Brent Loveday of Reno Divorce: "Originality is the evolution of influence"
Karsten R. Schäfer Reno Divorce at Rock N Ink, Chemnitz, Germany
Reno Divorce (due tomorrow night at the Marquis Theater) began in the middle '90s when frontman and guitarist Brent Loveday founded the outfit while still living in Orlando, Florida. Some early, glowing press came the way of the band's 7-inch. But it wasn't until Loveday relocated to Denver and discovered a place he felt like he could live that things began rolling. Since then, the guys have been on a handful of tours and shared the stage with many of their heroes. The band's surprisingly earnest, but never pretentious, combination of melodic punk and roots rock, peppered with something a little more aggressive, has resonated with fans across a relatively broad spectrum of musical taste.
This fall, Reno Divorce will release Lover's Leap. If you've caught any of the outfit's recent performances, you already know that the songs going on that album have a rare emotional poignancy that is more than just honest -- it's poetic. We recently spoke with Loveday about the band's history, his run-ins with his heroes and the way Reno Divorce seems to transcend its obvious influences, not just in the music but in lyrics that go deeper than rock often does these days.
Westword: When did you start Reno Divorce?
Brent Loveday: I started Reno Divorce in Orlando, Florida in 1996. It went for a couple of years, and we had a seven inch on Skank & Skull Records. It just kind of fizzled out. Of course the band fizzled out right at the time this stellar review in Flipside came out. I couldn't believe it. I moved to California, and I'm sitting in this shitty apartment in Tustin, you know, and Maximum gave it a pretty good one. Compared it to Jason and the Scorchers, which is great. Tex and the Horseheads. So I was stoked about that, and thought, "Man, I can't believe the band is broken up." Then I opened up Flipside and...it's probably still on our website. It was the greatest review I've ever gotten.
When did you decide to come to Colorado?
In California, I couldn't get nothing going. My in-laws moved to Las Vegas, and my son moved with his mom to Colorado. So basically when we were in California, we were just going back and forth to Colorado. Vegas was closer. We tried that for a year, and finally, I went, "You know what? It's the same thing; we just keep going for birthdays, Halloween, every holiday. Let's move to Denver." It turned out to be the best decision of my entire life.
Our first apartment was Capitol Hill. Then we lived in Congress Park, then Mayfair and now Park Hill. We moved here in 2001. Two months into it, the original guitarist from Reno lived here, and then we found a drummer and a bass player, and it started rolling pretty quick. Maybe within six months our debut album, which was supposed to be a demo, Naysayers and Yesmen, ended up getting four "Ks" in Kerrang! It was a pretty wild ride in the beginning.
Speaking of that, you opened for Wire on September 6, 2002. How did that happen?
You remember the Wire show?! Yeah, I put in for that show, man. I love Wire. They came to the Bluebird. This was when we were starting to get a little momentum. Not much. We were still playing a lot of East Colfax bullshit. We got that gig, and we thought it would be huge. Sold out. We got there, and those guys were totally cool. But maybe a hundred people showed up. Go figure. You never what's going to be hot and what's not.
You had a different bass player at that time, right?
We had Seth Evans. He was this mastermind, phenomenal bass player. He was one of these dudes where you play with them and think, "Why is this dude playing in my band?" He's really good. We did a European tour with him and two U.S. tours, and finally, it was too much for him. He and his girlfriend had a kid and it was too exhausting.
How did you get hooked up with a European tour at that time as a relatively new band around here?
We were relatively new. You know All? I'm a huge All dork, right. And Scott Reynolds was in my favorite era of All. He had a new band called the Pavers. When I heard them, it was like Scott's All writing, but his band was AC/DC. It blew my mind, and I totally obsessed over that band. It was one of the few records I ordered from the record shop. A buddy of mine lived in Chicago, and he was a stock broker, but he still dabbled in music, and he said, "I'm going to get you on a tour. This record's too hot; you've got to get out there." Naysayers hadn't been properly released, and we were just burning CDs. So I said, "This is the band, the Pavers. If you can get me on a tour with Scott and those cats? It's all over."
Two months later, the guitar player from the Pavers' wife called -- my friend had emailed them or whatever -- and she said, "We need a support band. How about a U.S. tour?" We did the Midwest from Buffalo all the way through. The tour went well and both bands were great. So Scott had a record deal thing going on with Boss Tuneage Records in London, and he passed it on. The guy said, "Hey, Scott recommended you. I'll put this out."
He had so many releases, even big independent bands and obscure indie rock stuff, and Kerrang! gave us that review, and he said, "You guys have got to come out and support the record." The guy from Boss Tuneage, he kind of got out of the record businesses. He had too many releases and he only focused on a few bands and we weren't one of them. So we got the rights back to it, and Street Anthem wanted to put it out with bonus tracks.
Where did you go on that tour?
It was a lot of Germany, a lot of Belgium, some Holland. Our band was cut short a few dates because my dad had a stroke, and I had to cruise back to the States. But it was a good tour, and to this day, people who saw us on that rough tour still come and see us.
