Tina Sullivan, vocalist for Cincinnati’s Lovecrush 88, recently won the “Best Chili” award at the Southgate House Revival’s Super Bowl celebration for the third year in a row, making her an official one-woman chili cook-off dynasty. So it’s obvious that she knows something about what makes amazing football food — spice, some more spice, and some things that aren’t so nice.
This affinity for the down and dirty can be heard in Lovecrush 88’s mix of ’80s Goth, Hair Metal and good old fashioned Rock & Roll. Joined by guitarist Joel Spivey, bassist Nathan Bach and drummer Ryan Moore, Lovecrush 88 has assembled a sound that is hot in all the right ways. The band has hit the Cincinnati show circuit hard since forming last February and has already recorded and released a four-song EP. It’s been a whirlwind beginning for a band that initially formed to play a cover song.
“I started the band when the [local benefit concert] ’80s Pop Rocks show was rolling around last year because I wanted to perform a Siouxsie and the Banshees song and the band I was in would not do it,” Sullivan explains. “So I called Nathan and Joel and asked if they wanted to do a Siouxsie song … Joel has played with Ryan forever and he is a great drummer and we really liked playing together. So, after the ’80s show was over, I mentioned that we should work on some originals.”
Lovecrush 88’s members all come from different musical backgrounds and have wildly differing influences, but the similarities between them are what make up the band’s base sound.
“Some of the most common ground is mid-to-late ’80s British Alternative music. The Cure, The Cult, Siouxsie and the Banshees, a little bit of The Smiths,” Spivey says.
“For the most part, we’re ’80s kids so we all like the same ’80s things,” Sullivan adds.
These mutual influences are great, but simply aping the ’80s best and weirdest bands is a one-way ticket to being nothing but a cover band. Which is why the band uses its musical differences to fuel the writing process, as well as several chili-enhanced debates before practice and writing sessions even begin.
“It’s not really that much fun to be playing with people that all have the same favorite band because you’re not going to come up with something unique,” Moore says.
In the end, Lovecrush 88’s output is an ever-evolving mash-up of everything the members love, cutting out the filler of some genres and transplanting the strengths of others. Sullivan’s voice has an ethereal but earnest quality that evokes ’80s Goth staples while Spivey and Bach’s raging guitar and rumbling bass attack a listener’s ears like Scylla and Charybdis. Moore’s drumming is consistently versatile due to his innate ability to hear where a song is headed and mold his playing to match the developing tone.
This constant fluctuation is evident on the band’s recently released EP. The tracks chronicle a journey through a broken relationship, beginning with the realization of “Going Nowhere Man,” then moving to the warning shot of “Time’s Ticking Away” and the blow up in “Outta My Hands” before culminating in the post-breakup rebound of “Sugar.” The final track epitomizes Lovecrush 88’s ability to morph its sound to the mood the musicians want to create. What starts off as a much softer song develops into a sultry, gritty, Southern Rock-influenced banger that would sound right at home on a strip club’s speaker system.
The band members attribute their flexibility to their accumulated experience playing music through the years. They’ve been doing it a long time and they know how to handle trends. Namely, by completely ignore them.
“We’re not even really trying to sound relevant,” Bach says. “We’re just playing what we want to play. Because of all our different styles meshing together, it’s putting out something new.”
“One benefit of not being 22 is that I don’t really care. At 22, you’re worried about fitting into whatever it is that you’re trying to fit into. At this age, it’s cool because we can just play and we’ve been lucky in that people like what we’re playing,” Spivey says.
What all of this adds up to is a band that’s spent a year constantly growing, changing and honing its work at a fever pitch; even the group’s recently completed promo shots are outdated because of the band’s ever-changing looks. Lovecrush 88 has assembled a sound that hearkens back to classic rockers while injecting new elements to avoid a stale reproduction of influences, putting together a stable of songs that are much like Sullivan’s chili — scorching but irresistible.
LOVECRUSH 88 plays with The Ataris at Newport's Southgate House Revival on April 5. Find more on the band here .