ABOVE: LOVE INKS
DIY is more than an aesthetic for Love Inks. Sherry LeBlanc, her husband Kevin Dehan, and their close friend Derek Brown still get together for band practice a few times a week at LeBlanc and Dehan’s Austin, Texas home. They’ve self-financed the production of both their albums—E.S.P. in 2011 and Generation Club, out today on Monofonus Press—which they recorded in the couple’s home studio on a half-inch tape machine. LeBlanc’s best friend and Brown’s girlfriend, Jackie Young, does all their album art.
It could all sound like indie posturing, but their low-tech, homegrown image comes from an earnest place. When the group set out to produce their latest record (which they’d started writing before they even released their first), they tried to give up their attachment to analog technology. “It’s a pain in the ass,” LeBlanc admits, “so we really would like to do digital recording. But we tried, and it’s just missing a certain sort of soul.” The band stuck with what it knew, which was a white-noisy, lo-fi strain of electronic pop—with one important update: a little more synth. Dehan has had the same Korg MS-20 synthesizer since he was 16 years old, and used it to add a dreamy, danceable sound where their first album relished in bare emotion.
“We had wanted to be able to capture people’s attention through silence and quiet,” LeBlanc explains of their debut effort. “And that sounds really romantic, but the reality of doing that in a club night after night is sort of soul-crushing.” The feel of Generation Club is still minimal, but the vocals, as she puts it, are “just better,” and the bass lines that back them are stronger. In advance of the band’s US tour this fall, and all the new soul it should deliver, we caught up with LeBlanc and talked icons, alter egos, and loved ones.
ZACK ETHEART: First I have to ask you, did you know that a Google search for your name mostly returns a lot of results about a Yu-Gi-Oh character by the same name?
SHERRY LEBLANC: Yes, I do know that and I think that’s kind of awesome.
ETHEART: Is that your real name?
LEBLANC: Yes, that’s my real name.
ETHEART: So how early on did you learn that people were getting that when they Googled you?
LEBLANC: You know, I don’t think that that character has always been around, because I remember when I started college and I was Googling my name, it was mostly middle-aged yoga teachers who had my name at that point in time. I think it was once Love Inks started, and I would Google to see if there was anything we were missing being written, that I found about this alter ego of mine.
ETHEART: How young were you when you started playing music?
LEBLANC: This is kind of silly, but my dad really wanted all of us kids to play music, and for my eighth birthday I had the option of either getting a piano with piano lessons, or my parents taking me to the New Kids on the Block concert, and I chose the piano. So that’s when I started. I had piano lessons my whole life, and was in choir. How I started playing music in a band is I worked at a coffee shop and I worked with all these people who were musically inclined who wanted to play music, and I was like, “Why don’t we just make a band?” So that was the first time I got up and played publically. It was just kind of on a whim. That’s the short version of the story.
ETHEART: I feel like not many kids would pick piano lessons over a concert.
LEBLANC: Well, my dad was a salesman, and I think he probably did some really tricky wording to get me thinking that the piano was a better option, because looking back, I was so into New Kids on the Block. I don’t know why I chose the piano, but I think I got conned by my father into the right decision.
ETHEART: You and Kevin have been together for 10 years, right?
LEBLANC: Yes, we have.
ETHEART: This is cheesy, but tell me the story of how you met.
LEBLANC: Kevin and I, the first time we met, I was working at a college radio station as a fundraising director, and I threw this pretty regular event where it was at a roller-skating rink and bands would play on the rink and you could bring your own beer and skate around and listen to music. Kevin was in a band at the time and he showed up to pass out flyers for one of his shows, and he was dressed like—The Strokes were just getting popular—he was dressed very Strokes-like, and that was very different for Austin and he caught my eye. He was in a suit with longish hair passing out these flyers. But it took a while for us to connect and actually go on a date. And when we did, it was at a bar. I just hit on him and told him, “I’ve liked you for a while.” I think my pick-up line was “Let’s get together and start a pirate radio station.” [laughs] God, I don’t know. Very 2003 of me.
