each instrument to the bone, adding in Sherry’s haunting songstress touch.

“Really, I love that song. I’ve loved it since I was a little girl. I hadn’t thought much about it except liking it. Of course, now that we’ve recorded it I’ve thought a lot more about it and who David Essex is. One day during the process of recording the album I said to the guys, ‘Let’s cover this song.’ It was just for fun. It was never meant to go on the album. And when it came time for pressing we had fallen short of the minimal amount of time we needed and threw that on, last minute, kind of willy-nilly. And it’s been a lot of people’s favorite part of the album, which is surprising.”

Happy accidents. Another one was the timing of my research on acts that had been confirmed, thus far, on the SXSW 2012 Official Showcasing Bands list (update: 400 New Artists Announced for SXSW Music, round three on December 6, 2011), which included Love Inks. I’ve been spotlighting SXSW Music acts for the past few weeks on my show and had slotted this fine, Austin act for this week when I received notice that Love Inks would in fact, be coming to Denver as part of their winter tour through the Midwest and west coast.

Sherry and I got to talking about Sx and the challenges that anyone who has ever attended: so many bands, so little time. That part is a given and has been for some time. But we both agreed that this past year in 2011, the festival, conference, whatever you want to call it, hit a fever pitch in terms of the number of people converging on Austin. “I don’t know if you heard during the time you were there or afterwards; they always project a certain increase in attendance. This last year there were 40,000 more people than they had anticipated.”

No, I didn’t know that, but that explains a lot. Growth is expected and is thought of as a given, but that blew my mind. That won’t keep me from going in 2012, it just means that, like the rest of those who have been doing the Sx thing for a while, the strategy needs to change a bit. What that strategy is, I’m not sure. But as I told Sherry, knowing months in advance and not weeks in advance, who is playing is a huge step in being about to architect the plan once you’re feet hit Austin soil. Or the whole plan could fall off the balcony of the Iron Cactus after too many Mexican Martinis.

Either way, Love Inks is part of that Sx ’12 plan, and if you’re in one of the cities on the current tour, here’s your chance to get a sneak peek AND pick up limited edition colored 7” vinyl pressings of “Rock On” and “Blackeye” (previously only available digitally in the US) as a tour exclusive at these shows. E.S.P. is available now on Hell,Yes!/City Slang.

12/2 Austin, TX – The Mohawk
12/3 Dallas, TX – Canton Co-op
12/6 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
12/8 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
12/9 Boise, ID – Neurolux
12/10 Vancouver, BC Canada – The Media Club
12/12 Seattle, WA – The Vera Project
12/13 Portland, OR – Bunk Bar
12/15 San Francisco, CA – Hemlock Tavern
12/16 Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Theatre
12/17 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar
12/19 Tempe, AZ – Red Owl



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