Burbank-based trio LoveyDove trade in an extraordinarily perfected and intricate brand of modern, underground pop. Led by Dan West and Azalia Snail, a romantic twosome who share an artful and unusually self-possessed synchronicity, LoveyDove, who appear Nov. 15 at Viva Cantina, specialize in creamy, enigmatic confections of pastel-toned psychedelia and intricately arranged experimental pop.
It's a sound lush with color and drenched with atmosphere, a distinctive approach that Snail describes as “a particular kind of full elation.” As captured on their forthcoming, self-titled debut CD, LoveyDove references Shakespeare, Brian Wilson, Sergio Mendes and Burt Bacharach, all entwined into a contemporary, defiantly unconventional yet comfortably familiar sound.
Dreamy, hypnotic and audacious, over the course of a dozen hopelessly ardent love songs they swing from vintage bubble-gum to swaying bossa nova to buzzing, synth-fueled techno. But this is no gimmick; rather it's soulful, serious business. “LoveyDove plays positive uplift music,” West said. “For us, it's time to feel good, to climb up out of the darkness.”
“When I was a teenager, I was full of angst, hatred, I had so much confusion and anger, such a downtrodden view of the world,” Snail said. “So, now, we want to lift people out of their potential doldrums, to stop all the negativity, to accentuate the positive, as corny as that sounds.”
That message is more than welcome in these shaky times, and the songs are consistently impressive. Impeccably executed, intricately arranged and featuring a dazzling range of instruments — harpsichords, woodwinds, cellos, distorted fuzz guitar — they have reached for, and attained, a near Olympian artistic plateau.
What's even more remarkable is how they, with drummer Briar Dean, manage to successfully translate such a broad sonic spectrum into a live show that still accurately approximates the sound and scope.
“For the live shows I've switched to a six-string bass, like Glen Campbell sometimes used to play, that's one of technical things.” West said. “But the writing and melodies are so specific that we can do it with less — it translates because of the writing, we get away with less because it's all there in the chord changes and melodies.”
Whether on record or performing live, the altitude of LoveyDove's craftsmanship is never less than celestial. West, an accomplished arranger-composer and musician who's just scored the soundtrack for “Mr. Movie Poster,” a documentary on famed illustrator Paul Crifo, also leads the propulsive hard glam band Sidewalk Society. Snail, a respected underground poet and writer from New York City with a long-running, successful solo career (her run of nine well-received solo albums earned her the title “Queen of Lo-Fi”). The two first collided together as LoveyDove about 18 months ago, resulting in an ardently mushy, highly creative alliance.
The pair operates as a close collaborative team. “We write back and forth,” West said. “She'll get an idea, pass it off to me and I do the same. Often, she can just trigger an entire song, lyrics, melody and then I'll come in and add a few suggestions. It's very integrated.”
“As an arranger, I try to approach it more like an improvisation. I mean, you can spend 10 years on 10 bars of music or 10 seconds on those same 10 bars. So I just go all out, get all the ideas I can into it because you can I can always go back and remove stuff.”
The results are a rich, invigorating and unerringly romantic — LoveyDove definitely lives up to its name, but at the same time displays an expressive flair and emotional involvement that dramatically transcends the accepted limitations of the conventional three-minute love song.
“To go from the sound in your head to hearing it in its entirety is just really exciting,” West said. “And when you get there, it pushes you even farther ahead.”
What: LoveyDove, Feral Kizzy
Where: Viva Cantina, 900 W. Riverside Drive, Burbank
When: Friday, Nov. 15, 9 p.m.
More info: (818) 845-2425, vivacantina.com
JONNY WHITESIDE is a veteran music journalist based in Burbank.