Atwood Magazine spoke to Spanish Love Songs frontman Dylan Slocum about the band’s future, their new single “Losers,” and how the band’s trajectory has shifted following schmaltz.
Listen: “Losers” – Spanish Love Songs
“I was told that I’d be fine when I got old, but now I’m thinking that’s a lie, so I down these fries before they get too cold,” is how Dylan Slocum closes out the first verse of Spanish Love Songs’ “El Nino Considers His Failures.” This line seems to be a perfect summation of Spanish Love Songs’ breakout sophomore record, schmaltz. The punk rock band’s songs often look at the difficulties of being in your late twenties with both an unflinching honesty and a little bit of sarcasm. Schmaltz is a breakthrough that very often boils down young adult anxieties to power chords and anthemic choruses. As the Los Angeles band prepare to release their third album, they are also currently undergoing the transition from this being a fun hobby to a legitimate career.
Spanish Love Songs recently signed with Pure Noise Records, home of many punk, emo, and hardcore mainstays such as Four Year Strong, Hawthorne Heights, and Less Than Jake. With the announcement of the signing, they also released “Losers,” the first of a two song 7-inch that continues where schmaltz left off.
Atwood Magazine spoke with Slocum about “Losers,” signing to Pure Noise, and life after schmaltz.
A CONVERSATION WITH SPANISH LOVE SONGS
Atwood Magazine: I'm kinda nervous about this interview, because I listened to your The Sound and the Story episode and that was so great.
Dylan Slocum: [Host] David [Kallison]‘s awesome. I’m sure this’ll be just as good!
Congratulations on signing to Pure Noise.
Slocum: Thank you!
Can you tell me how that came about?
Slocum: We were very lucky. We have an amazing lawyer, named “Neal.” We were starting working, and we were kicking around ideas about growing the band and being smart about it. We went out to some people, and Pure Noise was interested. It was weirdly one of the easier paths to us doing anything. I think it was based on the year we had last year, and the hustle: being gone half the year last year. I think it paid off, kinda early this year for us, as similar people paid attention.
One of the things you said in (your Sound and the Story episode) is schmaltz is an album about when you're not The Menzingers or The Wonder Years with that level of success. With this signing and the past year you had, does it feel like that's turning around a little bit?
Slocum: (laughs) Not really. Those guys have been going for a decade plus. We’re late to the game in terms of what we’re doing. In terms of our own age, we’re all late 20’s, early 30’s. It was a great year, and it’s great to feel like people care. We try not to actually measure ourselves against what other people are doing, but it’s hard not to. We had a fun year, and we’re on the verge of being able to do this [full time]. To make this a thing that we have to keep doing, we’re constantly just trying to make sure that we can keep doing this.
'Losers' was released last week. Can you tell me a little bit about writing the song and what it's about to you? You said it's your 'unexpected farewell to LA.'
Slocum: That’s the fun explanation. I started working on that maybe a year ago or so, just putzing around with the riff. As the year dragged on, we stayed busy, and I hadn’t had time to sit down and write anything. At the top of the year, we decided we wanted to do the 7″. We had a very weird schedule where we could only work on Sundays at [guitarist] Kyle [McAulay]’s apartment. It was the most chaotic writing thing.
I decided to move out of LA for financial reasons and move somewhere where it’s a little bit more affordable to make the bad career choice that I’ve made to be in a band. We’re trying to keep this going in any possible way, and living in LA’s not a sustainable way when you’re gone as much as we were last year. We weren’t even gone as much as most of our friends. It’s a farewell, but also we shouldn’t have to live this way, but this is how we’re living, I guess. This is how we’re choosing to spend our time and our money [and] not say anything about it.
Watch: “Losers” – Spanish Love Songs
The music video for 'Losers' is dark but also comedic. I understand you co-directed. Can you tell me about the concept and what it all means?
Slocum: We have a hard time doing anything serious, at least in the video realm. We figured we’d keep up with what we’d been doing with our videos but maybe have a slightly bigger budget for it. Not much bigger, but a little bit bigger, which is great. We can actually bring in people, not just on favors. I don’t remember how the concept came up. We had a concept ready to go, but with our schedules being what they were, we shot that thing on March 31st. [The “Losers” video was released April 12]. We shot it, edited it, and put it out in two weeks. That wasn’t ideal, but in doing so, we changed the concept seven or so times. We really nailed it down, when we were on that Hot Water Music run. We brought our EP John up with us, because he takes photos. [We] hung out and just sat and threw out ideas. I think it was our buddy Travis from the band Daydream who said something about how we should just go to therapy. I think he was making a joke about how contentious we could be: “Y’all need therapy.” We were like “Oh! That’s a good idea.” I think I owed Pure Noise a treatment on Friday, and I gave it to them on Monday, and then, we shot it the following Sunday.
