Finding truly exciting up-and-coming bands that are destined for longevity can often feel like panning for gold. Okay, most of the time. Always. LoveLikeFire’s Ann Yu, David Farrell, Marty Mattern and Eric Amerman are quickly dashing up the indie rock totem pole in San Francisco with tenacity unmatched by any other band this Contributing Editor has come across before. Yu’s drama-fueled anthems have a way of stopping wayward listeners in their tracks with her passionate cries and euphonic melodies. One minute you’ll find the songstress wallowing in heartache on the beautifully somber “William” then triumphantly lift your spirits with the soaring “From a Tower” (exclusively streaming here at Anthem).
With early buzz from Spin, NME, and Q under their belt, the driven foursome have a lot more to look forward to with the release of their debut LP, Tear Ourselves Away, on September 14 through Heist or Hit Records. To celebrate, we’re giving away signed tour posters! Just shoot over and email to firstname.lastname@example.org for your chance to win.
Is songwriting a therapeutic process for you or are you more interested in weaving stories that aren’t necessarily autobiographical?
Ann: I think we do a little bit of both. If it starts with me, it’s definitely more of a therapeutic thing inspired by something that’s happening to me currently or something that’s stuck in my memory from the past. If it’s an idea that one of the other guys have—if Dave has an idea or Marty comes up with a keyboard part—then I take whatever the initial shell of the song is, listen to it, and try to figure out what kind of mood it conjures up. It really comes down to which one of us is inspired more at the moment to come up with an idea.
Do you find that you become somewhat disconnected with the more personal songs over time as you experience new things and just evolve in general?
Ann: For me, it’s almost like a very beautiful journal entry, a very private moment in a diary all the time. If we go over a course of a few months and there’s something that I’m really obsessing over, then everything is about that. It could be a number of things. A lot of the time, I like to dote on more of the passionate things that happen in your life like heartbreak. With something like heartbreak, there are so many angles to it: your end of it, what the other person was feeling and the different circumstances that lead to that. You go through a progression of feelings like fear, anger, regret, guilt… I think that’s all I wanted to say. [Laughs]
David: I have nothing more to add to that.
How does living in San Francisco affect your songwriting?
Ann: I’m originally from Las Vegas and when I was writing songs in a different band, I had a song about bike riding. [Laughs] I used to incorporate action-related stuff into the songs. Here, since it’s always foggy and cold at night, there’s definitely more of a…
David: People here tend to stay inside more compared to like New York during the summer where everyone is outside at cafes or Las Vegas where you’re outside in the heat at night. Here, you’re either in your apartment, a bar or someone else’s place. It’s much more closed in.
Ann: It’s funny because just as we’re talking about this, I’m realizing, “Yeah, that’s exactly what it is.” Here, I rarely ever want to do anything where I’m walking around. I’m always indoors.
I’ve heard a lot of people describing your music as Brit rock. Do you think this is an accurate categorization?
Ann: Someone actually mentioned to me once, “She sounds like she has a British accent.” I can see where they’re coming from. Sometimes you just enunciate things differently because you want to and I very well might do it again. You fully immerse yourself in a song, so if it’s calling for a certain kind of feel, you give it that certain kind of feel. With our first EP especially, people thought that I was British. It was really unintentional. I have never purposefully gone out to do a faux British accent. [Laughs] I feel like that was part of it, but also, we don’t write typical female-fronted indie music for America. I feel like we definitely have a place in the U.K. scene more so. Not to discount American music, but I feel like the kind of songs we’re writing speaks to a different culture or something. Maybe it’s the way the melodies are inherent in some of the songs that make it seem that way. We definitely get a lot of Brit pop, British rock…
Incidentally, you guys were picked up by a U.K. label as oppose to an American one. Was this at all surprising to you?
Ann: Not at all. I’m really happy with how everything worked out. It’s an amazing opportunity for us because we don’t have enough exposure right now in the U.K. This is going be a really cool way to introduce the band to the U.K. scene and just see how far we can go with it. I think it makes sense that the Brits latched on first. The scene’s just different there. So many cool bands are coming out of the U.K. right now. There are also a lot of bands in the US that are doing really well in the U.K. who might not be doing as well here. There’s something to be said about that too. I feel like we could fit into that category for sure.
Who produced Tear Ourselves Away and what was the producer search process like?
Ann: Last year, when we were on our producer search, each of us made a list of different people that we wanted to work with ranging from producers no one’s ever heard of to Rich Costey who produced for Interpol and Blonde Redhead. Rich, if you’re listening to this right now, we want to work with you! [Laughs] We chose Bill Racine. He worked on albums for Mates of State, Rogue Wave, Longwave and Bon Savants. It was definitely a time-consuming search.
