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The Love Language

All Time Lo-Fi

Apr 15, 2010 Photography by Wendy Lynch Redfern Issue #31 - Spring 2010 - Joanna Newsom
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The night The Love Language’s Stuart McLamb found out he was getting signed to Merge Records, he was arrested. “This is going to sound like I make all this stuff up, but it’s all true,” says the North Carolina native, sitting down to talk shortly after performing his second of four shows scheduled for the day during this year’s SXSW festival. “I got a DUI. I definitely went out and celebrated and I was giving a friend a ride home and my famous last words as I looked in the rearview were, ‘That’s not a cop.’ I had a busted taillight I didn’t know about. So I will fucking drop a PSA. For serious, all you kids out there, do not drink and drive. It has ruined my life. Other people have got to take care of you and drive you home.” Sensing a need for levity in the conversation, McLamb starts mock singing a familiar hit by The Cars. “Who’s gonna drive me home? That’s my song.”

With a certain self-deprecating charm, McLamb has developed a knack for translating bad experiences and lapses in judgment into pop songs. Such recollections have given the young songwriter plenty of fodder for his own material, including his namesake’s self-titled debut LP released last year. Featuring plenty of ‘60s-era hooks and vocal harmonies all bleeding through the fuzzy distortion of a lo-fi aesthetic, the album was conceived in the aftermath of a self-destructive period in McLamb’s life; one that included a deeply troubled romantic relationship. Recorded on a four-track, the record’s nine songs feel like some gorgeous collection of ramshackle demos. “Coming out of all that stuff [the music’s] kind of blown out, but kind of pretty at the same time,” says McLamb, regularly brushing his sweaty, thick mop of hair out of his eyes and taking drags off a cigarette. “I felt like it just helped tell the story. It was a very genuine kind of record.”

Though McLamb would go on to tour behind The Love Language with a supporting band of up to six members, when it came time to record the follow-up, he opted once again to multitask alonealbeit with some studio help from Raleigh-based producer BJ Burton. “I think it’s pretty egoless,” admits McLamb. “I just honestly like having a certain thing I want to make. It’s kind of like being a painter.”

Being “a big fan of progression,” McLamb designed his sophomore record Libraries to balance his once lackluster engineering skills with genuine polish, thanks in large part to working in a legitimate recording studio. “We kept a lot of things kind of dirty, but there’s sort of a nice dichotomy,” he says. “It’s an album I feel sonically takes some chances with some grittiness but overall has a pretty high fidelity.”

McLamb says that recontextualizing his past mistakes through recording is like “capturing a moment in time that’s a lot of fun to keep going back to.” Some screw-ups, however, aren’t as easily reconciled. “I love finishing a track and going and driving around in my car,” he says with a laugh. “Which I can’t even do right now. So I’ll have to wait a few years before I can really enjoy that by myself again.”


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Dottie Waterman
March 7th 2012

It’s impressive how McLamb can always still joke after getting into trouble. I think his songs are brilliant because they manage to be midway between perfectly polished and dirty.