Posted On 08 Feb 2017
Founded by drummer Matt Tong (Bloc Party, Algiers) and guitarist/vocalist Ryan Schaefer (Palms), L’Amour Bleu‘s unbridled, avant-garde riff-rock challenges traditional limits of music and performance with a distinctly New York aesthetic. Working between studios in Midtown Manhattan and Sunnyside, Queens, the group’s early tracks saw the addition of art director and exhibitionist performer, Shane Ruth (Baby) and guitarist/bassist E.A. Ireland. L’Amour Bleu’s performances eschew conventionalism, involving raucous improvisational collaborations with artists such as Stanley Love, Delia Gonzalez and samurai dancer Takemi Kitamura in spaces ranging from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland to feted Bushwick rave-hole Bossa Nova Civic Club.
Named for the historical textbook of male sensuality from 1978, L’Amour Bleu explore emotional voyeurism through the aesthetics of masculine desire, rebuilding soft centers with faded color swatches of sadness, rage, frustration and ambivalence with a corrupt, orgiastic pastiche of decadent pop and beyond.
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Learn more about L’Amour Bleu in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So, now that 2016 is over, what are some words you would use to describe the year for you?
SHANE: 2016 was cool… we heavily focused on our album, “Please”, and digging out the overall vibe with our songs and video program.
MATT: Working hard… it kept our minds off… of other things. I mean, I feel that in many ways 2016 was a really rough, sick trip, but at least we know who our enemies are now.
What have been some of the highlights for the band?
S: We played a kick-ass Dia des los Muertos party in Mexico City late last year. Something happened while we were there, that we will never talk about… but secretly made us closer.
M: If you’re talking about my 7 Machos room spray being confiscated at the airport, then yeah, we were very close by the time you’d all comforted me with those slippery huevos that came served in plastic trays at the café by the departure gate. Oops. Wasn’t meant to talk about that. I guess the main highlight has been finishing the record – it’s been a long road to completing it, what with jobs, other projects and multiple costume changes to consider.
What are you most excited about for 2017?
S: We decided that 2017 is the year that we will start holding hands in public, as a band.
M: I’m excited to further investigate what it is to be a prepper.
Did any of you make New Year’s Resolutions?
S: Yes, our collective resolution for L’Amour Bleu is to maintain eye contact while talking to each other (never blinking)… and chew gum at all times.
M: I’ve told myself I’ve got to say no to Ryan every time he offers me a glass of mezcal.
Growing up, did you all always want to be musicians?
S: Speaking for myself as my band persona, “Baby”; my body wants to party… I’m a natural born dancer. I never wanted to be a musician.
M: I did. I wanted to be Little Richard, just slamming the piano like a mad man. It was a real joy when we got to work with CP Lacey on our “New Dominance” video. He’s a noted Little Richard impersonator. It wasn’t even my idea. That’s what’s so great about this band. Where do I end? Where do Ryan, Asher or Shane begin?
Can you recall some of your earliest musical memories?
S: As a kid, I was always fascinated by backmasking. The veiled content, the buried treasure… it was always a turn-on!!
M: My earliest memory was smashing a ukelele against the hearth because I didn’t know how to play it.
Can you talk about how this group first came together?
We met in the Turkish Baths in East Village, on co-ed day.
M: Erm… yes. It was so hot in there that the steam caused the anti-reflective coating on my glasses to peel off. I couldn’t see anything but from the midst of the vapour, a soft pair of hands emerged and steered me towards the restaurant so I could cool down. Turns out my saviour was Shane.
Why do you think you all work so well together?
S: Honestly, it was that day at the Turkish Baths… instant connection… we just knew. When the steam in the room settled down, we looked up at each other and we were all wearing our towels on our heads, like The Go-Gos. One of us even had on a white-clay masque.
M: The intuition of those times… presently this has translated to a relationship of mutual understanding and trust that frees us up to try things that don’t necessarily require (or need) an orthodox approach to creative work. We make a lot of mistakes, but there’s no judgement, or at least if there is judgement, it comes from a generous place. We put a lot of thought into the decisions we make so I think that eliminates a lot of the weird ego stuff that happens in bands.
How did you come up with your band name?
S: Our name is derived from the1978 text book, “L’Amour Bleu”. The book explores aesthetic realms of emotional voyeurism, the male physique and masculine desire throughout history….. all hallmarks of our band.
Was it difficult to settle on one name that described your music?
S: Yes. It was not easy to give birth to a name that says it all. L’Amour Bleu speaks to romantic, faded color swatches of sadness, rage, frustration with the hope of rebuilding your soft center.
M: We were called “Please” for a long time. I love that name, it’s such a sad and pathetic word to me, but we discovered there was another band trading under the same title. We could have sued them I guess, but we’re not malicious. At least not in that way.
I’m curious to know how you came up with your unique sound and style?
