Simon Love & the Old Romantics: Love, Sex & Death etc
Simon Love has returned with his latest album, the title of which pretty much gives you an idea of the subject matter of the songs across the album. I have been enjoying the album for the last few weeks and had the opportunity to talk to Simon on the eve of the album’s release.
His explanation of the album title…”Yeah, the songs were written around 2018/2019. We rehearsed them so we knew what we were doing when we were going to go into the studio. It wasn’t until I sat down and was putting all the lyrics together, writing everything up for the sleeve pretty much I realised, each one either mentions love and sex and death, or love & sex or death & sex or death & love.
That makes it sound like a concept album when it’s really not. It’s just me pissing around. But people have said, it sounds like an album, as opposed to just a collection of songs with the themes and things that run through it and I’m pleased with that”
The album opens with the them of love. Me and You is an uplifting romp, full of big riffs and a huge melody. Brass and wedding bells adding to the joy of the song. It is a very personal song based on the events of his own wedding.
I asked him about the personal nature of his songwriting.
LTW: With a lot of your songs on the album, despite the uplifting nature of the music and the personal nature of the lyrics, there is often an underlying current of other things going on as well – how much of your writing is influenced by personal circumstances and how much is about what’s going on in the world around you?
Simon Love: Yeah. It’s pretty much like all my songs are personal I would say. I’ve tried writing songs for other people. I’ve written a few lyrics for the band The School. Their music is really sweet and sort of lovely and sugary and 60s. And then I’ve written lyrics there just sound like, “Oh God!”. There was one from the second album that I wrote, like, three sets of lyrics for before Liz went: “I’ll just do it myself” ’cause every time I sent it back to her, it was like, not getting worse, but they were more sort of like weird things going on.
But I think it is like, for me, I do tend to just write for me. Somebody said, I don’t use subtext a lot and I was like, no, I don’t. Everything I say is like front and centre. I’m not being sneaky or anything, l just don’t see the point.
A case in point regarding underlying currents is I Will Dance. On the face of it this is another huge celebratory tune, again power chords, big riffs, thundering drums beats and a triumphant brass section. Listen to the lyrics though, this is a song of revenge. The opening couplet giving it away:
“The skyscraper’s revenge on King Kong was oh so sweet, but it didn’t take long”
Simon aims his vitriol (which is only just starting on this song, wait until later) at certain groups, such as the man on the street who “believes everything he reads, written on the sides of buses”.
While he isn’t wishing harm to befall anyone, as the chorus says, “When you fall, I will laugh, when you die, I will dance”. The song to me recalls street parties in certain regions of this “United” Kingdom when Thatcher died. There are so many parallels to the current administration… which brings me on to. The Fuck Up.
I Will Dance gives you an indication of where Simon stands and of the target of his ire. The Fuck Up builds on this and leaves you in no doubt. The song is a thing of great beauty. Musically, calm and reassuring, channelling the spirit of Pale Blue Eyes, with lush harmonies and backing vocals, all culminating in a hard hitting speech sample (courtesy of his Dad). This is one of the many album highlights.
The Fuck Up
LTW: Talking of laying yourself bare then, the song The Fuck Up. Obviously, there’s no doubt where you stand from listening to the lyrics of that song. So tell me more about that and the sample of the speech you’ve used.
SL: So, I wrote it at the end at the end of 2019, just about the time when the General Election was happening and like the build up to that.It’s almost like a prediction of what would happen if the Tories got in and it just seems to have gotten worse and worse and worse.
I was trying to do like a big Phil Spector epic thing with female backing singers and the trumpets and everything.
But the bit in the middle, the sample, is my dad reading the speech that Nye Bevan, who created the NHS, gave about Tories being lower than vermin. It just seemed like we needed something for that middle bit and I always wanted to do like a key change, but just the most over the top ridiculous thing where everything builds and up and up and up and up. And we needed something to go in there. I remember reading that speech and going “Oh, that’d be really good” and then trying to find if there was a recording of it and there’s no recording ’cause it’s from 1947 or something, but it was just, the whole speech is so well written.
For that little segment I thought I’d get dad to do his best sort of Welsh Wales voice, recording it in the bathroom ’cause, he said: “The acoustics or better” and it’s like, alright calm down. At one point the album was going to be called Professional Dramatic because he’s in an AmDram company. And I just thought it was really funny title, just to be “no, I’m a PROFESSIONAL dramatic” thing. But uh, yeah, that song, we’ve played it live a few times now. We started playing songs from the album last week and, when that speech kicks in, it is properly like spine-tingley. For me anyway, everyone else might be bored out their heads. But I’m just like going “ohhhh” and then missing cues.
LTW: Yeah, absolutely. It’s as a a massively powerful speech and I was the same when I heard it on the album. I suppose, the depressing thing about it, is it’s still as relevant now as it was then.
