Spanish Love Songs are a melodic punk band from Los Angeles, USA consisting of (photo FLTR) Kyle McAulay (guitar), Meredith Van Woert (keyboard), Gabe Mayeshiro (bass), Ruben Duarte (drums) and Dylan Slocum (vocals/guitar). Milo from Radio Radius spoke to frontman Dylan Slocum after their performance in the Hafenkneipe at Obenuse Fest IV on May 5, 2018. In this interview, he talks about their new album Schmaltz and more.
Milo Schärer: Thank you so much for doing this interview with Radio Radius!
Dylan Slocum: Of course!
How has your European Tour been this far?
It’s been great! We are a week and a half in, we have three shows left. It’s been a blast, there’s been a lot of people at a lot of shows in places that we didn’t expect to necessarily have a ton. So, it’s been a lot of fun!
Alright. And what has your favorite venue been so far?
Hmm… In terms of the show, the one we just played for Obenuse Fest was great because that was insane. In terms of the venue itself, we played a farmhouse in Austria that was very cool. Basically, it was a barn that they had converted into a venue. So yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Alright. For people who aren’t familiar with Spanish Love Songs, which there will certainly be less of after Obenuse, how would you describe your band in five words?
In five words? Sad. I don’t need five words, I think one is enough. Sad and honest. That’s three words. We’ll give you that.
Fair Enough. A lot of other people, such as reviewers, have described your band as being similar to The Menzingers. How do you feel about that comparison?
I mean, it’s great to be compared to one of the biggest bands in our scene, so that doesn’t annoy us. We don’t hear the comparison anymore, but if it’s an easy way to get people to access the music, then by all means, you can compare us to whoever you want because at the end of the day it’s still our band and our songs. Some people feel that we’re rehashing what they did, and we don’t feel we are. I don’t think we are, so it’s fine. Really, we don’t care.
I think especially your lyrics are very different from those of The Menzingers. They’re very personal and detailed, and they often include specific references to places or family members. Why do you choose this kind of lyrical approach for your songs?
I think it’s the only way I really know how to do it. I tried to be metaphorical and vague before, and it just didn’t work. I like being specific, because I think by creating something so specific, it can actually lead more people to recognize and relate to it, even though it’s about me. I think everyone lives their lives in such specific terms that it becomes almost universal. Me writing about the death of my family member, even though it’s my experience, is the same as anybody’s, not the same, but it’s similar to anybody else’s loss of family members. I think people are able to find some comfort in that fact. I like to be so specific so nobody feels that they’re alone because as alone as I feel, I know I’m not the only one.
That makes a lot of sense. How did you get together as a band?
Our other bassist, Gabe, who’s at home right now, Ruben and I played in an old band, and that band broke up. We met Kyle on Craigslist because he had just moved to L.A. and was looking for people to go to shows with and he also mentioned that he played music, so we just started jamming together. Our other keyboardist Meredith is really good friends with my girlfriend so we hang out a lot and we knew that she played piano, so when it was time to add a piano player, I thought of her right away.
Why aren’t Gabe and Meredith on this tour right now?
Gabe was on the first half of this tour with us but he has a child on the way, so he went home to be with his wife and the child he already has. Meredith had some family obligations that unfortunately lined up exactly with our European tour.
Alright, so now let’s talk about your new album Schmaltz, which I really enjoyed. And it appeared to be a popular seller at the merch table…
I think so. We’re just about sold out of our first run, so that’s good. Yeah, it seems to be popular. We’re happy with it.
So yeah, about the album: you included a lot more layered and full-bodied instrumentation compared to your debut Giant Sings the Blues. Did you approach this album differently as a band?
Yeah. We’d been a band for a few more years and we were better musicians. We added the keyboards, which certainly helped. And I think we took a more methodical approach to recording it. The first one we just wanted to get done, so I came with these songs and we just kind of cranked them out and put them out. It was an organic process. With this one, we spent the time together writing and getting every part right. It’s still not perfect in our heads, but it’s as close as we could have hoped to getting it.
