The Motor City’s music scene is most regularly associated with 1960s Motown and Proto-Punk, the garage rock revival of the past two decades, and… Kiss… despite the fact that they’re not actually from Detroit. However, the city’s also produced some of the best sounds of 2012, including the recently featured Philthy (the publication, not the city) artists FAWN, and their Quite-Scientific-Records label-mates Lightning Love. This January the indie pop trio, consisting of brother/sister combo Leah and Aaron Diehl, along with Ben Collins, released the Girls Who Look Like Me EP, the follow-up to their debut, 2007’s November Birthday. The four songs found on Girls Who Look Like Me clock in at just over 11 minutes total and boast quite a strange blend, seemingly of twee, piano pop, and power pop. The band is incredibly playful, but their musings certainly aren’t lacking in substance and their outbursts are far from juvenile or lacking in calculation… They’re very sweet, but not in a way that could be characterized as “silly.” In a time when EPs (albeit crappy “digital-only” ones… yes, if that applies to you, I would welcome you to be offended.) seem to be the norm, the art of the craft that is an EP (Has anyone stopped to consider that before this very moment?) seems to be more lost than ever, but these three have it down perfectly, and have produced the most satisfying four-song collection of 2012. Lightning Love’s second full-length, Blonde Album, is due August 28th (also on Quite Scientific Records) and it is standing on the shoulders of their recent EP, including two of its tracks. The album was inspired by all of the existential tragedies Leah’s experienced in recent years and reproduces them in a manner that’s quite fun to sing-along to. I recently got a chance to chat with Leah about the band’s hometown, how (and when) they met (which I was mislead about…), and what they have planned for the rest of the year.
Izzy Cihak: You’re from Michigan, a place with quite a rich musical history. Do you have any particular regional favorites? I can never decide on my top endorsement between MC5 and The Stooges… and Alice Cooper isn’t far behind… with the Von Bondies holding the title for the past decade or so.
Leah Diehl: You’re right. Michigan has an amazing musical history. Sometimes it feels lame to be living in the Midwest, but there’s definitely something here that allows people to create really cool music. As a band, we all agree on Sufjan Stevens and Andrew W.K. And, of course, The White Stripes. Ben (our guitar player) actually played in a band with Jason from the Von Bondies called “The Hounds Below” for a few years. We’re fans of his as well for sure.
IC: This band began when you were 16. Has some added maturity changed your outlook on the project to any extent?
LD: People keep saying we were 16 when we started the band. I don’t know where that came from – I didn’t even meet Ben ‘til I was 20. We started the band when I was 21, but we’ve still gotten a few years in. On the first record I sang about “boys” a lot and made sure every song had a strict pop structure. I think I’m singing about more “grown up” ideas now… as grown up as I can be, at least. And the songwriting has definitely matured. I don’t feel like I need to be so obvious in the song structure.
IC: How do you feel like Girls Who Look Like Me relates to your first LP? What should fans expect of your upcoming sounds?
LD: Lyrically, there’s still a ton of anxiety. I guess that’s who I’ll always be. I’m just worried and obsessive about other things now. We’re all better players too. We’re more into pushing our limits and the type of music we can play. At the heart of it though, I’m still writing pop songs and we’re still trying to write simple, yet highly effective, parts.
IC: What are your most significant influences, musical or otherwise?
LD: Oh, man. So much. Spoon hit me hard in high school. I loved the minimalism, where every note matters. And Guided by Voices showed me that a 1:30 song can be super powerful. New Wave melodies always break my heart – that’s how I try to write melodies. I’ve been obsessed with Pet Shop Boys lately. Billy Corgan also kills me. And XTC. Also, all three of us have been classically trained, at least for a time. So that must have some sort of effect, whether we realize it or not.
IC: What are your biggest plans for 2012?
LD: There are a couple releases we’d like to do. The LP in August will be our second this year. We then have one planned for October and hopefully another EP at the start of 2013. We also have some music video ideas we’d like to do, but we’ve never done one on our own, so we’ll see how long that takes.
IC: Is there anything else you’re particularly excited about in 2012, aside from your own efforts?
LD: Umm… I’m finally getting my own piano again. Oh, and I’m hoping to move the fuck out of Detroit and stop fearing for my life and having all my shit stolen all the time. That’s about it.