SL: Well, that was that was the thing I was worried because I wrote in 2019 and obviously everything that’s gone on in the last couple of years, The Tories haven’t seemed to try to change how people see them in any way, they seem to have gotten worse, and I generally thought, oh, man, at some point, he’s either gonna resign or just be kicked out and it’s not gonna work and stuff, but, he’s still there.
LTW: He seems to be made of Teflon with this latest thing of £50 fines for parties…
SL: It is shocking, but that whole photo of the garden party, on like May 15th, 2020, that was the day my mum died in hospital. No-one could go and see her, my sister only managed to see her three days before. When I realised that that actually happened on that date. I remember I was in work and I just couldn’t articulate the anger and sadness and everything that I felt ’cause it was just seemed like just taking the piss to a monumental degree. And it was just insanely maddening.
LTW: Yeah, it’s that lack of empathy across all of them, they don’t seem to see that that side of things, that perspective on it. Or they just don’t care.
SL: Yeah, they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. The fact that none of them have any sort of empathy, yeah, or have any sort of clue that, most people, I was in the majority of people in the country, followed the rules and then they’re just dicking around like that, it just says they don’t give a shit.
There are several musical references in terms of style on the album, in other hands this could have got slightly confusing, but in the hands of Simon, there is that underlying quality of songwriting and musicianship that links the songs together so well, the whole album is almost like a story. North Road is a feel good honky tonk blues song with seductive organ break, while else where he flirts with country, folk, protest songs…
LTW: Fucked Up, you just mentioned, has that Phil Spector feel to it, obviously you’ve got a mixture of songs like that, and songs packed with upbeat powerpop, big chords and riffs, And then there’s ballads like Yvonne and then listen to I Will Always Be There that’s got the country vibe to it, then you’ve got You’re On Your Own that’s like a folky protest song along the lines of Dylan, sort of Woody Guthrie. Where do you draw your musical inspiration from, you’ve maybe chosen those styles ’cause they fit the lyrics, but where do you generally draw your inspiration from?
SL: Well, You’re On Your Own when it originally started, it was just acoustic guitar, like a a protest songs sort of thing. But then I asked Robert Rotifer who plays guitar on that one, can you make it sound like Muswell Hillbilly era Kinks.. And he was like, all right. It meant basically changing, like the entire thing. So it was like, alright, so now we’re gonna put, like, acousticy lead guitar bits and honky tonk piano and all stuff on it.
So I think it is…it changes from song to song, because I I get bored quite easily. So I try to keep a through line but without, just doing the same thing over and over again. I can’t really listen to albums or just sort of.Sound like they’ve been recorded in one afternoon in one go. Then the majority of these songs, the guitar, bass and drums were all recorded live, without click tracks in two days I think, then then we just took ages and ages layering stuff on top at home or in other studios.
LTW: As you mentioned earlier on, from what other people said it is, although you can hear those different styles and influences it sounds like a really cohesive album. It’s not just a collection of songs, there’s that the theme going through it and and yeah, it’s a really cohesive set.
Simon comes over all REM meets Twin Peaks on one of the most affecting songs on the album, Worst Way to Die, a song with large slabs of graveyard humour, but with ultimately a truly beautiful sentiment. Then the message of love and death is explored again in the album’s closing song, another sentimentally humorous ballad.
LTW: There’s a lot of dark humour on the album as well, you talked about like death & sex and sex & death and love & death and stuff. So and then, you know, thinking as it comes to the the last few songs in the album, Worst Way to Die, Au Revoir My Dude. So some serious messages, combined with dark humour in there, is that your personal way of dealing with those sort of subjects?
SL: Well, the Worst Way to Die as a cover version of my friend Alex Hale, he wrote, and I covered another one of his songs on an earlier EP, and he just he just writes such dark, dark songs, but I remember the first time I heard the Worst Way to Die, I was like tearing up ’cause it’s such a beautiful, beautiful sentiment. I know his now wife and I can’t imagine somebody writing that kind of song for me without without bursting into tears every time it was played.
For Au Revoir My Dude, that was written when my son was a tiny baby and I had a few for health scares, and it was, just in case I die, it started trying to be like a lifestyle guide for him, then it just turned into me telling him not to be a dickhead.
LTW: it’s a lovely song. it’s sentiment is amazing, and like I say, I love the of elements of dark humour that filter through the whole album really.
These two songs sandwich two of the “love” related songs, the complex and intriguing tale of relationships that is L.O.T.H.A.R.I.O and penultimate song, the tongue-in-cheek acid tongued humour of the addictive I Love Everybody in the Whole Wide World (Except You)
LTW: You’ve already said that a lot of the songs are personal to you. Are there any songs, the album that mean the most to you in terms of striking a chord with your lyrically, or that you just enjoy playing or recording the most?
