In many ways, LVL UP embodies the best aspects of Lo-Fi. Since their formation at SUNY Purchase in 2011, the band has amassed a following with their upbeat take on the genre. Their songs are crunchy and full of lyrical angst, while remaining energetic and enjoyable to listen to. The quartet includes Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, both on guitar and vocals; Greg Rutkin on drums; and Nick Corbo on bass. Since then, the New York–based band has released three albums and their latest, Return to Love, drops later this week.
Like LVL UP’s previous work, singles “Pain” and “Hidden Driver” play on themes of disorientation, alienation, and heartache, but in a much more polished way. Thrumming guitars lend momentum to vocals that verge on a chant, and Rutkin’s punchy drum lines make dark lyrics (“I hope you never find love”) oddly fun. The band truly hits their stride, however, in minute long guitar solos where Caridi and Benton show off their musical prowess. Dissatisfaction never sounded so good.
Melisma chatted briefly with LVL UP in anticipation of their Boston tour stop at Great Scott this Tuesday, touching on the new album and their band dynamic.
Congrats on your third album! What was different about the process of recording this time around?
Thank you! We’re excited to see it being released. The main difference in recording this record was that we decided to hire an engineer (our long time friend & peer, Mike Ditrio) and record in a proper studio here in Brooklyn called Seaside Lounge. Most of our older material was recorded at home, by the band, so this time around we wanted the help of Mike’s trained ear. His perspective and expertise helped us more fully realize our sound on Return to Love.
How would you compare Return to Love musically with Hoodwink’d or Extra World?
The sounds are a bit more focused, the arrangements are a bit more complex and the lyrical content takes a different turn.
Do you have a favorite track on the new album and, if so, why?
We’re fond of quite a few tracks on the record, so it’s hard to pick favorites.
Are there any specific bands or artists you draw from?
Of course, and people have picked up on a few of them… Mount Eerie, Built to Spill, Neutral Milk Hotel and Wilco are some of the more obvious ones. Wolves In The Throne Room, Sibylle Baier, Aimee Mann and Big Star might be some of the more hidden influences.
What do you think separates your sound from that of other bands who draw from similar genres and influences?
There are a lot of rock bands but I guess we hope that in some way we are doing something genuine and authentic with the sounds and styles that excite us. There are three songwriters in the band which pushes and pulls the project in many directions. Hopefully all that comes together into something that feels new and exciting.
I know you all first met and starting playing together at SUNY Purchase. How did that period in your life influence the band’s group dynamic? Has it changed since?
SUNY Purchase was a nice incubator for the band. It was a place where we could practice & perform before getting out into the world. It was also where we all became friends. Not much has changed since studying at Purchase, we’re still spending a ton of time working on music together and we live in the same city!
If you had to get stuck in an elevator with anyone in the world, who would you pick?
Finally, what can fans expect from you guys in the near future?
Touring in the United States and in Europe next year. That’s about it for the time being.