ETHEART: Very original.
LEBLANC: So we did. It just kind of happened that we would just play music together. And I think at some time in our first year of dating he decided that I was born to be a bassist and bought me a bass guitar and gave me lessons. We would sit around and I would learn all of the bass lines to Cyndi Lauper‘s album She’s So Unusual. And then that turned into he and I having that band The Handjobs together. [laughs] I don’t know if that’ll lessen people’s opinions, but that was just like a straight-up punk rock band that we were in together.
ETHEART: The name is very punk rock.
LEBLANC: Yeah, well, we were really young. [laughs]
ETHEART: I wanted to get your reaction to some of the terms that have been used to describe this album.
LEBLANC: Oh, okay.
ETHEART: The first one is “dream pop.”
LEBLANC: Oh, yeah. I’m not a fan of that name for the genre. But I don’t know what else we would be. I think we’re more like electronic pop. Dream pop sounds like what people in the UK call twee music, and it bums me out to be called that.
ETHEART: Another word that appeared pretty prominently in one review was “frisky.”
LEBLANC: Um, yeah! Sure, I think there’s a sexual vibe to it, maybe. I’ve never been described as that before. I like it.
ETHEART: The next one is “Karen O.”
LEBLANC: Oh, weird! When I met Kevin, he had pictures of Karen O all over his kitchen. He had ripped them out of magazines and taped them up. It was when she was in the prom-dress-wearing phase where she was pouring drinks on herself and kind of coming on very strong. So it’s flattering that someone compared us to her in any way, but it also, maybe, subconsciously makes sense because Kevin was obsessing over her like 10 years ago.
ETHEART: And then the last one was “unadorned moan.”
LEBLANC: Yeah, okay, I’m having two reactions to that. One is like my brain is doing a flash card sequence of the in-between scenes in pornos, which is maybe where the “frisky” element comes in. But then I’m also thinking of this Bruce Springsteen song. He has this song where he does what I would call an unadorned moan in between every verse, right before the chorus. The song is called “Ain’t Good Enough For You,” and he does a brilliant unadorned moan. And if you watch—there’s a video on YouTube that you can find—when he does the unadorned moan, he kind of leans into the mic, and it’s the sexiest thing I’ve seen in my whole life. So maybe I’m really glad that someone thinks I do that.
ETHEART: When you perform, do you think you do it completely as yourself, or do you have any sort of Love Inks persona?
LEBLANC: No, I wish I had, like, a Sasha Fierce persona, but I don’t.
ETHEART: Maybe that Yu-Gi-Oh character?
LEBLANC: Yeah, maybe that’s what I need to tap into. It’s like the universe telling me what I’m supposed to be doing onstage. [laughs] But I’m myself, and I’m probably more uptight than myself onstage. I’m really working to loosen up a little bit. But I’m totally myself, and making myself uncomfortable with eye contact, and singing directly to people, and maybe coming on a bit too strong, just like I would in real life.
ETHEART: The emotion on the album is definitely intense, but it’s hard to define. Do you know what you want someone to feel when they’re listening?
LEBLANC: Yeah, I’ve thought about this. Since the album was written over such a long period of time, and it was cut down from so many different songs, I think the feeling is probably that there are a lot of different emotions. And Kevin actually asked me to not talk about this, but in the time that we’ve written the album, my father passed away and one of our friends was murdered. Her name was Esme Barrera, she was kind of a figure in the Austin music scene, and it was this very tragic thing. I think there’s that underlying, and then also, this is gonna sound weird, but when I was in my 20s, and I was lonely, I would get a bottle of wine and I would go up to my bedroom, and I would drink my wine and play on my organ and listen to Joni Mitchell songs. Really, it’s just the high-running emotions you have when you’re 24 and you don’t have control over them yet. And so when I’m writing, I try to place myself in that raw, super-emotional place, kind of longing for love, that sort of feeling. [laughs] But maybe I’m just making it even more confusing.
GENERATION CLUB IS OUT TODAY. FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE LOVE INKS WEBSITE.