[MUSIC: Interview] The Lovetones
Ten years doing the same job is nearly unheard of in this day and age, but this is where Matt Tow finds himself with his band The Lovetones. To celebrate their decennial, The Lovetones have released Provenance – Collected Works; a compilation of tracks from the band’s five studio albums which the songwriter and frontman hopes offers a good introduction to their work.
“I think we have a really good back-catalogue to promote, and I thought a great way to introduce people to our sound was to highlight the songs that people might have missed along the way, and to have it all together in one package so young kids can come through and just hear the music,” Tow says. “If they like what they hear, they can re-discover the old records… I think a lot of the album tracks are more tracks for people that know where we’re coming from and know what we do live. I think what we decided to do with the Best Of was introduce people to what we do with the songs that would be perhaps catchiest or more immediate for people, rather than the slow burners that are on a lot of [our] albums.”
Tow formed The Lovetones in 2002 following the disillusion of Drop City, a group that also made five studio albums. Much of the ideology behind The Lovetones came from Tow’s experience in Drop City – in particular, the experience of having his music put out through a major label. “The problem with Drop City was that we got caught up in the whole Universal takeover of Polydor Records. By the end of Drop City, all our records were sort of mixed up in that world, where they were out there but they weren’t really being promoted because Polydor had got consumed by Universal and Universal were moving on to other things. By the time that 2000 came around, a lot of those records had already been deleted. I would love to do a Drop City Best Of, because you just can’t get a hold of those albums anymore.” But as he explains, it’s not that easy: the band doesn’t own the rights for their recordings. “They’re all in some Universal vault somewhere just being ignored. It wouldn’t take much for those guys to put that stuff out on iTunes; it costs nothing to put something out in a digital form now. It’s just laziness on their part. I think if there’s a need or a want for it, eventually it will happen.”
Tow and his new band turned that experience into a lesson: “We pretty quickly learned that the best way to go was releasing independently or through an independent label, because you have more say in what goes on and you can also do things the way you want to do them, rather than the company stepping in and saying they want you to go in a certain direction. That’s what happened at the end of Drop City; Universal started telling me that I had to make commercial records. I was a young guy and I told them to fuck off, because I didn’t want that to happen. I wanted to go on my own path and make the music I wanted to make – music that was relevant to me and important to me and not to be compromised in any way. I felt like [Drop City] had started to be compromised.”
Following shows in Australia and the United States in support of their most recent studio album, 2010’s Lost, The Lovetones took an 18 month break from any band activity. Tow says the impetus for their return came when they were invited by the Hoodoo Gurus to perform at the Sydney and Melbourne legs of the Dig It Up festival. “We were at the point in The Lovetones where we were just thinking about what to do next; we had thought about the Best Of, but hadn’t really considered doing too much. Being asked by Brad [Shepherd] from the Hoodoo Gurus to do the show was a no-brainer – and to be part of such a great lineup was just incredible. It was an amazing day, and being recognised, I guess, for our part in music – the Sydney music scene or Australian music scene or whatever – was a real buzz. It was just a privilege to be a part of it.”
After a string of launch shows in support of Provenance, Tow is set to spend the rest of 2012 concentrating on being a solo artist. He’s recorded a solo album with Colin Hegna from The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Ryan Van Kriedt from the Dead Skeletons/Asteroid No.4, which has just been mixed – and it was recently announced that Xemu Records, the label of Dead Meadow bassist Steve Kille, will be releasing it. But Tow stresses that while the release of a career-spanning compilation and a move to solo mode might seem like the winding-up of The Lovetones, the band will continue. “I’m never going to stop doing Lovetones records. I just think that for now, after this release, I’ll sort of concentrate on my solo music for a little while. [I’ll] always come back to Lovetones.
“It’s such a great band, especially with Matt Sigley and Chris Cobb,” he continues. “Those guys are two of the greatest musicians I’ve ever played with in my life. I don’t really see myself not making music with them, because they’re just wonderful guys.”
What: Provenance – Collected Works is out now on Yep! Records, through MGM
With: Immigrant Union, The Walking Who
Where: The Annandale Hotel
When: Friday June 22