Love Wagon Interview on Past, Present & Future18 July 2019 / by Demar Grant (author)
Project releases mark seminal moments for bands, especially when it’s the first one. Love Wagon doesn’t just play shows anymore it produces bodies of work, What Wagon is the first. That first project is a physical manifestation of everything the band is up until now and an indication of what’s to come. It’s the difference between doodling in your notebook to show to your friends and painting on canvas and putting it in an exhibit.
Love Wagon is a fun-loving group and if it isn’t obvious through their music it’s obvious when exchanging words with them. Even when watching them interact with each other, few words fly without joke interrupting them or laugh following them. Chemistry runs high between them which is a necessity when you play a sound that spans from lounge to psychedelic. You have to be able to joke with people who you've record nine-minute odysseys with in 'Get on the Love Wagon'.
Before Love Wagon dropped their EP, What Wagon, they played an EP release show at The Horseshoe Tavern. And just before that, we hit up Banh Mi Boys for dinner, a chat about the Love Wagon’s past, project creation, and future. For a band that's on the brink of achieving their biggest goal to date, Love Wagon is jovial when others would be brooding.
How long ago did the band start? I’ve heard two versions of this story.
John Abou Chacra: It started 4 years ago. We met at an open jam, us four, me, David, Mike and Max. Me and Max started going to open mics and we call up these dudes to join us because we knew they played drums and bass because of the open jam. Then Sam. Me and Sam were in Kuwait together, we grew up in Kuwait. And we played in a band there in Kuwait, and when he moved here, he joined.
When you guys formed, what were the early days of the band like? Were you playing gigs or just in a garage?
Max Swiderski: We were doing open mics for a while. There was this one open mic at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club, the owner there saw us and asked if we wanted to play a gig. So we played a couple of gigs there with just us four. And it was mostly just covers, The Beatles, The Doors, 60’s stuff-
Sam Ehsaei: Can we get past this part where I’m not in the band?
Max: Lots of Beatles. Once Sam joined the band, we started getting more psychedelic because we had the organ sound too. And then eventually we started writing originals and playing other places like The Horseshoe (Tavern).
How did you get the name Love Wagon?
John: They weren’t there. It was me and Max. We were going to the Ryerson open mic with my roommate and we were walking there because I lived close to campus. And my roommate saw a hippie van while we were still deciding what our band name should be for that night. He’s like “Oh look it’s a love wagon, you guys should play as Love Wagon”. I think that’s how it came. We were like “you know what, yeah, we’ll go on as Love Wagon” and then we tried a bunch of different band names after.
Which other band names are we talking about?
Michael Osztertag: The Truth.
Sam: Purple Meat Curtains.
Michael: Hairy Rag.
John: The Tambles, for one show. That was Max’s idea.
Michael: A lot of good band names are taken too. Like, we’d love to be The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, but those are taken.
You guys make really expansive songs-
Max: It’s like a universe really.
You make these huge songs, what do you ascribe the chemistry to, make them?
Michael: I think Walter White… Right? Chemistry?
Sam: I think it’s different for every song. Like ‘I just Want Your Love’, John just laid the whole thing on Logic and then showed up to a jam one day and was like “Hey I have this new song”. And everything was kinda done.
Sam: Almost, I mean there was still room to add our individual aspects. Some songs are more open ended and more like “I don’t have anything written for you guys, like, play what you want”. I say it varies, every song has space for everyone to do their own thing.
The saxophone is a staple to your sound, how does a band decide “you know what we’re gonna start featuring as a main part of our music? Saxophone.”
John: Saxophone? It’s an instrument I just picked up two and a half years ago. We didn’t have saxophone in the first half of Love Wagon. I was playing flute before that for a bit and I just love the sax and I got into jazz. So, I learned how to play the sax.
What happened to the flute?
John: I still play it sometimes. Sax fits our music a bit more, but we’ll probably will start adding a bit more flute in the future.
You guys have played gigs for four years and then you drop your first single in February 2018, then the first single for the EP three weeks ago and then you have the second one, ‘Naturally’ that came out very recently. Why was there such a large break between inception, the first single, and the next two for the EP?
David Matta: We went through a lot of songs. We’ve written a lot of songs. We could have had a full-length album, but we changed, or songs weren’t working so we’d slowly get rid of them from the setlist. These songs (on the EP) are the ones that have the most staying power.
John: Also, travel. Sometimes in the summer I travel for a couple months.
Sam: The sound that we have now is a sound that really only cemented itself a year and a half ago.
Max: All of our songs used to be ten minutes.
I was going to ask about the length of the songs, it’s gotten shorter?
Max: Now we’ve got three minute songs. Our tastes change to become a little more concise and a little more pop oriented.
The songs are long, they’re really long.
Michael: Yeah, they’re big boys.
John: On our EP the songs are shorter, they’re like four, five minutes.
In the streaming era the songs are typically shorter-
Michael: We tried! I tried a ten second song and it’s just so hard!
Sam: ‘Getting on the Love Wagon’ is like nine minutes but I think that’s our epic. It’s like this huge a piece of propaganda we play at our shows. We’re just like “Love Wagon!” we say it like 16 times in the song and get people to shout it.
John: Also, we like to solo so that extends songs a bit. Guitar solos, keys solos, sax solos, bass solos, drum solos.
What’s the biggest difference between recording and doing gigs for you guys?
David: I think there’s a bit of a learning curve. It took us a long time to record ‘Get on the Love Wagon’. It was us getting used to a studio environment versus the basement and the stage. Hearing ourselves very close is a big difference versus the basement or the stage, you don’t hear yourself back with that much detail. I feel like I learned a lot playing in the studio and I feel like we’ve gotten way better at performing because of the studio too.
How do you feel that What Wagon is finally ready?
Max: Really accomplished honestly, it’s been a long time coming. I feel like every gig that we’ve been playing without music put out for people to listen to after is a wasted opportunity. Because everyone always asks “Where can I hear you?” afterwards and we don’t have anything for them, but now we do.
You guys have done over 30 shows, The Mod Club, The Opera House, why did you choose to play The Horseshoe Tavern for the EP release?
Sam: We’ve played about three shows in a row at The Horseshoe and we get really good crowds, the sound is good, it’s a dope spot.
Michael: We really fill it nicely.
What’s next for Love Wagon now that the What Wagon is out?
Sam: We were talking a few days ago and David was talking about writing and recording new songs and I think that’s what’s next. We have our mindset on writing the new material and getting past this because we have been playing this music that we’re releasing for over a year. We got it now, it’s out there, let’s go, let’s move on to the next thing.
Do you have anything lined up at the moment?
David: September 6, the Rivoli (Pool Hall).
Michael: We have a music video coming out too, for ‘I just want your love’.
John: We did it over the weekend.
Michael: I think we all wanna be actors now too.
What was the music video like? You’ve never made on before.
Michael: We were very boyish. They just put a camera on us and said to be silly.
Sam: It was cool. It was our vision and our idea, and we had the whole thing planned out. It was very true to who we are and how we’re like silly boys. The people who helped us really helped facilitate the video.
Max: It was very scheduled and all of it done in three days.
Sam: Which we’re pretty bad at, we’re not very good at sitting down and saying, “Okay time to get to work”.
Michael: Yeah, it took us two years to record four songs.