Calvin Love: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyor of: Memories of your first date’s endearing, only slightly nervous wrapping of their arm around your shoulder in the movie theatre.
File Next To: Halfway between Mac DeMarco and The War on Drugs, and a few vinyl over from The Drums.

Dusk settles over the city. A lone man in black sits in a diner staring out the window. His ignored cigarette’s smoke dances through the air as he watches a woman in red walk away from the establishment and down the street. His eyes are still on the trail long after she’s left it. Meanwhile, a young woman on the night train gazes out the window, watching a sea of darkness punctuated by the lights of faraway towns. These are the places Calvin Love resides. He’s made a home for himself in the empty spaces between moments, calms in traffic, and the beats between footsteps.

Love has been playing shows since the tender age of 13, where he started in Edmonton performing in punk bands with friends. Since these forays, his life’s journey has taken him all over, with gigs in dive bars and clubs throughout the U.S and Canada. He’s evolved from punk rocker to something more akin to mellow pop. Perhaps that’s why his sound is equally fitting for being cozy at home and for travel and exploration. There’s a constant energy pushing onward while also staying warm and grounded.

He has a distaste for overarching terms that describe his sound, and with good reason. Love has taken bits and pieces of different genres and experiences putting them all together to create a sound that is oddly familiar, authentic, and inviting. While I was attracted to an ‘80s feel I picked up on in some of his tracks, you may be more attracted to the atmospheric/cinematic sounds, or the rough guitars and pure vocals. He doesn’t sound like a copy of someone else. Love’s voice is purely his own.

You’ve been making music and playing shows from a very young age, what drew you in to playing shows back then? Is it still the same thing that makes you want to play now?

I make music because I have to. Playing shows back then is the same as doing it now. Just more evolved, and I do it way better. Just getting up there and performing my work for people makes me want to keep doing it as long as I can. And always trying to remember to put all your emotions and physical strength into a performance, because people can feel that.

There’s a tangible new wave feel to your music. What is it you like about the style?

A lot of people say that, but I don’t really see that anymore… or if I ever did. You could say that more about New Radar [his 2012 album] because of the minimal sound, drum machines, synths. But as for my latest record and the material I’m writing now, it’s far from new wave. I think genres will just stick with the certain records that I put out… labeling me as such.

New Radar is a great album for being in transit: Walking through a city, or taking a nighttime drive. How do you prefer to get around when exploring somewhere new?

I prefer bicycle if I’ve got access to one. Or just walking.

You seem pretty game to write and record your tracks anywhere you find yourself. What gear do you always have on you to make that possible? What’s your writing process like?

Yeah I like to be able to demo tracks wherever I am. Through today’s technology, that’s real easy. I’ve got a Tascam four-track that I will sometimes bring, but for the most part when an idea pops up I’ll record it on my phone. Save it for later. As for the writing process, it varies from humming an idea in my head, or playing my keyboard, or most times just sitting around with my guitar. I usually start from the drums and build my way up in layers.

Tell me a bit about the making of the music video for “Cool.” Do you have a history with the area you’re walking through? Why an eagle’s head?

The area is somewhere in NYC, I think Manhattan. I don’t have a history with those five blocks. That vid was shot rather hastily in between performances at CMJ 2013. I think we did it in about two hours. I love that song, but the video/concept is rather humdrum. One of those get what you pay for scenarios. As for the eagle head… that was the director’s idea.

Parts of your bio read like scenes from a film, and you’ve listed David Lynch as an influence… what do you think goes into making a really good film soundtrack? Do you incorporate any of these elements into your own projects?

I think what goes into making a good film soundtrack is the ability to translate visual into something sonic and beautiful to the ears. I think the right music for a film can bring out the emotion or vibe in whatever scene that is being viewed. I also believe it’s all about style and taste. As far as my own music, I always try to have style and taste.

Would you rather write a new soundtrack for Mulholland Drive, Wild at Heart, or episodes of Twin Peaks?

I can’t answer that. Those soundtracks are done. David Lynch is cool, but I’ve never been able to finish Mulholland Drive, and I’ve never watched Twin Peaks — I don’t have a TV or cable. Wild at Heart is great, though. Besides, I’m too busy writing a soundtrack to my own film… It’s called my life!

— Interview by Raina Hersh