When was the last time a song really meant something to you? A song that could make you cry while still dancing in your bedroom to it? The new record from Spanish Love Songs does just that and is sure to satisfy anyone constantly chasing lyric sheets and snatching after bands who have weight and meaning to their music. The songs are sad, lovely, and, more importantly, they’re honest.
Having recently expanded to a five-piece with the addition of keyboardist Meredith Van Woert, the Los Angeles band are set to release their second full-length, Schmaltz, March 30 on A-F Records, and it sounds fuller than anything they’ve done in the past. “I’m constantly writing songs and hearing where different instruments could fill out the sound,” vocalist and guitarist Dylan Slocum explains. “It has allowed us to drop in a bunch of fun layers without throwing a wall of guitars at people. I think it gave us the leeway to take some risks as well, such as the album opener, ‘Nuevo,’ which was originally written for guitar and, then, switched to an organ in the studio.”
Schmaltz is like the audio version of an actual heart breaking; it carries intense emotion. Slocum says that the process of writing it was both cathartic and vulnerable. “I was in a pretty bleak place when I wrote a lot of these songs,” he reveals. “Writing them didn’t necessarily bring me out of it, but it did allow me to process some things that I might have otherwise avoided.” Moreover, he says that he tends to compartmentalize things, which makes it much easier to make art about his feelings.
When asked about his experiences performing such sad songs live, Slocum admits that it was difficult at first. “Each time I played a song about my divorce or something, I would just get bummed out,” he says, “but I think we’ve been doing this long enough now that I’m able to detach a little.” Though he still gets caught in the moment, he says it’s hard to be upset when he’s getting to do what he loves.
One of the tracks on Schmaltz, “Bellyache,” includes lyrics that exclaim, “I don’t think I can fix this if I found God.” The next line is about people who use a mix of drugs to get them through the rough patches of life. It hits on the myriad ways people have of coping, and Slocum says that while he grew up “casually going to church, then graduating to youth groups,” this song “is about wondering what I need to find to fix myself.”
Thus far, the reception for the new tracks has been a positive one—in particular, for “The Boy Considers His Haircut.” Slocum shares that “people seem to really dig that song and love shouting about Nazis stealing my hairstyle.”
Of late, Spanish Love Songs have been getting more and more comparisons to The Menzingers, and Slocum responds that he “thinks it’s accurate in that we’re pulling from the same musical pool [or] genre, writing about similar experiences, roughly the same age, and Greg [Barnett] and I apparently learned to sing by listening to the same people.” He goes on to say that every song he writes is another “attempt at figuring out how to be Bruce Springsteen,” but adds that the band’s “guiding force was to make something as cool and meaningful to us as some of our favorite records—the National’s High Violet, for example—but with our own style of songs. I think we came close to accomplishing that.”
A recent song that struck a chord with Slocum is Jeff Rosenstock’s “Melba” from his recent LP release, POST-. Slocum says the song’s second verse “just got to me for some reason.”
Moments like that are exactly why Spanish Love Songs just get to others on that same emotional level. For example, “Otis/Carl” is about Slocum’s departed grandfather and his love for Otis Redding. “It felt right to connect the two,” he admits, “since the memories of geeking out over the music—or the fact that I named my ‘78 Les Paul ‘Otis’—those will be the ones that stick with me.”
“Now—if someone cried during ‘Beer & NyQuil (Hold It Together),’ I would feel completely understood,” he jokes.
Some of the hardest songs for Slocum to write are those that require him to be earnest, he says. “I always feel the need to undercut things with humor or self-deprecation, or at least try to squeeze it into a catchy chorus,” he explains. “On Schmaltz, those songs tended to be the ones that required me to get honest about my mental state and the gloom that I felt was following me around.”
On top of that, he expounds that this is not a breakup record like their debut LP, 2015’s Giant Sings the Blues. “That was big for me, as I had definitely used telling stories about failed relationships as a crutch in songs,” Slocum reveals. Though this record is rife with lyrics about relationships, it’s not in the romantic sense.
After the release of Schmaltz at the end of March, Spanish Love Songs will embark on a six-week tour through North America and Europe in April and May.
Top photo by Alan Snodgrass
04/11 – Las Vegas, NV – Evel Pie
04/12 – Denver, CO – Streets Of London
04/13 – Kansas City, MO – The Rino
04/14 – Chicago, IL – Downstairs (At Sub-T)
04/15 – Kalamazoo, MI – Shakespeare’s Pub
04/16 – Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class
04/17 – Pittsburgh, PA – Cattivo
04/18 – Toronto, ON – Baby G
04/19 – Montreal, QC – L’esco
04/20 – Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie
04/21 – Brooklyn, NY – Cellar Lounge
04/22 – Boston, MA – O’Brien’s Pub
04/25 – Koln, DE – Stereo Wonderland
04/26 – Breda, NL – Claiming The Crown
04/27 – Munster, DE – Uncle M Fest
04/28 – Berlin, DE – Cassiopeia
04/29 – Braunschweig, DE – B58
04/30 – Hamburg, DE – Gangeviertel
05/01 – Prague, CZ – Rock Cafe
05/02 – Wiener Neustadt, AT – Triebwerk
05/03 – Burghausen, DE – Mathilda
05/04 – Montecchio, IT – La Mesa
05/05 – Zurich, CH – Obenuse Fest
05/06 – Koblenz, DE – Circus Maximus
05/07 – Bochum, DE – Rotunde
05/08 – Antwerp, BE – Boukenborgh
05/10 – Lancaster, PA – Lizard Lounge
05/11 – Washington, DC – The Pinch
05/12 – Charlotte, NC – Lunchbox Records
05/13 – Atlanta, GA – Masquerade
05/15 – Austin, TX – The Mohawk
05/16 – Dallas, TX – Three Links
05/18 – Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge
05/19 – San Diego, CA – La Escalera Fest
05/20 – Tijuana, MX – La Escalera Fest