With a firm grasp on life's realities, this band dares not to dream
The practical-minded members of Loveless have no illusions of grandeur
The rock group Loveless has rehearsed three times since April. On the infrequent occasions when the band members do wind up in the same room, they do what comes naturally: drink, tell raunchy jokes, and fight -- all of which is a veritable tonic for the guitarist, Jen Trynin, who is otherwise writing a book and raising a child in Watertown. The frontman, Dave Wanamaker, moved to New York two years ago, midway through the recording of Loveless's first album. Pete Armata, the bassist, is married and tending bar on Long Island. And no one is quite sure what drummer Tom Polce does, except that it has something to do with electronics.
The whole arrangement sounds problematic, but it's not. Made up of old friends and veteran music-scene survivors, Loveless is forging something of a post-millennial, new-order, the-music-business-bites model of a rock band that goes something like this: Live your life and fit the band between the cracks. So what if it took a couple of years to finish "Gift to the World," Loveless's debut CD? Who cares if Trynin has to play along with the record for a week before a show so she doesn't forget the chord changes? It's weird, yes. Everyone would like to be doing more live gigs, and no one denies it would be unbelievably cool if the album -- released on Boston's Q Division label -- caught fire and a major-label offer or two rolled in.
But the operative term is unbelievable, because there are no dreamers in Loveless.
We're not naļve" says Wanamaker, on a cellphone from Manhattan. "Everyone is just doing their thing and moving through life.
Such seasoned sentiments come of experience, and never the pleasant variety. Wanamaker and Armata tasted success with the Boston alt-rock band Expanding Man, which released a much-praised but soft-selling album on Columbia Records before being unceremoniously dropped. Polce has played with an array of prominent local bands in various stages of their ascents and descents, including Letters to Cleo and Bill Janovitz. And Trynin is something of a poster child for musicians who've been wooed and chewed up by the business. Six years ago she was a hot property at Warner Bros., the subject of raves in national magazines, a rising star. But her star was eclipsed by an inept marketing department and a massive corporate overhaul. The label bought her out of her contract, and Trynin stopped playing music. Then Wanamaker called.
"The timing was right," Trynin says. "Dave just called one day and said 'I want to have a new band. Do you want to play guitar?' I was ready for music to be fun again. We started out playing acoustic guitars, but I told Dave if I was gonna deal with the [expletive] that goes with being in a band I wanted to play loud rock guitar.
And that's exactly what she does. After years of being a frontwoman, Trynin now shreds chords and sings harmony on the sidelines, while Wanamaker -- who played guitar in Expanding Man -- has leaped into the spotlight for the first time, as the lead singer and sole songwriter for Loveless. Miraculously, everybody's happy.
"I have no interest in making calls and writing set lists," says Trynin.
"I like being in charge," says Wanamaker.
"Dave doesn't even like me to talk onstage. He wants me to stand up there and be a little rock chick," says Trynin.
"It's true," says Wanamaker. "Jen talks so much. We made a little rule that she can talk anywhere but onstage."
"Did I mention that Dave stupidly moved to New York while we were making the record?"
"She's like my little sister. We fight lovingly."
Even in separate conversations, the chemistry between Wanamaker and Trynin is obvious. There's a toughness and a sweetness to their friendship that bleeds through to Loveless's hard, pretty rock songs. "Gift to the World," produced by Trynin's husband, Mike Denneen, with brash, seamless sheen, shows no sign of the album's halting, protracted birth. It's a strong collection, with muscular guitars, catchy choruses, and any number of tracks that sound like potential radio singles. "I spent 11 bucks on a Loveless T-shirt, that's how much I like them," says Julie Kramer, assistant music director and midday DJ on the alternative rock station WFNX (101.7). "We've got 'Go' in heavy rotation right now, and it sounds like a hit to me."
Loveless is becoming a draw in New York clubs sucvh as the Mercury Lounge and Arlene's Grocery, where the band plays a couple of shows a month, but when Trynin is asked about the possibility of a tour, she simply says, "Next question." And yet for all the logistical divisions, Loveless has become a passionate, well-oiled unit. Oddly enough, that's as much because of the band's limitations as in spite of them.
"I rarely do anything at night. I go for runs and have dinner," says Trynin. "So when I'm in the van headed to play in New York it's like 'all [expletive] right! Let's rock.' "
Wanamaker is similarly inspired. "The lack of rehearsing has kept these songs fresh over the course of two years," says Wanamaker. "There's a sense of energy and fun at our shows that we wouldn't have if we played three times a week. There's that 5 percent chance we're gonna blow it. In one way Loveless is like a lottery ticket. It's possible it could lead to something awesome in a fame and fortune sense. But in the other sense we just like playing music. How many people get to write songs and make records and play shows? There's no big mystery to that."
- Joan Anderman
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