Now about the instrumentation: what inspired you to include an organ, not necessarily a typical punk instrument, in the album opener Nuevo?
There’s a Frank Ocean song called Forrest Gump. We love that song, and we already had the keyboards. That song was originally written on guitar, but we were in the studio, and I said: “What if we just switched it to organ?” Then we kind of referenced that song and did it. So, it wasn’t anything deeply thought out, we just thought it sounded cool.
Buffalo Buffalo is a very interesting song lyrically in my opinion. Could you tell us the story behind it?
Yeah. I was in Atlanta for work and I had to move away from my girlfriend, with whom I’d pretty much just fallen in love. I was really sad, so I wrote a love song. A lot of the stuff in that is very specific actually: she was visiting Portland to see her family and two days before she went there was a shooting in a mall there where three kids died. And I was literally lost in the south, wandering through these Civil War cemeteries. I just had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to run away from everything. I don’t know why I thought of “North of Buffalo”, but I did. I was thinking of Canada for some reason, and just wanting to get away from it all. I think as an American going to Canada is kind of a classical escape: going to the land of free healthcare, stuff like that. So, it just kind of happened and I wrote it in an afternoon. I was off from work, I wrote it on a Saturday and I sent it to the guys on a Sunday. It was the second song off the album that we wrote.
Alright. Now let’s talk aboutThe Boy Considers His Haircut. It’s kind of a meta song because you sing about your music and what other people think about it. So, my question is: do you think you’d have more fans if you sang about some happier shit or do you think the sad lyrics are part of the appeal of your band?
I think we’d have more fans if we were 10 years younger, more handsome and sang about very generic, fun things. That being said, I think that our lyrics fit our band. It’s kind of a running joke, but I don’t know, it’s hard to say, but I think we’ve found the place where we need to be. And I don’t know, people like sad lyrics, so we’ll deal with it and we won’t worry about the number of fans we have. Or we’ll try not to worry about it because I’m sure we will at the end of the day?
Now Beer & NyQuil (Hold It Together)is one such sad song. Could you tell us the story behind that?
Yeah. I was it Atlanta, still, and it was Thanksgiving in 2015. I was off of work, and I dropped my boss off at the airport so he could see his wife in L.A. I went back to my apartment and got bronchitis, so I was super sick, had a lot of dark thoughts and wanted to give up on everything because I didn’t know anybody and everyone else was home with their families and I wasn’t seeing my family or my girlfriend. I was super sick, so I took a bunch of NyQuil and didn’t leave the couch for three days. I would order Pizza in the morning and it would get delivered to me, I would order two so that I could eat one for lunch and one for dinner. It was a really sad time, so I wrote those lyrics down and decided to turn them into a song. I think the other have of that song is from when I was in the Dominican Republic for that same job, and I was literally stuck on an island. I was very sad and wanted to get away from everything I was doing, so it was very real.
Alright. Is it difficult for you to perform such personal and sad songs in front of an audience?
Not anymore, it was for a while. I’ve compartmentalized it enough; these things are all very old. Most of the songs on this album were written at the end of 2015 or the beginning of 2016, so we’re talking almost three years ago. So, it takes me back to that moment, but I’ve gotten pretty good about not living that moment because I don’t want to be sad like that forever and I’m also dealing with my current sadness and whatever is happening at the moment. It’s also really hard to be depressed about something when I’m onstage and people are having a good time. I’ve chosen to embrace the happiness of it all as opposed to focusing on the sadness.
Ok. Since we’re doing this interview at Fat Tony, my last question for you is: what is your favorite pizza topping?
I am a traditionalist. A pizza should be bread, tomato sauce, and cheese. It’s all it should be, that’s a pizza. None of that other bullshit matters. You can put whatever you want on it, if the cheese, the sauce, and the bread is bad it’s not a good pizza.
Thank you so much!
Spanish Love Songs Links:
Interview: Milo Schärer / Foto: John Lafirira