By: Charlie Daffron
Before this year, I only had a passing familiarity with LA based punk band, Spanish Love Songs. As an avid fan of anything A-F Records releases, I try to check out any new bands they sign. I remember after hearing that Spanish Love Songs had signed, I downloaded their first full-length record, Giant Sings The Blues from Bandcamp and then promptly forgot about it, leaving the album to sit in my music library un-listened to.
Earlier this year the band put out their second full-length album, Schmaltz. This time I vowed I would finally listen to them and yet again I would fail. Several months later, after hearing how amazing the album was from all my friend, I finally decided to sit down and listen to it.
My first thought was, “Why the hell didn’t I start listening to this band earlier?”
I was absolutely blown away by how great Schmaltz was. Before I had even finished listening to it, I was already sending Bandcamp links to my friends who hadn’t already been talking about it, telling them to drop what they were doing and listen to it ASAP.
Since then, I’ve made up for lost time by playing Schmaltz incessantly (much to the dismay of my roommates, I’m sure). It’s quickly become one of my favorite albums of the year and Spanish Love Songs have become a staple in my daily listening habits. So, when I was going through the Fest lineup the week before the festival trying to decide which band I wanted to interview to finish off Lvl’s long running Q&A series we started all the way back in May, Spanish Love Songs was the obvious choice.
I spoke to the band’s guitarist and vocalist, Dylan Slocum, about his songwriting process, playing Fest and of course, his favorite Spanish love song. You can check out the full interview here (and go listen to Schmaltz while you’re at it!):
I’ll start with a little bit about the band’s origin, how did you start and what were your influences?
Well, Ruben and our former bassist Gabe played in a band with me in LA. That band broke up and we met Kyle on Craigslist actually. He was new to town and was looking for people to go to shows with. He came over and we tried him out at a practice. Then we found out he worked at a studio and we were like, “Oh yeah, you should join our band.” Meredith is actually one of my best friends, so when it came time to add the keys, I went to her first and was like, “Hey, you should join our band.” She was excited too. Influences? Oh my gosh, that ranges everywhere. I think none of us listen to the exact same music. I come from a world of Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, I grew up on that, but also with a heavy dose of Blink 182. Kyle loves pop punk like The Copyrights and Teenage Bottlerocket. I don’t know what Ruben listens to. Meredith loves indie rock, Gabe likes ska, so it’s a mish-mash.
Sounds like it! So, tell me a bit about Schmaltz, first of all, how does it feel to have one of the best records of 2018?
[Laughs] Thank you! It’s cool! It’s been a weird, fun little ride that this thing has taken us on. Because we finished it and were just going to put it out and be that band that puts out records locally, enjoys themselves and has fun. But the response has been overwhelming, it’s been great!
Did the writing process differ from any of your previous work at all?
Yeah, so the first album is largely just songs that I had written already. I wrote and arranged it and took it to the band and said, “This is how we’ll play it.” It was more singer/songwritery. Like a singer/songwriter with a punk background. This album I still wrote a majority of the songs, and music wise I wrote all the lyrics. But Ruben and I would really stop and rearrange them as best we could. Then, we’d get into the studio and Kyle would put in his input, and we would rearrange them again. It’s been much more of a collaborative effort, even though it started in the same place. It ended with many more hands on it, which is good.
What’s it been like working with A-F Records?
It’s been great! The entire team over there is incredible! They are one of the nicest and most hardworking labels that we’ve had the privilege of talking to and getting to work with. They crushed it! They did a really good job, I don’t think our album would have gotten the response that it has gotten if they didn’t work as hard as they did and really push us to do as much as we could.
You guys have been touring a lot this year, what’s your favorite food to eat while you’re on the road?
Oh man… I don’t know if it’s our favorite, but we eat Taco Bell a lot. It’s just cheap.
That makes sense.
