Interview date: 02/12/2008
Run date: 03/11/2008
St. Louis-based band Ludo may seem like your typical post-emo indie-rockers, but with songs about man-eating lake monsters, psycho-stalker neighbors and cannibalistic love, they are anything but. Their independent self-titled debut, with quirky songs like the break-up ballad "Good Will Hunting by Yourself" and the gargantuanly silly "Girls on Trampolines" garnered them a small-but-devoted following online. The band then went off on an entirely different tangent for their follow-up Broken Bride. Ditching the humorous songwriting of their debut for a concept album rock opera about a time traveling lovelorn scientist, the EP proved that this little indie band was one that defied to be categorized. Newly signed to Island Records, singer/guitarist Andrew Volpe spoke with Bullz-Eye about songwriting, touring the Midwest, and the awesomeness of GWAR.
Bullz-Eye: I like you guys a lot, you're really different than a lot of the stuff I'm hearing right now.
Andrew Volpe: That's awesome, thank you.
BE: Throughout both your albums and the Broken Bride EP you guys seem to go all over the place when it comes to subject matter. On one hand there's "Good Will Hunting by Yourself" which is a really funny breakup song like the new single "Love Me Dead" but you also got Broken Bride, which is a really elaborate rock opera concept album. How do you balance the two?
AV: We tend to look at the whole body itself; everything is more of a continuum or spectrum. I guess to a lot of people it may stick out, subject matters ranging from such example to another example. But to us it's just more representative to just everyday conversation and just the things that people talk about and think about and care about. You may have a conversation about how ridiculous how some person is over the day or you may have a conversation about how your heart's broken. Not everything in music has to be in the same voice, any more so than your everyday dialogue in life.
BE: It's cool to hear something you don't hear a lot nowadays. To hear somebody go in different voices, like on "Lake Ponchatrain" (a song about a ghostly lake that murders those who eat crawfish). Where did the idea for that come from?
AV: The music came and it sounded to me like murder, mayhem ghost story, and I had been down there on spring break when I was in college. It's a spooky area and there's a lot of ghost stories set in that area and it kind of made sense. What if it all went wrong?
BE: Are you interested in horror and sci-fi and more "out there" topics?
AV: Yeah, to me it's not about how out there I can be as much as what can be a good story. It's the same reason people gathered around campfires millennia ago and the same reason people go to the movies for the past hundred years and people have read books fro the past several centuries, because good stories are part of the human experience and we're just lucky enough to try and capture some of them in songs.
BE: I can kind of tell you're a fan of sci-fi from the name of your band.
AV: Oh yeah.
BE: It's from "Labyrinth," I'm a big fan of that movie.
BE: Your new album is your major label debut
BE: Before that, though, you already amassed a pretty big following online. You have your fans and a pretty active message board. And you also seem to answer a good portion of the questions on your bios. Is it hard to maintain that kind of relationship with your fans?
AV: From the beginning, we recognized that without people to listen, you don't get to do what we do and not have to have a job on the side. It's something from the beginning that we've been pretty fortunate. From those first open mics that at least one person from each gig would stop and give us the time of day. We've been really lucky in that regard. It's something that we've appreciated from the beginning. We never take for granted that we are lucky enough to have people who care about our band. It's something that's very important to us.
BE: I noticed already with "Love Me Dead" you did the toothbrush video and people online are already copying it. It reminds me of what happened with OK Go, how they had the dance videos and people would copy that. It helped them build a loyal fanbase quickly. Was that a conscious effort?
AV: It was something that we thought…we know how rabid a lot of fans get and how much they want to get involved, and we thought it would be fun. Let's do something with this song that would react with our fans and new people alike. How funny would it be to see everybody try to sing while brushing their teeth, and we went with it.
BE: You're on tour now, correct? You just played my hometown of Toledo.
AV: That was fun; it was our first time there.
BE: You had fun in Toledo?
AV: Well, driving in…the neighborhood the venue was in it looked like it was an economically depressed area of the industrial rust belt. Either we drove in on the wrong side of town or Toledo's barely hanging on from the heydays of the auto boom.
BE: All they got is Katie Holmes.
AV: Hang on tight!
BE: What's coming up for you guys?
AV: We're doing the west coast and east cost with the Presidents (of the United States of America) and then on and on and on.
BE: How do you feel about touring with The Presidents of the United States of America?
