Spanish Love Songs are on their first-ever Australian tour. Tomorrow night, they play a sold-out show in Melbourne on the release date of their new album, 'No Joy'.
What do you think when you see the album title No Joy? You imagine songs that fit that description, don’t you? A character consumed by depression, lost in the abyss, unable to see the light. That’s where Spanish Love Songs’ new album, the brilliantly kaleidoscopic No Joy, stands as the antithesis to its title.
Yes, there are songs on this album that explore anxiety and looking mortality in the face, but they’ve been written and recorded in a way that brims with overwhelming hope and positivity.
Take Haunted, a track that Kill Your Stereo named “peak adult emo” as the American rock band looked to a music icon from New Jersey – Bruce Springsteen – to create a moment filled with nostalgia and rock and roll meets emo.
If Spanish Love Songs’ third album, 2020’s Brave Faces Everyone, was packed with richly personal, no-holds-barred lyricism awash in existential dread, hyper-personal cultural ruminations and attempts to answer life’s big questions, No Joy provides an exhale after that intensity and acceptance of life’s endless hurdles.
No Joy is the sound of vocalist and guitarist Dylan Slocum, his wife and keyboardist Meredith Van Woert, guitarist Kyle McAulay, bassist Trevor Dietrich, and drummer Ruben Duarte finding peace in quieter moments and embracing the negative space.
In a press release, Slocum said about the band’s intention to find peace in an increasingly stressful and bleak world, “It’s an album about finding happiness in what you have and your current moment. It might be your best moment, or it might not, but you have to find joy in it.”
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When we catch up with Slocum, he’s preparing for the band’s first-ever show in Newcastle, New South Wales, following debut gigs in Sydney (including a daytime concert at Resist Records) and Canberra. It’s Spanish Love Songs’ inaugural Australian tour.
“I don't know if I have any deep insight to this sort of [songwriting] process,” Slocum answers when asked how he went about the perspective change on tracks like Pendulum and Haunted, compared to the bleak messaging from previous records.
“Every album shows what I'm capable of writing and interested in writing, and sort of representing where I am and where we are as musicians and as songwriters.”
In case No Joy and this Australian tour are your first experiences with Spanish Love Songs, you should know that Brave Faces Everyone soundtracked many fans’ lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, becoming a sort of salve in the bleak times but sometimes difficult to listen to now, years after the times of lockdowns and curfews.
Brave Faces Everyone saw Spanish Love Songs craft a brilliantly authentic, raw punk rock record with a profound amount of heart and passion behind it, resulting in a gripping, highly memorable LP about debt and life-long pessimism waging a full-blown war with beneath-the-surface optimism and barely getting by. No Joy is the audible breathing out after baring one’s soul repeatedly.
Slocum adds, “I think what changes is who I am and what's going on in my life, and where my skill set is, or even what I'm obsessing over. Like, there's a lot of droney stuff on the album that is sort of buried. And that's because I got obsessed with making ambient soundscapes at one point.
With Brave Faces Everyone, the band turned inwards as McAulay and Dietrich self-produced the LP. For No Joy, Spanish Love Songs recruited a pair of powerhouse professionals, with the group teaming up with Collin Pastore (Lucy Dacus, Julien Baker, Illuminati Hotties) and Carlos de la Garza (Paramore, M83, Best Coast) on mixing duties.
Working with Pastore was perfect, as he lived in the same city as Slocum – in Nashville. The band were ready to work with someone new after historically working on production in-house. “We wanted to find somebody we could work with rather than going to a big capital “P” producer, who would tell us what to do,” Slocum laughs.
“We wanted somebody who wanted to collaborate and sort of join the band for some time,” the Losers singer explains. “Collin and I met up at some point in 2021 and chatted, and I was like, ‘Oh, this guy is a friend now.’ He comes from a completely different world, and I think that was great because we wanted to do our version of an indie album, and he wanted to do his version of a big loud, rock band album, like, a big punk band album.” And so, No Joy became an experimental mid-way point.
McAuley recruited de la Garza after working alongside him as an engineering assistant on Paramore’s latest album, This Is Why.
“Carlos is amazing. He would send us his interpretation of what he's going for – sometimes they lined up, and other times he's like, ‘Oh, I thought you might want that, but I didn't want to overstep.’ He was great in terms of collaborating,” Slocum says.
For Spanish Love Songs, it’s important that they work with people who don’t have an ego. “I never want to be the smartest person, but I also want to work with people… it's such a weird way of saying we really don't want to work with any assholes,” Slocum laughs. “I think that's the biggest thing. We just want to work with nice people who are down to goof around and get something done because it's music, right? It's supposed to be fun and rewarding.”
“Technically, I started this band ten years ago, which is insane,” Slocum exclaims. It’s been less time that Spanish Love Songs have operated as a serious, full-time band – that’s closer to five years – but it’s still wild for Slocum to think about.
According to Slocum, Spanish Love Songs started as a gag – getting this serious for so long wasn’t part of the plan.
“It [the band] was a joke that we started because we broke up [with partners], and we're like, ‘I have the song bars; we want to get free drinks on the weekends [laughs].’ And now we're in Australia with a fourth album that's come out that sounds like a really different band and like a band that I would listen to if I discovered them, that I'm interested in, which is weird.”
He continues, “Historically, we’ve made music I might not like – maybe it's just me judging myself, but I wouldn't love all of our past songs.”
Slocum says that the Australian shows so far have been “properly insane”. When I ask what he means by that, I assume crazier than expected mosh pits or something of that ilk. When Slocum answers, it’s humbling to hear that Australian audiences offer something greater than a viral moment.
“The people in Australia… they're very into the music, singing very loudly,” he explains. “Sometimes, we run into an issue depending on the market or the country where the audience doesn't [sing along]. It's not their fault; it's just how they engage with music. And so far, the audiences have been engaged in a way that I love.
“Yeah, [the shows have been] exceeding expectations – it’s been a ton of fun, and it’s nice to see a lot of people out,” Slocum continues.
Praising the Aussie audiences for their “mind-blowing” graciousness, Slocum adds, “I understand why [fans are so grateful], being so far away from everything, and not every band ever coming here. But for us, people tell us, ‘Thank you so much.’ And we're like, ‘Thank you. We wouldn't be here if you didn't want us to be here, so this is great.’
“We get to go around the world and play music – this is what we want. So, it's not a hard ask to for us to come over here.”
Spanish Love Songs’ Australian tour continues tonight in Brisbane before ending in Melbourne. No Joy will be released on Friday, 25 August, via Pure Noise Records. You can pre-order/pre-save the album here.
SATURDAY 19 AUGUST – THE SHAKING HAND, CANBERRA
SUNDAY 20 AUGUST - SIN OR SWIM HARBOUR CRUISE, SYDNEY
MONDAY 21 AUGUST - HAMILTON STATION HOTEL, NEWCASTLE
WEDNESDAY 23 AUGUST - VINNIES DIVE BAR, GOLD COAST
THURSDAY 24 AUGUST – THE OUTPOST BAR, BRISBANE (VENUE UPGRADE)
FRIDAY 25 AUGUST - STAY GOLD, MELBOURNE (SOLD OUT)
SATURDAY 26 AUGUST – STAY GOLD, MELBOURNE (MATINEE SHOW)
Last-minute tickets are available via Chop Dog Entertainment.