On the surface, Telenovelas fits the Brooklyn band stereotype to a T. Three guys and one girl, Ritchie San Luis (guitar), Flemming Laursen (guitar), Kevin Kahawai (drums) and Lindsey Ann Lawless (bass; they all sing to varying degrees) range in age from 22 to 26. They almost all work in the service industry (Lawless at a vegetarian restaurant; San Luis at a steakhouse), save for Laursen, who is in grad school. And, as if right from the rock ‘n’ roll handbook, threefourths of the band doesn’t like to wake up before noon. Telenovelas rehearses three afternoons a week, and Laursen, the diurnal member, likes to think of practice as a job.
"Man, if it was a job, you’d be written up for being late all the time!" San Luis says, igniting laughter from the rest of the band, including Laursen. "I was here on time today," Laursen retorts in his defense. "Today," Lawless chimes in. Kahawai finishes her thought: "Operative word."
But none of the band members holds a grudge. They’ve all been friends for a while and they have a comfy banter akin to a real family’s. Hailing from Denmark, Texas, California and Florida, they all came to New York separately, but with the shared intention of being in a band. In fact, before I’ve even finished asking if they all moved here with music in mind, Lawless answers: "Absolutely."
Laursen and San Luis met at a show while Laursen was on tour with another band; and finding Kahawai was easy, as he and San Luis had played in the band Black Swan Green together in 2008. In January 2010, about a month into playing together, the three brought Lawless on board and solidified the current lineup. Lawless’ entry into the band was affirmed when she showed off her punk-rock expertise at an audition. "[When] she was trying out, she played a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club bass line, and I was like, ‘Yup, she’s gonna be the bassist!’" San Luis says, again inciting laughter.
BRMC is a band the members of Telenovelas can all agree on, but not because they’re coming from the same musical place. In fact, it’s their wide range of musical influences that separates them from the herd. Laursen has played in a cavalry band (he was a conscript
in the Danish military), and cites his influences as Lee Hazlewood and
Serge Gainsbourg. "The rest of these guys are rockers, and I bring in
all the weird inspiration," Laursen says. Lawless elaborates: "We all
have different influences. I have a punk/pop aesthetic… and then
Ritchie has a lot of noise inspirations and a little bit of techno.
Kevin?" Kahawai, who has a fondness for jazz drumming, "riffs it a bit
in this band."
What this all adds up to, according to Laursen, is "a million surf-rock movie themes." The surf thing, plus the obvious influence of other young bands like Dum Dum Girls, is reflected in the songs Telenovelas currently has online; but the band has a slew of new songs it’s pretty stoked on as well. "Some of the stuff is sweet, but there’s a lot of darkness in the newer songs—[they're] louder and more dramatic," Lawless explains.
It’s true, and I know because Telenovelas plays a mini concert for me. As Laursen is explaining how "a lot of the songs have some sort of hidden melodrama," he suddenly looks up as if there’s only one way to prove this: "Do you want to hear some songs?" I do. While Telenovelas may like to sleep in, it is apparent when the band plays that its members are anything but slackers. They move seamlessly from song to song, and even in their practice space at 3 on a Tuesday, are animated with the kind of fervor you might expect—or hope—to catch at a live show. They play two new songs not yet recorded, "Down in Mexico" and "Going Under Lover." The former starts off sparse, with only a strum or two from a twangy guitar and Laursen’s rich, dramatic voice crooning, "You don’t love me like you used to." The suspense and sluggish buildup is reminiscent of a scene from a Western film, as if at any minute John Wayne may step out, wipe the dust off his vest and prepare for a face-off. The third line in, Laursen would "do anything to get you back again," and the song kicks in, the drums steady and quick, replete with frequent, appropriate fills. The guitars, airy and warbly, immediately collide and then dance around each other as if possessed by a storm cloud directly above. When I suggest that the latter reminds me of My Bloody Valentine, a comparison that’s also hard to miss when listening to their track "Bloody Mary" for the first time, their faces all seem to sink a bit. "We do get that a lot," Laursen offers. San Luis concurs, attributing it to the tremolo bar they use.
The band, entirely self-recorded, plans to release a split single with Australian band Colours, followed by a full-length record within the next year. Laursen explains that he likes to do things "dirty and cheap and fast." He adds on behalf of the group, "I just want to get out there and [get] some songs written and get them recorded… as fast as possible so I can start writing something else."
Shea Stadium, 20 Meadow St. (betw. Waterbury & Bogart Sts.), Brooklyn,
718-505-5770; 8, $TBA.