Rock ‘n’ roll has always been the music of youth. The Who’s Pete Townshend summarized its credo best in the 1965 song “My Generation” when he wrote: “Hope I die before I get old.”
So the appealing debut album by the Love-In arrives as a refreshing rarity in rock because the band’s three members--all barely out of their teens--look more to what’s ahead in adulthood rather than over their shoulders at the glory days of adolescence.
“We are at an age where we are discovering who we are, so writing songs is one way to express that,” drummer Scott Kellems, 23, said during a group interview this week at an upscale Santa Ana burger emporium. “More and more as you get older, you find out that life isn’t safe.”
That outlook is evident not only in the six songs on their mini-LP, “The Love-In,” but in their attitudes toward their musical careers.
“I don’t want to get 10 or 20 years from now and think about what we might have done,” 21-year-old guitarist Tom Sheppard said. “It would be great to tell kids about how we played clubs and put out a record. We’ve done a lot of stuff already, but we want to do more.”
Kellems added: “I’d be sorry to find myself at 30 with a house payment, a car payment and kids if I didn’t try to give this (band) my best shot.”
As individuals, however, the Costa Mesa-based threesome, which performs tonight at Big John’s in Anaheim, generally project a sunny optimism more typical of youth.
“I don’t care how old I am,” said bassist and singer Kurt Stake, 23. “If we try and then find out we don’t have what it takes, at least when we’re older we’ll know we tried.”
Likewise, they seem thoroughly unconcerned that they might not sound fashionably rebellious enough in a song such as “Dad’s So Jealous of Youth” that admits: “He doesn’t understand me or the others/He thinks we don’t respect him, but we do.”
“If we worried what people think, we wouldn’t have dressed up like Kiss (at a recent performance),” Stake said with a laugh. “You’ve just got to be yourself. If you don’t, people can sense it. To me a band like REO Speedwagon looks like it is just going through the motions. I can sense when a band has its heart and soul in its music.”
Unlike the generic idealism and youthful zeal of a group like the Alarm, a Scottish band that constantly preaches undying commitment to nothing in particular, Love-In, in the song “Freedom Now,” reflects greater maturity in asking tougher questions: “Could I be happy under any circumstance?/And will I stop the fight when it no longer touches me?”
And in “Young Mister Jones,” the group observes: “The past is my only consolation/But the past isn’t so sublime.”
This might make the band seem overly melancholy--a word even Kurt Stake (pronounced “stocky”) used to describe some of their lyrics, but for the songs’ upbeat arrangements, bright melodies, jangly guitars and rich harmonies.
Of Sheppard and Stake’s over-dubbed two-, three- and four-part harmonies that are the heart of the record’s infectious sound, Sheppard said, “When a harmony clicks, it’s rad; it’s almost orgasmic.”
There’s also a practical side to the multilayered vocals. “Bands that have only one singer have to have a really strong singer to hold up, like U2 and the Cult,” Stake said.
Fittingly, the Love-In’s most recognizable influence is the Byrds, and indeed all three professed a fondness for that pioneering folk-rock group and ‘60s pop in general.
But they insisted the group’s name was not an attempt to join in the psychedelic revival movement during this year’s much heralded 20th anniversary of the 1967 “Summer of Love.” “We just saw the name once and thought it would be a great band name,” said Stake, who was in the local mod revivalist group Jetz before forming Love-In last year with Sheppard and Kellems. “I think it’s a case where the band just became the name.”
Their sound suggests an appreciation for R.E.M.'s rhythmic drive and probing, unsettling lyrics while Stake’s and Sheppard’s vocals reflect such British influences as the Smiths and the Style Council.
Like most aspiring rock musicians, all three work at day jobs. Sheppard last month graduated with a bachelor’s degree in film from the University of Southern California, where he learned skills he’ll use in assembling the band’s first video.
The group has played clubs in Orange County and Los Angeles, and though the county’s club scene has improved in recent months, Love-In band members say it’s still difficult to make significant career progress.
“It’s hard to try to play and go to school and work and manage the band and handle yourself as a person and have a social life and write songs,” Stake said. “We just want to focus on the band.”
So after the Big John’s show tonight and July shows, still unconfirmed, at the Anticlub and Scream in Los Angeles, the group hopes to travel to San Francisco in the fall to broaden its audience.
“Our plan is to get totally serious about the group because this is really what we want to do,” Stake said. “You can always get a job just to make money. We just feel that if we don’t do this now, we’re never going to do it.”
LIVE ACTION: Tickets go on sale Saturday for a second David Bowie concert at Anaheim Stadium on Aug. 9. . . . Supertramp’s Sept. 19 show at the Pacific Amphitheatre has been canceled, as has the group’s entire U.S. tour. Tickets go on sale Monday for the following Pacific Amphitheatre shows: Juan Gabriel (July 5), Rudolf Nureyev (Aug. 8) and Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Aug. 13). . . . Boston will play Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre on July 22. Tickets go on sale Monday. . . . A heavy metal concert featuring Dio, Yngwie Malmsteen, Armored Saint, Black ‘N Blue and others will be held Aug. 1 at Irvine Meadows.