SL: I think the one that everyone enjoys most in the band, in the Old Romantics, L. O.T.H.A.R.I.O. because it is like a proper challenge. When we were rehearsing it to record It, at one point, Ian, the drummer, had 7 to 8 sheets of A4 paper taped to a music stand that he was constantly referring to, just all the lyrics, lines of where to stop, when it turns around. He would be saying, how are we ever gonna do this live.
But we did it twice in the last week or so, live on stage and it seemed to work. Everyone enjoys it, except for Alex the trumpet player who doesn’t really have anything to do until like the very end, so he just stands around. Yeah, so, I think it’s that one and Me and You because because of the sentiment involved and and it is genuinely, like the first verse about you Mum can make the dress and your brother can walk you down the aisle. That is genuinely what happened on our on our wedding day.
LTW: Excellent. And and in terms of like mixing, ’cause, there’s obviously a lot of fun in a lot of your songs, but there’s also the serious side to things with the politics. It seems quite relevant just now because. I’ve had a few conversations with people, who say I just like my music to have a bit of fun, I leave my politics at the door, which I find quite a strange because politics, with a small p, runs through everything. What would you say to these sort of people that say it doesn’t have a place in music.
SL: I used to be like them. In Pop Musik by M it says “Wanna be a gunslinger, Don’t be a pop singer or rock singer” and that used to be my sort of thing. And I always preferred The Clash after the first album, London Calling is my favourite one rather than the first one. When they stopped being so overtly political. But I think in terms of the Fuck Up and You’re on Your Own the two big sort of political song This is something that I couldn’t not write about.I mean, it affects everyone and with the Tory government being so venal and just awful and just showing no remorse and it looks like nothing is going to change in in any way with them, regardless of who’s the Prime Minister?
It just seems like they’re on a course to destroy the NHS and then sell it off to the highest bidder and yeah, it’s just all that. It just felt like everything that was going on in my life at that time was pointing towards that and it was just sort of it made sense for me to do it. Not that I’m going to change anyone’s mind with these songs, but it was part of my life at that time. So I felt like I had to say something about it.
LTW: Your album is out on on CD, vinyl and and download. So I’d be interested in your thoughts on the resurgence in vinyl and what you feel about streaming services like Spotify and all.
SL: I’m not a fan of Spotify. I just don’t.. I’ve never used it. I’ve still got, somewhere on this table, I’ve still got my iPod and I just use that. I used to be like a big collector of DVD’s and things, so I suppose it’s the same sort of fetish of like collecting something just to have it. But then I don’t watch them now we’ve got Netflix and things like that.
But it’s like with records, it’s just seems more of a personal thing. I mean like a lot of records are just made or written by one person or maybe like a group of people, rather than however many thousands of people it takes to make a film. Yeah, music seems like more of a personal endeavour. But, then you got like, I sound like an old man now, but like modern pop songs written by 8 people, I can never understand how you can go into a studio without anything written and just make something up and then have that mean something to you? I’ve tried it a few times.
I used to go to my friend Simon’s, whose got a studio in Woodgreen, and I’d go there as like a happy birthday to me on the 1st week of January and just recorded one song I’d already had written, but it didn’t think he was good enough to be like an album or anything. And then one song that I would I’d half written and then try and do that in the studio. And every time, “This just sounds like shit”. I’ve got loads of recordings of half finished songs I go. I can’t figure out where all this is going or means.
At some point in three years I’ll go “Oh yeah” and then everything will be fine. Another factor in that of course is the cost of studios, just having the money to just pitch up to a studio with nothing and then just go A,D, F, there you go. That’s the one!
LTW: The other thing about the likes of Spotify is the whole shuffle thing that came to the headlines with Adele recently. Personally, I love listening to an album start to finish and there’s obviously a reason why a lot of people write songs and there’s a lot of thought goes into the order they go on in the album. So although I do it listen to my iPod on shuffle, I do also like to listen to an album start to finish as well. So I think that’s me that sounds old now, well because I am, but but yeah I guess it’s just that personal preference.
I always try to think about it from the artists perspective as well. With Spotify, you get little or no return on it, whereas if people are buying your album and vinyl direct from you, at least you’re seeing some sort of return from it.
SL: Yeah, it is. Seeing the amounts from your PRS statements that you get from Spotify and streaming, and it’s something like 6 pence. And its just a bit depressing really, and that that everyone sharing their end of year this is what I’ve listened to on Spotify, and I did look at the artist Simon Love, there’s a Spotify thing and it was able to see how many streams and stuff I had and then there’s an online calculator that you can work out how much money you’ve earned from these streams. I can’t remember how many streams it was but it came to like 6 pence like. Nought point 0 six and it was like. There you go!
