It was summer 2002 when Lisa Light and Scott Blonde were kicked out of indie band Applesaucer because of repeated passionate and disruptive make-out sessions during rehearsals. Sprinkled with a little bit of Ziggy's stardust and one of Freddy Mercury's mustache hairs, they rose from the ashes and dubbed themselves The Lovemakers, an ode to an obscure '60s Japanese skin flick about a woman-beating pimp and his jazz-loving ho.
“It was called The Weird Lovemakers, but it turned out that there was already a band called that, so we dropped the ‘weird,'” Blonde tells CityBeat. “Little did we know, all these years later we'd be stuck with the name, still doing records and talking about that movie. It's pretty funny.”
Things were looking up for the Oakland duo after landing a deal with Interscope in 2005. Then, on the eve of their big break, they uncoupled. Still, honorable as the Sumo, they went forth and released Times of Romance, which earned them best-indie-band praise from the alt-weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian. As for their relationship, after working out what Light refers to as “a lot of turmoils,” they morphed from an electro Sonny & Cher outfit to a more fraternal Donny and Marie
“We'll have open arguments in front of people as if we're 5-year-old siblings,” Blonde says. “It's very much the same immature banter, but we love writing music, so it's come down to loving what we do.”
By the time they released the EP Misery Loves Company in 2007, with its infectious DIY synth sound, the alt-weekly East Bay Express named them best pop group, a title that Light takes with a grain of salt: “Pop is not a dirty word. We put out a lot of sing-along kinda stuff, but who's to say what it is. We're just who we are, man.”
Blonde recalls that they were initially regarded as electroclash, a subgenre popular in the early '00s.
“When that went away, we were ‘new wave' or ‘dark wave' or something like that. Someone just told me I sound like Simon Le Bon, so I guess we're just an '80s band now,” he jokes.
The Lovemakers' sound is also a product of the Oakland warehouse-party scene.
“To me, it always had a dirty, gritty kind of lo-fi feel to it,” says Light, who's also a Stanford graduate and retired circus musician. “As far as the future, it's just under the surface. From dance to stuff that's almost un-listenable there's a lot going on.”
Their forthcoming independent release, the aptly titled, Let's Be Friends, was recorded at San Francisco's Talking House studios and was overseen by legendary mixer Clif Norrell (the man behind R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People).
For once, Blonde says the experience was a breeze.
“We barely had to say or do anything; [Norrell] knew exactly what we wanted,” says Light, who describes the record as an expansion of their now-signature sound. “It's kind of what we've always done—just more of everything and in every direction, more of the same, but with more cherries on top.”
Their live shows are highly visceral affairs.
“We get lost in our own world,” Light says. “We like to include the audience and let them in—we'll go offstage and look 'em right in the eyes, throw up a little bit, maybe.” And hopefully, after a piece of gum, a little make-out session follows.
“We don't like to make it too formulated,” Blonde adds, “but if the show is really going well, we're feeling good about it and hitting all the marks and getting as much back from the audience as we're giving, then it's kinda like anything goes at that point.”
As for Applesaucer, Light says, “I don't know what they do now at all. A lot of them have children, so they're probably changing diapers as we speak.”
Success, after all, especially with all the cherries on top, is the sweetest revenge. The Lovemakers play with SQZMYLMNS and Tropical Depression on Monday, March 16, at The Casbah. www.myspace.com/thelovemakers.