AV: That's really exciting.
BE: You're similar with your off-beat, unique songwriting – you have that in common. You think it's a good match, then?
AV: I think it'll be awesome. We're thrilled. At the end of the day, look – we're both playing rock music and neither one of us is afraid to take the other road in the diverging yellow wood. So we're really excited.
BE: How is this album different from your debut – it's obviously much different than Broken Bride – how would you describe your band? I have a hard time doing it.
AV: Well, in our opinion we made the first album which was just a simple catchall of all the songs we've been bouncing around for several years. It's a spectrum of really funny to intense and serious. Then we ended up just following the story of one song to five songs when we did Broken Bride and it turned out to be this "rock opera" and it was very eye-opening for us. It was like "we can do whatever the hell we want." At the heart, that's a part of who we are as musicians and as songwriters, but another equally strong part is that we love writing songs that everyone can sing along to and rock out to. Stuff that's very accessible, poppy and more up the middle rock songs without hitting the lowest common denominator and making it dumber. Basically we wanted to be able to…I feel that our writing was at taking the pop sensibilities of the first record combined with the adventurous storytelling of Broken Bride. I feel like the album goes over all those places and beyond to me. It covers the scope of the first two records.
BE: It's dark, sometimes in a humorous way…like with "Go-Getter Greg" (a song about an obsessive crush).
AV: "Go-Getter Greg" certainly is humorous, but that's juxtaposed with an equally dark song. There's nothing funny about "The Horror of Our Love." "Go-Getter Greg" and "The Horror of our Love" are really creepy. But one's really funny and one's really serious. And then "Streetlight" and "Horror of Our Love" are equally intense, but one is disgustingly, hauntingly beautiful, and the other is pure apple-cider, youth-love beautiful.
BE: I think "Go-Getter Greg" is a song that everyone can identify with on both ends of at least a little bit – being the annoyer and the annoyee.
AV: I agree.
BE: "Horror of Our Love" is almost Gothic. It reminds me of what a lot of emo bands try to do but try too hard.
AV: I gotcha. To me, I don't allow what may be an overdramatized, "Look at me, look how scary and Edgar Allen Poe I am…look at my makeup"… I don't let that get hijacked by someone who's just really trying to scare someone's parents.
BE: Although on your site you say you wanna play with GWAR.
AV: That's ‘cause GWAR is awesome!
BE: I got to meet them once – not in costume.
AV: Oh man, was it nuts?!
BE: It was out there. I used to work in a comic book store and they bought a bunch of old Marvel comics and porno.
AV: That's awesome.
BE: You have a girlfriend? What does she think of those songs?
AV: I do. What does she think of the creepy songs?
BE: Not only those, but a lot of your songs are not happy love songs.
AV: The songs that are like "you're a terrible person" kind of songs – my girlfriend knows I'm not singing about her. But with the creepier stuff, when it came to "Go-Getter Greg" she just joined in laughing with that character as much as anyone else did. "Horror of Our Love" is actually one of her favorite songs…she thinks it's "really pretty." There's an aspect of intense love that is…just…the words that you use to describe this love are terrible and off-putting, but they are the only way to adequately express them. Dali has a quote about loving someone so much you want to eat them – sometimes you so desperately want to hold on to somebody that you want to crush them. You don't actually want to hurt them or do harm to them, but they are ways to describe just how much you need, want, desire somebody. There's a lot of overlap in these horrible sounding things that actually describe a true, deep passionate love.
BE: Broken Bride is kind of the same thing, but not in the wildly disturbing way, it's the opposite way – he has an undying love.
BE: Are you going to do anything like that again?
AV: I'm not afraid of it. We're not afraid to do anything like that again. We didn't set out to make "that thing" in the first place, it just sort of happened organically. I imagine we're not going to set out to be like, "We need to make Broken Bride 2, or let's come out with something outrageous like a vampire riding a donkey!"
BE: I'd buy that record!
AV: If we organically come to that point as artists, then I'm sure we won't be afraid to make that record. Every song has to demand to be written. I am excited for when we do feel it would be the right time to make something else without setting out to be like, "Now we're going to satisfy the muse of pop" I don't know what's backing up in our brains. Will we write a bunch of crazy stuff, or a bunch of stuff that could be on the radio even if they are a little weird? It'll probably be a little bit of both.