Yeah, everybody does. We’re really working for that “Feed the Bell” or “Feed the Beat,” whatever it is. [Laughs] For real though, favorite food to eat on tour? I think whatever the local specialty is. Which really sounds like a cop-out, but half of our band really loves food and I kind of spearhead that effort. So, whenever we’re in a new city I look up what the best local spot is that we can go seek out. In Buffalo on this last tour, we had this amazing steak sandwich the locals told us about. We eat a lot of barbeque. It depends on whether it’s vegan barbeque or regular barbeque because Kyle is vegan and the rest of us are on various spectrums of meat eating.
Cool, I guess that’s a great way to explore new places.
Yeah, it’s fun! I just like to ask around and say, “What should we be eating right now.” Because as cheap as regular on-the-road food is, Taco Bell and stuff like that, I think we all generally dislike fast food. So, it’s nice to have a real meal from a real mom and pop restaurant.
So, when you’re touring what’s your favorite song to play live?
Oh boy, I think it changes from week to week. By this point in the year, and I’m kind of a butthead this way, but I’m sick of all of them. I wrote these songs two years ago, so I’ve been sick of them since before they came out, then everyone’s like, “buckle up, have fun buddy.” I think “It’s Not Interesting” is probably my favorite and I think it might be the rest of the band’s favorite too, or at least Kyle and Ruben’s because it’s our favorite song on the album and I think it’s one of our best songs. It has these really great up and down moments that work well live. It’s been kind of a hassle playing it this year because it comes so late on the album. In the age of digital streaming, not everyone’s listened to it. So, the first few times we played it live it’s not that people didn’t know it, they just didn’t respond as if we had played one of the first five songs. We put it near the end of our set and I’m just like, “No, we are going to force this to happen. This is one of the best songs on the album, you are going to enjoy it live!” It’s definitely something we play for ourselves, or we did play for ourselves and now I think people are coming around to it live. It’s just that end of album fatigue thing.
Now that I know your favorite Spanish Love Songs song, what’s your favorite Spanish love song?
Oh man. [Laughs] You would think for how often I get asked this question that I would have an answer. I don’t remember. My favorite song to play in Spanish, like perform as a joke, is Enrique Iglesias’ “Escape” so we can go with that. I think there’s a video of us playing that on the internet somewhere.
I’ll have to look that up!
Yeah, I think it was for Punk Rock Theory. For our first EU tour, we stayed the night at our label’s house and got very drunk on Belgian beers and then did a cover of that from memory.
It was rough. [Laughs]
So, tell me a bit about your music videos, it seems like there’s a big contrast between the tone of the video and the tone of the actual song. Is that intentional?
[Laughs] That’s good! I don’t think it’s intentional like we’re going to set out to make a funny or set out to do this. I direct all the videos with my directing partner, Clay Barnes. I think he and I have a hard time taking things overly seriously. Even with the music of our band. I know that we’re a sad band who talk about serious things, but I feel like a lot of self-deprecation is a way to let out some of the tension and I think that’s the side we choose to focus on with the videos. We’re already such a downer I would feel weird putting a downer video on top of a downer song to make you feel sad. We sing about sad things, but I generally want people to enjoy themselves when they’re listening to us. We do the same thing live. Music is awesome and it’s such a joy to play and perform. I want people to feel things, but I don’t want them to come to our shows and leave depressed. I feel like that’s antithetical to what music is about. It’s also just our personalities. People often assume that I’m super depressed. Clearly, I am a depressed and anxious person. But people think I’m kind of gloomy a lot and that’s not always the case. I think the music videos kind of poke at that as well. We can feel these things and still be normal, functioning people who want to try and have a good time.
Yeah absolutely, that makes sense.
Yeah, that’s our hope.
So, you’ll be in Gainesville next weekend to play Fest, are you excited?
