I’m glad that I have a chance to ask James and Mark from The Love Ways a couple of questions, hopefully to get to know more about them, and about their creative routines.
- Hey James and Mark! I’m sure our readers, as well as I, would love to know how this band (or project) came to be. How did you two meet? And how did things start up?
MARK SHREVE – Hey, Moataz! Thanks for talking with us. Gonna answer this first one in two parts.
Part 1: New to New York – So when I first moved to NYC I interned briefly at a music magazine where I met John Kuroski. He and I became friends pretty quickly and he’d been looking for a drummer for a band with friends of his from his hometown (Goshen, NY) and I said why not. To actually get to that practice I walked 15 minutes to the G train in Brooklyn, took that to the A train, took that to Port Authority where I bought a ticket for a bus to Weehawken, NJ. Got off that bus and then followed directions to what was at the time James’ apartment. He and I had never met but the plan was for him to drive us the 2 hours from Weehawken to Goshen. That was plenty of time to get to know each other and after that things just flourished. I don’t think more than 12hrs have gone by without one of us texting the other since 2013.
Part 2: Powering through the Pandemic – After forming, we operated as a 5-piece for 8ish years before having to make adjustments in 2020 because of the pandemic. So James & I had always shared ideas, goals, ambitions for what we wanted to do musically and during the pandemic I had LOADS of time to demo things out and write. Playing live wasn’t an option so it happened pretty organically that I demo’d some stuff that he and I both wanted to record and logistically it was easiest to just do it with us two. That became our 2021 song “Wild Life”; which in hindsight really feels like something that I demo’d out in a few hours and a month or so later we’d finished it up in the studio. From there we kinda just built a rhythm and cadence around sharing ideas and executing as a 2-piece and now here we are with “Desire Lines” and another one to come.
JAMES LANGLOIS – (nods in agreement but as a man with a secret).
- What are “The Love Ways”? What meaning does this name hold for both of you?
JAMES LANGLOIS – When we first started the band we were thinking about something poppy, cool and catchy, but that was at odds with our sound. The Love Ways felt like something a five piece Laurel Canyon/AM Radio band might be called, which we thought was funny. It contrasts with our music which is darker and rockier. So it seemed like a good move and now we’re stuck with it.
MARK SHREVE – The name of the band existed before I joined up so it’s something that I always took as a given – it was always just there. When I think about it though, there are two things that really come to mind. First is that it’s very similar to one of my favorite Kings of Leon songs – “True Love Way” (check it out it’s not one of their hits but it hits). I always really liked that the band name reminded me of something I already found really special. Second is I always imagine you’re walking up to your city’s favorite venue and you see in those black block letters the name of the band playing that night – does it look really stupid or does it look interesting and inviting? As a kind of 3rd party to the name initially I remember thinking ‘The Love Ways’ is a name that would look like it belonged on any venue in the world, no matter how big or small the band was. Also the last band I was in was in college, a 2-person rock band with my friend Lukas. We were called ‘Mark + Lukas’ so I can’t really claim to have a track record of creativity here (laughs).
- Have you, as a duo, settled on a particular sound that you gravitate towards during your creation process (i.e a specific strain of Alt rock sound that you feel comfortable with)? Or are you usually more open to explore different sonic grounds with each release?
MARK SHREVE – As a duo we’ve never discussed things in the terms of “we want to be a band that sounds like ___” whether it’s a genre, another band, etc. We definitely talk a lot about bands that we like and what we like about their sounds, but I’ve always believed that if we try and write songs that we love then as long as it’s us performing them, it’ll sound like us. Our ‘sound’ is just us making whatever songs we really are excited about. That being said on a song-by-song level we’re always very very deliberate – but more in terms of what we want a song to feel like, what we want it to accomplish and how it would fit in a catalog. Another way of putting that is that we’d never sit down and say “we want to sound like an Indie band” but we’ve had a lot of conversations around things like “how do we write a song that would be our version of ‘Maps’ by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?”. Or if you listen to our song “Wild Life” that we put out in 2021 – I wrote that knowing that not in a trillion years can James & I sound like Titus Andronicus, but I wanted us to have a song that feels like their song “Dimed Out”. It’s an approach that leaves a lot of options open and definitely allows for exploration and experimentation. The next song we’re putting out after Desire Lines I think will really give a good example of that.
