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Fabulous Flip Sides reflects on The Church with Matthew J. Tow of The Lovetones

The new album “Myriad” on Cleopatra Records from the Australian band The Lovetones captures the influences and sounds of The Church, The Go-Betweens, John Lennon, Julian Lennon, and ELO
Lovetones Myriad

GOLDMINE: I am loving listening to your new album Myriad. A musical influence that you have noted from your country is The Church. Their sole Top 40 hit here in the U.S. was their “Under the Milky Way” single with its moody and psychedelic flip side “Musk” which was not included on the quartet’s Starfish album.

MATTHEW J. TOW: When “Under the Milky Way” came out, I really got into the band. “Musk” may be about the the ancient Silk Road, where they would trade musk and make it into perfume. It is an interesting song, but not really like a lot of what is on the Starfish album. I think flip sides are a great place for bands to experiment and stretch themselves, exploring sounds that they may be more afraid to put on their albums, with the flip side being a bit more hidden. This recording has the mysticism and essence of that time in the late 1980s with bands here like them and The Go-Betweens.

Lovetones Church A
Lovetones Church flip

The Church

Flip side: Musk

A side: Under the Milky Way

Top 100 debut: April 9, 1988

Peak position: 24

Arista AS1-9673

GM: The first song I heard from The Go-Betweens was “Streets of Your Town” in the late 1980s and I was pleased to find the album on vinyl in a store in Cleveland. The first one I heard from your group was earlier this year, “About the Girl” from your new album. To me it has a Liverpool sound and I instantly thought of Julian Lennon with that song and then wanted to hear the entire album.

MT: I am a major Beatles fan, of course, and that is probably reflected in my music, but I don’t intentionally try to write something that will sound like that. It just comes out. When I was getting into The Church in the late 1980s, I also began listening to The Beatles. Before that I was listening to The Cure and The Smiths. In my prior band I worked with Russell Kilbey who is the brother of Steve Kilbey from The Church. When we were recording our album Steve was always hanging around. I had the chance to talk with Steve a bit and he also played a show acoustically once with The Lovetones. It is fascinating how it all comes around in a big circle.

GM: When The Electric Light Orchestra began, Jeff Lynne said that he was inspired by The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” and wanted a band based upon that one song. Then they expanded their sound. The beautiful finale from their Face the Music album called “One Summer Dream,” which also became the flip side of their “Mr. Blue Sky” single, is one that I am reminded of in listening to your music.

MT: That’s an amazing song. Thank you for that comparison. It does share a lot of the elements that we have in the band.

GM: I hear that in your song “Everything You’ve Ever Had.” I believe it is in 3/4 time, correct?

MT: Yes, we put a bit of a waltz time to it. I think that time signature works well with the lyrical content of this romantic song with a bittersweet element to it.

GM: It is rare that we hear 3/4 time and it is nice and refreshing. “Rescue” is catchy jangly pop, an approach that I enjoy from The Rembrandts.

MT: “Rescue” is one of the first songs that I wrote for this record. I am a huge R.E.M. fan and love their 1980s pop sound, so this one is succinct and gets to the point pretty quickly.

GM: “Modern Life is Killing Me” has a heavier sound, where I am reminded of John Lennon’s edgier recordings.

MT: When we play live I think the band is heavier than the recordings and we play pretty loud. Yet, this is still a pop song with hooks and chords, but heavier to suit the lyrics about throwing your hands up and feeling that this crazy life is all too much sometimes, with a desire for a break from the modern world.

GM: “Walk Away” has a wonderful message, which I also believe in, that you have to be true to yourself before you can be good to anybody else. I love the arrangement.

MT: Thank you. I worked a lot with Tim Kevin, who engineered and mixed the album. He has been in a lot of bands in Sydney and I have known him a long time so he certainly helped to create the atmosphere for this song and the album. Hopefully most people believe you’ve got to be true to yourself.

GM: What was the inspiration for “I’ll Never Be That Guy?”

MT: I had a little frustration creeping into my world at that time. I was fighting against being complacent and not compromising on your ideals. I think things were getting on top of me at that point. I’ve always tried to be true to my art although it may have been to the detriment of my career to not compromise.

GM: With that theme, it makes a lot of sense that you have ended the album with “Walk Away” and “I’ll Never Be That Guy” back to back.

MT: I think so, too. Trying to put tracks on a record, and in a decent order, can be quite difficult. I think that it is an art in itself at times but I think we got the mix right on this one.

GM: My wife Donna and I express our sympathies for the tremendous loss of wildlife in your country from the fires.

MT: Thank you both. Sydney was pretty isolated but if you travel sixty to ninety minutes from here, that is where the fires were. We lost millions and millions of wildlife and people in those areas lost their homes too. The land mass where the loss has taken place is bigger than some countries in Europe. Now you not only have people with no homes but with COVID we are being asked to isolate so it has been a double hit for them. No one knows yet how that area and the wildlife will bounce back. I think there are some species that were basically eradicated. We are hopeful that nature can bounce back but we just don’t know to what extent it will.

GM: When concerts return, what are your plans on sharing your music with audiences?

MT: We had a CD release show planned for July, but the booking agent has moved this to October due to the pandemic. We keep our Facebook page up to date with any concerts. It will be me on guitar and vocals, Liam Judson on lead guitar, Christopher Cobb on drums, and Matthew Sigley on bass and he also plays keyboards, switching between the two instruments live for our four piece band. In 2003, I toured in America and played guitar with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Then we got The Lovetones over to your country and we continued to tour a couple of times a year through 2010, mainly on the west coast with some shows on the east coast. We played in New York a couple of times. We have a real good community of friends on the west coast, L.A. in particular. In the U.S. we have also had Robert Campanella join us. He was also in The Brian Jonestown Massacre band and has also produced a couple of our records. Our record company, Cleopatra, wanted us to come over to America to support Myriad, but now we will see when that will be and it could be another year for Goldmine readers to see us. I am so glad that you love the record. I am just thankful that we had the time to talk a bit about it and I really appreciate that. All the best to you. It is lovely to meet you. Thank you mate.

The Lovetones, courtesy of Matthew J. Tow, center in the photo

The Lovetones, courtesy of Matthew J. Tow, center in the photo

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