Slocum: Yeah, it was not ideal, but it was fun! We got to hit each other with dodgeballs, which I think is the best fun.
I was kinda confused watching the video. Was it that you had tricked the band into band therapy?
Slocum: (laughs) I don’t know.
You don't need to spoil anything.
Slocum: Maybe I did. Maybe it reads that way. I think it could read other ways. I like that at the end it just devolves into chaos, and you’re just like “Maybe, he did it and deserves it, or maybe he didn’t and still deserves it.” Either way it’s fun.
I thought it was hilarious that -
Slocum: I’m glad that you said that though, because I was worried that nobody would pick up on seeing it that way. It was a discussion we had had.
It was a very funny concept in general that you have all these songs where you're beating yourself up in your lyrics, even in this song. In the video, you're kind of the villian, but also at the end of it, you end up getting beat up literally.
Slocum: I think that’s par for the course for us. I’ll just keep getting beat up, and we’ll see what happens. The team that worked on it was really great. I think it turned out really well, considering we shot it in one day with three days prep, and it was version number seven.
And you've worked in the film industry.
Slocum: Yeah, that’s my former day job. I moved out here almost a decade ago. I went to film school, so I worked on writing and directing movies. I’ve had different levels of success in different avenues of that. While that was all happening, the band took on a life of its own. As of Monday, I no longer work for the director that I’ve worked for for close to five years. Doing the video was great, and I’ll still direct stuff, but [it’s] definitely not the full time pursuit anymore, which is, again, probably a pretty dumb thing to do, but playing music is really fun. It’s hard to say “no.”
I feel like with the arts you can kind of come in and out as you please.
Slocum: I definitely won’t lose any of the contacts. And people are like, “But you won’t be around to network or do this!” I don’t do that shit anyway. I’m not that kind of person. I’ve maybe found over the last four years that maybe I was fighting off what I’m meant to be doing. That’s hard to grapple with. It’s hard to realize that your dream is not hard, because you still get to do things that are related to your dream, but your dream is not the million-dollar super cool job. Maybe your dream job is the blue-collar, grind it out on the road [job]. Build your audience and grind. I don’t think anybody’s parents are super-psyched about that. Mine are psyched, but my parents are weird.
I can very much relate to that. One of the reasons I loved schmaltz so much: even though it's a serious and very often sad record, every now and then you throw in a line that is funny. Do you notice that when you're writing or does it just come and people like me point it out?
Slocum: I think it’s a natural outcome of who I am. I don’t think I could write eleven straight songs of bleakness that don’t have any sort of release. I would probably think that that’s stupid or that it sounded dumb or that it sounded overly serious. I hate that. I appreciate heavy bands. I appreciate serious bands, but oftentimes, I’m listening to it, and I’m like “Yeah, but is it really that bad right now?” I’m hoping people don’t always think that about us.
It’s something I started doing, and I think it’s something I’ve latched onto, because it’s become important to what we do. It’s not as simple as me being like, “Oh I’m gonna write a joke line,” because I constantly am like, “We need to write our serious album. We need to expand what we do musically.” Then, all of a sudden NPR picks us up and is like “This band is really good rock music,” and I’m like “Oh hell yeah! I forgot about just rock n’ roll. Let’s do this!” It’s a bit of a mish-mash there with my moods and getting bored versus trying to write what we want to write.
Some of my favorite albums of all time are very dark albums, and I have to fight the urge to just give in. I don’t think, I could be wrong, but I don’t think anybody wants ten soul-crushing songs from us. I think it’s too much, and I think it’s too much for me personally too.
It becomes exhausting to have something so heavy and dark. You need to have a line like, My dad says that I'd probably have more fans, if I learned to sing about some happier shit.
Slocum: I feel like you gotta do something like that, or you gotta do something beautiful instead. I don’t know if we’re the beautiful band, but I think we can be the sarcastic band.
I think you guys get a little bit beautiful in 'Aloha to No One.'
Slocum: Maybe. I still just feel like that’s me just yelling into a microphone though. It could just be a personal thing.
“It’s Not Interesting” Live! from The Rock Room
My favorite song on schmaltz - it changes a lot, but recently, it's been 'It's Not Interesting.' Can you tell me a little bit more about that one?
Slocum: That’s my favorite song on the album. I always laugh. It’s one we’ve forced people to like, because we mostly played it last or second to last for a year now. At first, we were playing it, nobody really dug into. “Come on, it’s the high point! It’s the culmination! It’s the climax!”