We are very thrilled! Fest last year was like our best show of the year. I feel like it’s always everybody’s favorite show of the year. It’s such a fun weekend, first off. Before last year, I had never gone, period. Because flying to Florida from Los Angeles is like the last thing on my mind. No offense to Gainesville. So, we went last year, and I was just struck by how fun of a weekend it was, to begin with. Then, to be able to play a show on top of that is just the best because we get to see all our friends, we get to play music for people who are really into it, probably more into it than anywhere else and then afterwards we get to go watch all our favorite bands play. What’s not to love about all of that? I’m counting down the days ‘till we go back. I have a really heavy work week and I’m pissed because I just want to leave. We’re not playing Pre-Fest this year, so we get in Friday and I know I’m just going to be pissed off all day Friday because we’re traveling and then we’re driving from Tampa to Gainesville. But I know as soon as we get there I’ll be like, “Ok, this is cool! This is why we’re here.”
I’m in the same situation, so I can understand that.
Yeah, it’s a nightmare. It’s like waiting for Christmas or something.
Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to doing while you’re here in Gainesville? Outside of Fest.
Outside of Fest? Not really. We were on the road a lot this year, so we didn’t get to see as many of our friends. Last year we saw a lot of our friends play that we had seen play all year, so less enthusiastic. This year, I’m genuinely excited to see a lot of our friends and to see a ton of new bands. Friends that we’ve made on Twitter that I’ve never actually met. We’ve been passing through the same city and go, “Oh, we should check each other out!” Stuff like that. I feel like everything we do there is going to be Fest related. So, I’m excited to get a hot dog from the hot dog guy again, excited to drink some pineapple cocktails. Actually there is one thing: I lived in Atlanta for a while, and I miss the Publix chicken tender subs. So that is what I’m most excited for outside Fest.
Yeah, those are great!
That’s a big, dirty sandwich. [Laughs]
So, which bands are you most excited to see?
Excited to see Free Throw. I’ve never actually gotten to see them live. Cursive, who I’ve never gotten to see. That’s going to be incredible! Our buddy Matt Caskitt has a new band called Matt Caskitt and the Breaks who I’m pretty psyched to see because I haven’t been around, and I think he’s only played a handful of shows. So that’ll be cool! All our A-F friends. Dollar Signs in particular because we did a few shows with them and being from opposite coasts we never get to see each other. Man, who else is playing? I have my schedule, but I haven’t looked at it in great detail. Oh, the Jimmy Eat World set that Arms Aloft is doing, we will be there. I think they have a lot of surprises in store for people. Other than that, unless it’s come up in direct conversation, I don’t really remember who’s playing and when. I’ll kind of figure it out then. I’m sure people are going to ask us, “Are you guys going to see The Menzingers?” [Laughs] We probably will. I’m just waiting for that joke, which is great. Who else? Iron Chic, who we just got off tour with. We’ll definitely go check out their big set. Flatliners. I don’t know, everybody?
There are just so many bands.
Yeah I know, I’m excited! I’ll do what I did last year. I’ll pull up the schedule the morning of and just create the fastest route that I want to go see things in. We play at 1 p.m. or 12:50 on Saturday. I’ll be there selling merch and then I’m probably just going to get drunk and I don’t know if I’ll leave the High Dive for the rest of the day. We’ll see. I’ll try. But that’s just act two. Sincere Engineer is after us, World’s Scariest Police Chases and The Copyrights. I think Copyrights are that same day? I don’t know, we’ll see.
Post-Fest, do you have any exciting plans for 2019?
2019? We’re going to write another album, I think that’s exciting.
Yeah, we kind of have to. We kind of want to, but like I said, I’m sick of a lot of songs, but not these songs. These songs are great. But I will be tired of them soon. We’ve got that. We’ve announced we’re going to be doing a festival in Austria end of April or early May. There will be some tour dates around that, so people need to keep their eyes peeled. Other than that, I think it’s going to be all about writing. Kyle is setting up a studio, so getting that set up and being home for a minute, replenishing our bank accounts. That’s always exciting.
Spanish Love Songs kicked off the second day of Fest by playing an absolutely killer set to a packed High Dive audience on Saturday, October 27