When you came to Denver, what were your impressions?
I tell you what, my geography, in general, is awful. I don't know what I thought of Denver. I thought it was fucking Cincinnati or something. Just a run down, steel mill town. Which is the opposite of what it was. The first impression my wife and I had was based on our staying with our guitar player in Aurora out in the sticks. So we thought it sucked. My son was staying in Arvada, so we would go there. It was like one end of the spectrum to the other.
Then I went down to get my haircut on 13th Street, and I thought it was a cool town then. It was a cool barbershop. Aces or something. Next to Cricket on the Hill. The chick had a cool spot with cool posters up, and she was spouting off about all these cool bands, and I thought, "It has potential. It wouldn't be the end of the world if we had to live here."
The first band I saw was The Volts. They blew my mind. I also saw Fast Action Revolver; they were great. Brian Hagman was in that band. I saw them at a warehouse punk show -- the kind that's always teetering on whether the cops would come or if a fight would break out. That nervous energy was in the air, which made it even cooler. I guess it was a legitimate venue, but it was kind of a dive, maybe the Raven or the Roxy. A lot of bands were playing but those were the ones that stuck out.
The first venue that Reno Divorce played was something like Herman's Hideaway on a Wednesday. Our drummer knew someone, but he didn't know about punkers, and we got there and we were playing to our wives and girlfriends. But the last time we played Herman's, we had an almost sold out gig, so that kind of felt validating. If you get the punkers to come and see you at Herman's, it means a lot.
Our CD release show for Naysayers was at the 15th St. Tavern. People trip on, "We'll never play the Gothic or the Bluebird." And you get in there and go, "Oh, it's cool; we're playing here." The Tavern, for me, was that caliber a stage. Even though it was a shitty place off 15th and it smells awful, it was so legit and so authentic. It was what I was aiming for, and to have our CD release show was incredible.
Did you ever play shows with King Rat?
Do you remember the Undead in Denver compilations? Our first gig with them was the CD release for that at the Bluebird. When that came out, punk was the hottest thing in Denver. It did a lot for Denver. Even when Undead II came out, it was still great. What was really cool, we would tour and we would take these compilations with us to sell as merch. People in Hanover, Germany, would hear these Denver bands and get turned on to them. On a national and even the international level, it was good for everybody.
Obviously you've had out releases since Naysayers.
Well, we had Naysayers and Yesmen, You're Only Making It Worse, we did an EP called Laugh Now, Cry Later -- those two ultimately got combined. Then we did our biggest release, Tears Before Breakfast, on Ice Cream Records, and now we have one in the can called Lover's Leap. It's just a matter of waiting on the business end of things. I can honestly say it's our best release to date. It was mixed and mastered at the Blasting Room, all done by Jason Livermore. It will probably be out in September. I think People Like You Records will put it out in Europe and maybe Rusty Knuckles in the States.
You just got back from Europe two days ago?
We were gone I think 31 days, and we played twenty-nine shows.
That's like Black Flag scheduling!
It was, dude. If you look at the routing on the map, it's like a pentagram, right?
Dukowski, did you book this tour?
For real. It was harrowing; there were a lot of long drives, a lot of Friday nights with forty people and Wednesday nights with four thousand. It was just weird. Extreme highs and extreme lows. That's the way it should be. We did a lot of Germany, which is, of course, where our market is. We did the Czech Republic, we did Budapest, then we went over to France, Belgium, Holland and Italy. We got as far as Rome to about ten people. Not a big punk scene in Rome. We also did Milan. We did Poland, Warsaw.
And Zlotow, which was probably one of the craziest gigs we've ever played. Just people crammed into a small, underground space. The guitar player was picked up second song and crowd surfed through an entire song, right? The ceilings weren't much taller than here in the basement. My best guitar solo, I was picked up, unplugged. But it was great, totally cool people. We stayed in a four-star hotel. Then you go to Berlin and play for four thousand people on a Tuesday and you stay in a hostel. It's rock and roll, man. You get what you get.
We supported 7 Seconds on a few shows and Lars Fredericksen's new band, the Old Firm Casuals. But most of the dates we headlined. The Berlin date was a festival that was the first of May festival. We headlined our stage in Kreuzberg. We're the last band to play and it's starting to get dark. We look at the street and we start playing and all these people come out.
Berlin seems good for lots of different kinds of music. Cindy Wonderful lives there now, and she's a hip-hop artist. And Alexander Hacke of Einsturzende Neubauten and his wife Danielle de Picciotto lived there for years.
What kind of music is that? Industrial? Our guitarist is a big fan of industrial music and all of that, and we always bust his balls. We played a gig in Budapest, and in the dressing room is a poster for Xymox, and they're looking so industrial, but Xymox had played the venue, you know? Did you ever get into Christian Death?
Before we left on this tour, we played a gig with Rikk Agnew in Sioux City, Iowa.
Was it with The Adolescents? Just kidding.
It's crazy, he got a band from Omaha, and they played mostly Adolescents tunes, and he played guitar and sang a little bit. But he was selling Christian Death shirts at the venue.