It did take me a little while for me to get to it as a favorite.
Slocum: Well yeah. It’s on the backside of the album. It comes after some rapid fire stuff. It’s before the slow song, so maybe you’re getting bored before the slow song, or maybe you’re checking out, because you know the slow song’s coming. I wrote that [when] I was in the Dominican Republic. I was working on a movie. I was having a panic attack over something, wrote it down, and we just jammed on that. I had written those lyrics again-the one’s that callback-I’d written them down again, not remembering that I’d put them in another document somewhere. When I found them in there, I [thought], “Oh, this’ll be a good callback.” It was really fun to build outwards.
I don’t think I can fix this if I find god
There’s no drug in the world
that could possibly wash this off
I can’t even go down to the river
And stick my fucking head in it.
Originally, the album was only going to be ten songs, and I joked that we were going to structure the album like an old season of Game Of Thrones, where episode nine (song nine) was the high point, and then ten was all resolution. It ended up being song ten itself so that nerdy thing didn’t work.
It would've been a very different resolution if that had been the album closer.
Slocum: (laughs) I’ve had people say that it should be the album closer. I don’t know if it works as the album closer. I think it works as a set closer. I personally like “Aloha to No One” very much.
I feel like the acoustic closing track is a classic move, and it works really well in that there's a sense of ending with 'Aloha.' I haven't heard the b-side to 'Losers' yet, but can you tell me about '(No) Reason to Believe?'
Slocum: It’s kind of a sister-song to “Losers.” I wrote the lyrics around the same time; there’s even a callback from “Losers.” When we decided to release them together, it was like “this makes sense.” It’s kind of a little twin package-two bleak songs covering similar subject [matter]. It’s more about the people around me and what we’re going through. Again, struggling with a bleak period that I had gone through. It’s weirdly a direct response to Bruce Springsteen’s “Reason to Believe.” I love Nebraska. My dad played that song for me all the time growing up. My mom and dad had lost a son named “Kyle,” and he mentions a kid Kyle who they baptize and then he dies in that song. So, that song has always been in my head. The whole point of that song is at the end of all those bad, hard-earned days, people find a reason to believe, and that’s beautiful. I think ours is kind of the opposite. It’s like “Why did we do this?” It’s whatever, but there’s no reason to believe that things are going to get better. This is just it. That’s fine, but let’s not kid ourselves.
I think that's part of what makes your band great. Your songs aren't like 'Everything is going to work out fine.' It's more, 'Things are fine, but things aren't great.'
Slocum: That’s a pretty good summation of what we’re doing. I’d like to be able to write positive stuff. I think if we went that way, it would be finding okay-ness in the midst of things being fine, and that’s maybe a beautiful thing. Maybe, that’s all we can hope for, but for now we’re still just at the-I don’t want to say “angry”-…resignation phase. This is just what it is. A lot of this is just me. I don’t ever try to speak for anybody else’s happiness. Just for me, maybe this is just the way it’s going to go, and it’s fine. You’re not going to find some holy moment, where Jesus comes and makes everything better.
When can we expect a new album?
Slocum: Looking at our touring schedule, I leave next week, and we’re back in June. We’re going to really write and lock it down and do some demos and get it done. We’re going to take our time, and Pure Noise has been an excellent partner in letting us know that we can put what we need into the album and make it as good as it can possibly be. I don’t want to give anything away, but we’re probably looking at early next year, if I had to guess. If by some miracle, we went on an absolute tear like a perfect album just came out of us fully formed. If we weren’t leaving until June, I’d say that’s a different story. The way lead times work with vinyl production, release schedules, and we’re not the only band on a big, popular roster now. I would say end of the year, but I honestly think it’s going to be early next year. The 7-inch is a little appetizer to hold you over, while we actually go and do stuff. It’ll be great, because traditionally, you talk two years between album. Early next year will be two years from schmaltz. I would love to get something out within eighteen months, but I’m slowly learning that’s impossible. I don’t know how Jeff Rosenstock put out three albums in what was essentially three years. That’s absolutely crazy, and I think he went on an insane tear. I’m not on one currently. We’re gonna grind it out. I’m not a very prolific writer. I’m not one of those people that can write a song and go, “Eh, it’s good enough. Let’s record it as a demo.” We’re going to write more than we need, but not much more. A lot of it is also work schedules and getting everything figured out. I just gave up my apartment in LA, and I know generally where we’re going to land, but we’re not going to do it until after the album. Me and our keyboardist Meredith were both just fed up with LA, but the other dudes are still working in full. I’m just going to float around for six months and figure it out.
? © Kat Nijmeddini