JAMES LANGLOIS – We always gravitate toward the sounds we’d like to listen to over and over again. In the end, we are our primary audience so knowing that we’d listen to our songs on repeat ends up being a good litmus test for us. But as Mark said, so much of our conversations have to do with feel and sound. We have such a musical short hand that we can communicate via reference (i.e. – “whats our version of [song name]?”) and we instantly know the feel and tone that we’re driving toward as a jumping off point. Things obviously morph as they progress but those initial conversations end up being the foundation of the house we’re building.
- Could you describe your creation/songwriting process? Music and words, which one follows the other?
MS – Generally the music will precede the words. Since I handle instruments and songwriting and James does lyrics, the collaborative part of the process is really the two of us agreeing on what we want a song to sound & feel like and what we want to accomplish with it and then me digging in and demoing in Pro Tools. It’s a really goal-driven approach for me: once I know where I want to end up, the songwriting process is kind of a series of problem-solving exercises to get there (“does a bridge here add to or detract from the momentum? Should verse drums be high-hat or floor tom?, etc.). I try and bring in things that I love from other songs and bands, think about how The Love Ways would approach those goals and try it out. It results in a lot of drafts – I’ll try out ideas, share with James, tweak as we get closer to something we both really love. If we don’t both love it it doesn’t get made. By the time you hear something it’s normally spent weeks or months in pre-production so that by the time we go into the studio we can spend our time expanding and perfecting rather than starting from scratch. Lyrically, I’ve always felt a singular vision is best and leave this with James. With Desire Lines for example, I actually hadn’t seen or heard any lyrics until we got to the studio. Overall James and I have pretty disparate influences; it’s actually pretty rare that we love the same things musically. I think that’s a massive benefit though – it means that when we agree on something it’s probably pretty special.
JAMES LANGLOIS – The process is much as Mark described. It is definitely true that while there are certain shared core bands we both love, we come from very different places musically. The fun of the process is in the push/pull that outputs truly alchemical music. Neither of us would do the things the other does so we’re able to create new layers and frictions within the songs. It ends up being something wholly different than what either of us would put forward on our own.
- In Desire Lines, multiple lyrics are cryptic and hard to interpret, such as “A blank spot aligns my head and your heart” and “Have you figured out how to tell which color of smoke are you now?” There is, to me, a clear tendency towards poetry as these words can carry a lot of deeper meanings. How do you write the lyrics? Is there a process to that?
JAMES LANGLOIS – The lyrics generally come from two places: first, me obsessively listening to the demos Mark puts together and the emotions those evoke, which can sometimes manifest as hummed gibberish and then start to slide into coherency as I spend more time with the song and second I have all sorts of scraps and fragments of lyrics floating around in my brain and written down in various places. Once I have a bit of the lay of the land of the song, i’ll be able to marry the phrases that naturally come to me when listening to the song with existing things i’ve already written and then the real work comes with marrying the pieces into something, if not explicitly, then implicity emotional that resonates with the music.
MARK SHREVE – James is an excellent lyricist. I love hearing what he’s come up with and how it’s going to work over the music. Occasionally I’ll ask him to make it rhyme but my involvement stops there (laughs). It’s really special I think that he and I are in sync enough on these projects that whenever he brings lyrics to a song I’ve written it’s basically always just clicked; he brings a depth and nuance that complements what I’ve been trying to accomplish pretty perfectly.
- In Desire Lines, I could sense an influence from Greenday in the riffs, the solo, and the drumming, and an influence from The National with the cryptic, romantic words. Which artists have had the largest influence on your respective artistic identities? And as individuals too.
