Southside Desire on analog recording, old-school retro, and Hymie's

Categories: Album Release
Photo by Nick Olson
It's always a little jarring to hear music that expresses an emotion you've been trying to put into words for so long. Minneapolis band Southside Desire's new album Songs to Love and Die To, does just that. It is a reflection of life, introspective in the sense that it projects one thing and makes you feel another. The songs manage to be endearingly emotional, yet measured in portions by someone who is cautious to let others in.

Gimme Noise spoke with lead singer and songwriter Marvel Devitt before the album release on Saturday on her take on the album and get her thoughts on the local music scene.

Band members: Marvel Devitt, Gloria Iacono, Jenny Hatfield Blonk, Damien Tank, Paul Puleo, Trevor Engelbrektson

Gimme Noise: A lot of music is pushing the limits and redefining genres these days. How do you feel the different musical backgrounds of the band contribute to the unique sound of Southside Desire? 

Marvel Devitt: Our histories are what make this band. Most of us come from musical families and have played together before. Trev's stepfather and my dad were in a band called the Strange Friends, and we both grew up listening to them. We were little kids who wanted to be rockers. Now we're married and carrying this legacy. It's wonderful and hilarious. 

I grew up across the alley from Gloria, and we started writing songs together when I was probably 15 or so, with her on guitar and me writing that sappy, teenaged stuff that is now both embarrassing and endearing to look back on. We've been playing together off and on since then. 

Trev and Damien have been playing in bands together since high school, too. Trev has always, always been in at least five bands. Bitch n' Brown, the Fillmores, the Bootstrap Family Band, Brown Moses, Neil Dynamite and the Heartlights -- he's nuts. Paul Puleo's been in Moonstone, Fortified Five, Knifeworld, and Your Loving Tiger, to name a few. Damien played with Paul in the Skinnys some years ago. More recently, Trevor, Damien, and Gloria were all in a band called the Running Scared. This is the first truly active band that either Jenny or I have been in, and the influence is all over the place. Some of us love punk rock, some of us would rather listen to '90s R&B or some delicious classic prog rock.

My siblings and I grew up watching my uncle's soul cover band play at outdoor festivals and go to see the full band perform Earth, Wind, and Fire songs and the like. It blew our minds, and I have deeply ingrained love of classic soul and disco because of it. I think that wide range of tastes and experiences in this band lends to keeping us fresh and different with less focus on one style. 

The girl group aspects of the music are spiked with some of the punk in us. The disco can float in and out, rhythm and blues from all eras can come together in our songs, while Paul's guitar will unpredictability blast from that framework and redefine it. The homage to those styles is there, but it's still modern. It's taking your past and weaving it with right now, making a unique thing with what you've come from.

What's the meaning behind the album title Songs to Love and Die To? 

We were almost done recording, and I was driving myself crazy trying to find the unifying essence to these songs. They sounded beautiful together, and I was sure that they belonged together to create this album, but I wanted to pick something that just said it, you know? I wanted the name to be the crown of this creation. Naming something can be so hard, because you're usually overthinking it.

I was taking a bath and singing to myself, obsessing over the nature of them, and it struck me that these songs are beyond being sentimental or emotional, intensely morbid. They were written during a time in my life that was dominated by an obsession with mortality. 

I also have a sick love of classic old record titles like "Hugo and the Whatnots Do the Cha Cha!" or "Songs to Tango the Night Away" -- brightly colored pictures on worn, old sleeves. It made sense to call it what it is, a throw back to that simple "Songs to" style and to replace the technicolor with darkness on our street. It's retro, but it's new, and it comes from right here. 

How did you meet your recording engineer, Mike Wisti, and how did you come to choosing him to work with on Songs?

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