Before Sub-Pop reached out to the Lobo regarding LVL Up’s show at Santa Fe’s illustrious Meow Wolf exhibition, I was admittedly blind to what I agreed to. LVL UP? An apathetic lo-fi indie rock band from New York comprised of two guitarists, a bassist, and a drummer? With the name LVL UP.
Really breaking new ground here boys.
And for the record, they break new ground like an old banana breaks into concrete. However, I’d be remiss in saying that I didn’t enjoy their music, concert, and conversation.
The group formed in 2011 but signed to Sub-Pop around summer of last year. Since then the group released their third studio album, first on the label, entitled “Return to Love.” And since THEN they’ve been on a relentless quest to promote it. This entailed a solid performance at Meow Wolf earlier in March, with the help of art-rock band Palm.
And the group threw down, very much through my skepticism, with driving drum beats, deadpan lyrics and songs that grew to healthy explosions that hit the crowd’s taste buds like candy to a fourth grader.
“This is the weirdest venue we’ve ever played guys. It’s cool”
A quote from every artist I’ve heard play at Meow Wolf.
LVL UP is very much an “in-the-moment” kind of band. I listened to all their material countless times before the show/interview, and I still can’t divulge the name of 95% of their tracks. There’s no room to think or read too deeply into the music.
Which shouldn’t, and doesn’t, detract from the vibe. They held a much more energetic concert than their openers, and the audience received them much more openly as well. I want to believe this scene has no more room for quirky common-time indie rock bands but LVL UP proved me wrong and looked really cool doing it.
It’s because “Return to Love” is a pretty decent album. An ode to everything Neutral Milk Hotel stood for back in the hey-day, I love the feel of their slightly-too-much-distortion sound on everything: from the guitars to the vocals, to probably their shoes. The tactic has become a genre in itself; it sounds like they set up a few mics in a living room and just let it rip. There’s something to respect about that level of, I suppose, realness.
Personally, I found the treat of this show to be LVL UP’s opener band, Palm. Despite how much I physically grooved to LVL UP’s songs, Palm blew me away with their intricate time changes and lullaby melodies. The way the lost themselves in their own music was outstanding, and they set the stage so well for their headliner. Palm handled the thinking, LVL UP handled the feeling. A worthwhile combination.
And LVL UP held out. Between the vague lyrics, jump beats and their preference of using distortion in a manner not so aggressive, it was a solid show. Their performance of “Pain,” in particular, was righteous and in tandem with the Meow Wolf environment, inspired the audience to freak out on the floor.
Guitarist-vocalist Mike Caridi and bassist Nick Corbo were nice enough to answer some quick questions after the show.
DL: Where’d you get the band name LVL UP?
Caridi: It’s just a bad idea. That’s it. Have you ever had to name a band? It sucks. It sucks on a minor scale in the beginning, and then you invest more time into it and then all of the sudden you’re trapped with that decision.
DL: So, name change?
Corbo: It’s too late I think. But if we had to change the name, we probably can’t think of anything better.
DL: What's the background of the band?
Corbo: We’ve been playing for 5, 6 years now. Since 2011. We’re from purchase new york, tri state area. SUNY Purchase College in Westchester
DL: I bet the scene in new york is so awesome
Corbo: I don’t know what to compare it to really. I want to know about the scenes elsewhere, because it’s very saturated in New York - all kinds of music, all entertainment stuff. It’s a crazy thing. I want to be one of those bands from like, middle of nowhere. Asheville north carolina perhaps
DL: Hows the tour going?
Caridi: It’s been great so far. Definitely our most successful tour to date. We just got here from Las Vegas, the nevada one not the New Mexico one. We started in New york and made our way around the whole country. After this is SXSW for 3 days. Only 3, not the whole 7.
Corbo: My body would perish.
DL: How is subpop treating you guys? Have you met clipping?
Caridi: It’s been amazing. They’ve been super supportive and allow us to do whatever we do - offering more resources and what not. They’re artist friendly, it feels like family.
Corbo: We haven’t really met anybody, except like staff and crew. Some smaller bands too. Up in Seattle.
DL: You guys knew about Palm beforehand?
Caridi: Definitely. They put out a record on a label we used to work with, exploding in sound. We’ve played with them 2 or three times before this.
DL: With “Return…” released, anything else in the works?
Corbo: Yeah that was our first on subpop. We’re writing right now, their will definitely be another. Looking forward to get on it after the tour.
LVL UP will continue their tour over in Europe in April. Check out their material on Bandcamp as well as all music streaming outlets
Audrin Baghaie is the music editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @DailyLoboMusic