You guys play a lot of shows. Do you have a favorite venue?
Ann: I think the El Rey in L.A. is pretty awesome. The theater is just so beautiful. The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco is amazing. I just love the Victorian, old theater architecture. It has a cool vibe. The Record Bar in Kansas City is cool because it’s a small, intimate setting with an amazing stage. They have great hospitality and everyone is super friendly there. I think there’s a cool place in every single city that we’ve played. We played at a place called The Boot in Norfolk, Virginia and that was an all ages, gourmet-restaurant-turned-venue-at-night kind of place. Our waitress made the night amazing, she took great care of us. All the kids that came out to the show were so enthusiastic and had been looking forward to the show. They were in this magical awe and it made the energy of the room so awesome. The High Dive in Denver is cool too. It’s really encouraging to go from city to city and have that one really cool place.
When you’re up on stage pouring your soul out to a crowd of people, do you feel vulnerable or invincible?
Ann: We played a show last night and the sound system was god-awful. It wasn’t really meant to be a venue, so it was just like, set up and go! We borrowed amps from the other band. But despite all of this, I personally felt invincible because there was a really good energy and everyone was really getting into it.
David: I think that the more people that are there, the more invincible I feel. The more energy in the room that’s being fed back from the audience to the band…
Ann: I could imagine that if there was a room full of people who were cold, I would feel very vulnerable. I’ve seen it happen. When there’s a huge band playing at The Fillmore and there’s an opening act that’s also fairly huge, but you can tell that the people are only interested in seeing the headliner. You can just see the vulnerability that creates. Sometimes when we’re on tour, we’ll play somewhere in the middle of nowhere to people who have never heard of us. You’re constantly up for judgment. It’s not like someone going out to get food, stuff they really need. They can choose whether to like you or not. It’s not even about who you are. It’s strictly based on, “Do you like what I’m doing creatively or not?” It’s instant. They’re right there in front of you. That makes me very vulnerable because we’ve spent so much time working on these songs. The songs are personal snippets of journal entries from my life. It’s like the worst blind date scenario ever.
What does it mean for you to be in a female-fronted band?
Ann: When we were first starting out, I hated that. I just hated being put into any category. You start to get all these reviews that say “female-fronted.” It was almost like a curse word to me. But then I’m like, “Okay, I guess that is who we are. We’re a female-fronted rock band. It’s not a curse word. It’s not derogatory or a negative thing. That’s just who we are.” [Laughs] I just hope that it doesn’t become the identity of the music. It’s who we are, yes, but you don’t ever hear “male-fronted.” It’s weird. I wish we could just be a band. The music will speak for itself and whatever feelings you get from the song is due to the delivery of the music and not because it happens to be a girl’s voice singing it. I’m sure there are people out there who won’t listen to our music because we’re female-fronted and others who’ll listen because of it. It can go both ways. It’s like “Oh, it’s a girl singing on this song,” and that’s one level of judgment and then it’s “Do I like the music?” There are two levels of judgment.
What about the third level of judgment for an Asian female-fronted band?
Ann: Yeah, definitely. I’ve seen several articles where they say, “How does a voice like that come out of such a tiny person?” It’s always stuff like that. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m Asian and a female… and small in size. [Laughs] People write about that and I guess that’s interesting, it’s their point of interest. It’s me being Korean and playing in this band. It might be refreshing for people that aren’t used to it. I don’t know what it is. I wish there were more examples of bands like us. There just doesn’t seem to be, right now at least.
Hypothetical scenario: If you were somehow handed the opportunity to build the spirit of a person through the power of music, what five songs would you choose?
1. Nina Simone, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”
This song channels so much introspection and vulnerability. My person would have the beauty and soul of this song glowing from them.
2. Ambulance Ltd., “Straight A’s”
This song really hits home for me. It reminds me of my high school days and the sweet innocence and nostalgia that I think every person needs to channel throughout their life.
3. Arcade Fire, “Wake Up”
I would channel spirit and energy through this song. Every time I listen to this, it makes me want to start an army and walk down the street chanting. I never get sick of this song. If a person had this kind of energy and spirit, it would be totally infectious.
4. Magnetic Fields, “Take Ecstasy With Me”
A person needs love and this song would be it for me. It’s about love in pain, love in nostalgia, and love in all its beauty.
5. Patsy Cline, “Crazy”
This song has so much soul, it’s insane. I think her voice channels it most and I’ve always been a huge Patsy Cline fan because of her special voice. I think if a person had even an ounce of her soul, they would be so beautiful.