LTW: You’ve talked about like you can’t just go into a studio and just write songs on the cuff. So when you finish an album, do you take a rest or are you already writing songs for for for what’s coming next?
SL: I’ve got a few and that’s another good thing about working from home is that I’m always within reach of a guitar, so I can just strum away on that… I’ve got a few songs. It never sort of stops happening like it was a few times during like the last part of this album where I was miserable ’cause, it wasn’t sound in the way I wanted it.
And then, I’ve gone all fat and I didn’t want to look fat on the cover, so I was just trying to, like, have a couple of the cover when I didn’t look fat and then that all the photos bar the one on the cover, I just I looked sort of massive in them. But it was just sort of really miserable, and I would say I’m never doing this again. And my wife was like “no, you you will”. And I was like “I won’t”. And then she came home from work and found me recording something and she was like “so is it finished then?” Ad and was all “no, it’s not finished – I will continue doing this” But it does feel like I don’t write that many songs per album.
As I said, this was written over about a two year period. There’s no, go to the studio and record 25 songs and then pick the best 12 to go on. It was literally like we went in and these are the songs. And I think we recorded everything bar Au Revoir My Dude and You’re On Your Own, we recorded live over 2 days and those other ones were recorded at home and then sort of sent back and forth to people/
Then our drummer couldn’t recorded the drums in his house so he did everything separately. He did maracas, then he did hi hats and he tried to do brush snares and it didn’t really work, but then I went into a studio and did Mo Tucker style stand up drums so there’s there’s two people playing drums on that.
There are new songs coming and I’ve got a sketch of how I want it to be (the next one). Yeah, I’m hoping to put a Christmas song on the next album as as like, almost as like a secret song at the end. I want it to be like a clear delineation like “this is where the album ends”. “And now here’s a Christmas song”. If only to attempt to get more money from Spotify by just having a song with Christmas in.
Although, it’s not really about Christmas, it’s just about how time speeds up and we’re all old, getting older and closer to death. It’s not the cheeriest Christmas song in the world, but yeah.
LTW: We’ve already talked about playing live. What are the rest of your plans for promoting the album? Have you got more dates coming up?
SL: We’ve got a few, another one in London in.June, on the 10th. Because of real life and jobs and kids and everything, our ability to tour is a bit limited at the moment. Hopefully we’ll be able to do things in the UK in September or October. I think that’s what we’re hoping for. But then I’m going to Germany in September to play a support tour. I’m not sure how the whole Brexit thing will work, maybe I just turn up without a guitar and borrow one when I get there.
LTW: Last question, what’s your hopes for the rest of 2022?
SL:That’s good question. I hope I don’t die. That’s it. That’s number one. Other than that, I don’t know just for more people to hear this record, really that’s it, I think it is the best one I’ve made. I know that everyone in bands says their new album is the best one they’ve ever made. I’ve not bee uncritical of myself in the past, a few albums I’ve made that I just cannot stand. It may just be one or two songs off the album that really taint it for me. but it’s just this one, although I wobbled towards the end of making it or the end of the mixing process where I was like, oh, sounds shit.
It’s the sort of thing where I’ve listened to it so many times during the making and mixing and making sure as it was alright, but when it’s done I don’t listen to it for ages and then by accident one song popped up on my iPod as I was walking around and I was oh, that’s me. It sounds alright. Yeah. Then I went back and listened to the whole thing and was like, this is it, this works. This is alright. So it’s like one of those thing, now I want as many people now to hear it and hopefully it’s been selling OK.
I’ve got a new video coming out on Friday where the original plan was for everyone to wear a morph suit, so it was like the ABBA comeback and now they’re all young again, wearing those suits with the dots on, I was going to buy a suit for everyone in the band that we’re all gonna wear them, but then there’s the suits were like £25 each.
So I thought, alright, I’ll just wear one and then I’ll make myself look younger and thinner, I was saying about looking fat on the album cover where it’s just sort of head and shoulder, when you when you can see me full length wearing like a skin tight black figure hugging suit. Its just fucking…. I’m still amazed that I said, “Yeah, this will be fine”. As opposed to just just like, fucking hell, what are you doing, man? People are gonna see this. My enemies will see how fat I’ve gotten and they’ll make everything even worse.
LTW: I’m sitting there listening to that, and I’m holding in my COVID bell as we speak
SL: Yeah. Well, we can call it a Dad bod and get away with it…
Many thanks to Simon for taking the time out to talk to LTW.
Love, Sex and Death etc is highly addictive set of songs that will have you hooked from the off and reaching for the repeat button time and time again. With each listen discovering another little nuance or lyrical couplet that will have you loving the songs all over again for different reasons.