MARK SHREVE – Now that Desire Lines has been out there for about a month one of my favorite things has been hearing what others hear in the music influence-wise. As a songwriter it’s fascinating – I learn a lot about where my influences show up without me thinking about them. Green Day weren’t a band that was top of mind for me while I was writing but they were huge for me as a kid learning to play drums. I hadn’t thought about it at all but it’s an excellent call that it shows up in the drums – when I was learning to play I’d come home from school and both Dookie & Warning were records that I’d throw on and just try and play along to perfectly. As far as my more overt influences – I grew up in the UK where people really love heavier music, so my influences always stray heavy. I studied music in college and have a music degree but if you asked me what my artistic identity is I’d probably always defiantly say I’m a hardcore kid. My favorite bands are artists like Every Time I Die (RIP), Deftones, Taking Back Sunday, Alexisonfire, Foo Fighters (they’re not all hardcore bands but you get it). I like, say, Justin Vernon…but on a given day it’s way more likely I’m listening to Slipknot than to Bon Iver. I’ve always wanted to play loud, to really really swing for the rafters. Small, unambitious songs bore me. With Desire Lines – I think I mentioned above that I write songs in a very goal-driven way so here it was really simple: I wanted to write something that would have sounded great, sounded amongst peers, in the music that made me fall in love with music when I was a teenager. So with that goal, production-wise, we sought out something that I think sounds like at times either The Killers on Hot Fuss or Jimmy Eat World on Futures and that was 10000% intentional. That’s also why there’s a guitar solo actually – that section took the most time to finish in the studio because we couldn’t decide what sounded best. In the end I kind of said “how would Jim Adkins solve this problem?” and then tried a bunch of different guitar ideas until we had something we felt served the song really well. Structurally, the goal was to actually execute the way Bon Jovi does: the verses are contemplative, unsure, a bit more subdued; the choruses are massive, rich with harmony, confident. Things build rather than deconstruct: the more you listen the more you get. Lyrically I’ll let James answer – oh man James is going to LOVE that you compared his lyrics to The National (laughs).
JAMES LANGLOIS – Well you certainly hit the nail on the head with The National, Moataz. They’ve been one of my favorite bands for what seems like a million years at this point so I couldn’t help but be influenced by them. Vocally, besides Matt Berninger of The National, i’d also call out people like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes and Paul Westerberg of The Replacements but perhaps more than most, I’ve been spending a lot of time recently with David Berman in both his Silver Jews and Purple Mountains configurations. He’s such a special lyricist (and poet) and his voice hits in such a particular way that conveys weight and depth in a manner unlike pretty much anybody else i’ve encountered outside perhaps Leonard Cohen.
- Where are The Love Ways going next? Touring? Recording? What can fans expect from you in the upcoming period?
MARK SHREVE – So up to 2020 The Love Ways were a five-piece. The pandemic threw a wrench in what the five of us were working on (as it did to basically all bands) and three of us drifted off to other pursuits. TLWs put out a song (“Wild Life”) in 2021 that was just me & James but that was kind of just blowing off steam. “Desire Lines” is really the first time James & I have embraced operating as a two-piece and for me at least it feels really liberating – we can do anything we want. I think we both really miss playing live and would love to tour but logistically we’d need to figure a few things out there first. What I can say with certainty is that we’ve got another new song finished – we’ll be working on a video for it in the next few weeks and will have it out as soon as the video’s ready. I’m so excited to get it out there – it’s nothing like Desire Lines. I don’t want to say too much about it but we do some things we’ve never done before. I really love it. I’m also currently working on more songs and don’t see any reason why James & I won’t be back in the studio later this year. I love and miss the other three band members but with just myself and James I really feel like there are no limits; I don’t have to write songs thinking about what other members are going to do or not do or what’s feasible to play live with the equipment that we have. Sky’s the limit for me now and there’s a lot more I want to accomplish.
JAMES LANGLOIS – Couldn’t have said it better myself so i’ll echo with a quote.
“Sky is the limit.” – Notorious B.I.G.
- Thank you for spending the time to answer my questions!