S: This might sound silly, but it was really organic, like “farm to fork”… but in this case… “farm to fierce”. Matt and Ryan had a jam session one hot summer day in Queens and cranked out such sweet sauce. That set the pace.
M: I guess that’s how it… happened? Me and Ryan had been talking for years about doing a band and I think whatever transpired evolved from not having a hard deadline on getting a record out. I really wanted to do a grunge tribute band because I thought doing that through the lens of a re-imagined masculinity would be interesting. But early on, we realised that the aesthetic tenets of grunge were far too constraining for us. Moreover Shane began asserting his influence and as a collaborator in a band he’s from a very non-traditional background, so it emphatically added a dimension to what we do that perhaps Ryan, Asher and I couldn’t generate ourselves.
Can you elaborate on the performance art that goes along with your music?
S: We love to collaborate with our friends… dancers, sword-fighters, drag queens and underdogs. Usually we have an idea, meet with an artist and the show develops from there.
M: Having been in Bloc Party for 10 years, I was pretty keen to move on from just being in a band where the presentation is unshakeable. Luckily for me, Ryan is well-connected and has been involved in the NYC art world for many years and he’s been so determined in pushing an identity of the band that goes far beyond it just being four people playing rock and roll. I think the personas we adopt in this band are important to our mission but we’re not always that interested in being the most visible component of L’Amour Bleu.
Next month on Valentines Day, you will release your debut album, “Please.” Why did you decide to release it on that specific day?
S: February 14th just felt appropriate.
What was it like putting this collection together in your respective studios in Manhattan and Queens? How long did it take?
S: It took about two years. We thought it would go quicker but the commute between Queens and Manhattan is a nightmare!
M: Oh come on. We don’t need to reinforce the myth that Queens is this inaccessible suburban hinterland. I can see the Empire State Building from the bottom of my road. Actually, yes, Queens is an impossible commute. Please don’t move here when the L train closes for repairs. Please don’t. My studio is currently my kitchen table so my cats kept accidentally deleting my recordings, which was a trifle annoying.
I’d love to know more about your performances. How do you combine the music with raucous improvisational collaborations? What sorts of spaces work well for these shows?
S: The music has to match the performance, in either a high-energy or artistically high-concept way, you know? We’re good at working with both large, open spaces or small, tight stages. The constraints make us more creative.
M: We try to be flexible. Gallery spaces, raves, bars, it’s all a part of the challenge. When we collaborate, we generally send the music to whoever wants to perform with us or we’ll invite them to a rehearsal. Working with Stanley Love was a trip. He came to our practise space and spent half the time standing on his head. We don’t try to heavily guide what our collaborators do with us. Leaving certain things to chance is fun; either there’s a great symbiosis or the performer is incongruous with our music and jarring, but that’s still interesting to us. Why didn’t it work? Why did it make everyone uncomfortable? In a sense, we’re trying to unite different groups and thinkers and we feel like contemporary rock music has lost the will or ability to do this.
What musicians continue to inspire your music?
S: We continue to be inspired by INXS, Danzig, Suicide and The Frogs.
M: Royal Trux. I met Neil Hagerty recently and told him I really like the Royal Trux comic book he did and he got kind of weirded out. He was tall and drinking orange juice.
Is there anyone that you would love to work with one day?
S: We would love to tour with the Foo Fighters, Kiss, Death In June or Britney (seriously).
M: I want to remake our “Loaded” video with Penelope Cruz.
When you aren’t performing, working in the studio, what do you like to do for fun? How do you unwind from it all?
S: Actually, we are all really into health, wellness and body care. Right now (two of us) are into tea-tree oil and putting it on our toe nails everyday. Also, we like to hang out and get hella hammered.
M: That about sums it up. I like to do hamstring stretches on the floor, play with my cats and research makeup tips on the internet.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
S: Sometimes, you can make love to someone, just by looking at them… that not all love is the same. That and discovering yourself at “rock bottom” can be a positive and strengthen you, more than you knew was possible… finding yourself back from hell.
M: Shane, did you lift that straight from Melanie Griffiths’ website? I think the message comes more from our existence as a band. That we’re all in the age range where you tick the fourth box down in any form you fill out about yourself is saying something, no? Though whatever content we bake into the music necessarily follows on from this, I guess. I mean, we still want to be more widely known but we don’t have the same set of concerns that perhaps younger bands do. You get older and you figure out that you can steer clear of seeming glib without being cloyingly earnest in the process of doing so. There’s a basic humanity missing from a lot music right now and whenever anyone tries to express that humanity it comes across as so clumsy. I hope the takeaway from this is that you can be raw, articulate and funny and that it doesn’t have to seem forced.
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers about your music or the band?
S: WE ROCK HARD AND ARE EMOTIONALLY AVAILABLE.
M: Oh, I’ll ditto that, won’t I?