If you are a fan of the show “Rescue Me,” which airs Tuesday nights on FX, you know to expect the unexpected. A recent episode had the hapless crew of mixed-up macho men wrecking a supermarket to chase down an avocado thief. (They needed the avocados to make guacamole for their Mexican Night.) You also know to be on the lookout (or should that be “listen out?”) for some uncommon music on the show’s soundtrack, which, this season, featured a song by Phoenix-based quartet, The Love Me Nots, who appear at the Record Collector in Bordentown on Saturday, September 5.
“Break My Heart” was featured in an episode titled “Initiation.” Trying to summarize one of “Rescue Me’s” surreal scenes is difficult. Let’s just say the Love Me Nots’ music was heard as the lead character encountered his psycho mistress in a cheerleader’s outfit. Whoever puts the music together for the show has a taste for the edgy, stylish, independent, and loud — which is a very good way to describe the Love Me Nots.
Lead singer and keyboardist Nicole Laurenne just loves it loud, and wouldn’t have it any other way. “I have a great time with it,” she says in a phone interview from hot-but-not-humid Arizona. “The band is always so on and it makes it easy standing in front of all that sound. For one thing, you just dance naturally. It’s also an easy band to scream over since we’re so loud. I pour myself into it.”
The Love Me Nots’ September 5 appearance is an all-ages show that also features the Anabolics and Mondo Topless. It is interesting to look at the group’s schedule because humble Bordentown is wedged in there between the Love Me Nots’ big city gigs in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. But thanks to the enthusiasm of WTSR DJ and promoter Randy Now, who, for more than a year, has been booking some really cool bands at the store’s intimate performing space (co-owned by John and Sue Chrambanis), the Love Me Nots will take a side trip to the colonial-era town.
In fact, Laurenne says, Now has been singing the group’s praises almost since the Love Me Nots were founded in May, 2006. “Randy Now has been a huge fan of ours since the first album,” Laurenne says. “He interviewed us before anyone had ever heard of us. We’re so proud of Bordentown — Love Me Nots records are outselling Green Day at the Record Collector. Randy said, ‘you need to play for these people,’ and that’s why we’re coming, to thank the people who have been supporting us.”
The band, which also features Michael Johnny Walker on guitar and backup vocals, Kyle Rose Stokes on bass and backing vocals, and Bob Hoag on drums and percussion, is touring in part to promote their newest recording, “Upsidedown/Insideout,” to be released September 18 on the Love Me Nots’ own label, Atomic A Go Go Records. They are officially described as garage/rock/surf but you might also hear traces of girl-group vocals (tough girls, like the Ronettes), maybe a little Grace Slick or a darker Debbie Harry, mixed with a dose of ’60s proto-punk.
The group also acknowledges ’60s influences like the Animals, the Yardbirds, and the Seeds. Plus, modern stuff like Dead Kennedys, the White Stripes, and Detroit Cobras, Laurenne says. Smitten with a certain sound, the Love Me Nots sought out Jim Diamond — noted for producing the White Stripes and a number of indie rock performers — to work on their albums.
“We went looking for him and he agreed to do it, so we made the first two albums in Detroit (at Diamond’s Ghetto Recorders studio),” Laurenne says. “For the third album, we decided to bring him to Phoenix. He braved the heat and it was fantastic.”
Laurenne thinks their distinct sound comes, in part, from her collection of vintage organs and keyboards, the group’s mix of vintage-style instruments, all fed through twin-reverb amps. “You’ll see me in the video for ‘You’re Really Something’ playing a Vox Jaguar organ, made in the late ’60s, which has this huge, beautiful sound,” she says. “Onstage, I also use a Farfisa organ, which is made in Italy and has a unique sound. (Among other keyboards) Ray Manzarek from the Doors used a Farfisa.”
The Love Me Nots have also been noticed for their cool, fashionable look. It’s an updated mid-’60s “mod,” with the guys in skinny-leg-skinny-lapel suits and sunglasses and the women in feline mini-dresses, tights and boots, boots, boots. Laurenne says she probably has about 15 pairs of boots in every style, which may not be made for walking but seem to be perfect for performing.
‘I can really kick and play in them,” she says. “We can thank (guitarist) Michael for our look. He’s the artist in the band and really has an eye (for fashion). He had this whole ‘mod’ garage image in mind, which has served us really well. For the first album, we wore only black and white as a way to get attention. Our boots also got a lot of attention so it’s kind of become our thing.”
Laurenne wasn’t always a rock chick. She has been musically gifted since an early age, but her youthful talents were dedicated to classical music. She grew up outside of Chicago, the daughter of two scientists, who encouraged her to pursue classical piano. “I began to play seriously at age eight,” she says. “I practiced and performed everywhere, took master classes in the city, went to big summer music camps every year, all that. I also took part in a lot of competitions. I grew up on Mozart and Beethoven and was a latecomer to rock and roll. But it was a natural transition to rock, because, if you listen, the chord progressions that were used in classical music are now used in rock.
“My parents’ math/science thing didn’t feed into my music, although my dad played trumpet in dance bands in the ‘50s,” Laurenne says. “But they really supported me. (Guitarist) Michael doesn’t come from a musical family either, in fact, none of us do. We’re the first in our families to break the barrier and maybe that’s what drives us. The nice thing about rock is that you can create it. It’s not like classical where you listen to and play what other people have created.”
Laurenne was living in Phoenix and had a group of her own when Walker found her band on MySpace. He had his own band, the Sonic Thrills, but was also trying to start up a side project. “When he found me and wanted to meet, I was flabbergasted because I was a huge fan of his band,” she says. “Then he hand-picked everyone else he wanted. Our very first rehearsal was in May, 2006, and it’s been a great ride.” Walker also gave Laurenne a crash course in bluesy, gutsy garage rock from the ’60s, just immersed her in vinyl. “Michael sat me down, listened to my stuff, and said ‘I hear garage inklings in there,’” Laurenne says. “Then he played a bunch of records for me, including the Animals, and a light bulb went off in my head. In a few months, we were ready to go.
“Like I said, when I first heard those (garage rock) records from the ’60s, I thought, ‘this is what I should have been listening to, this is what I should be focusing on,’” she continues. “I love it and it speaks to me. I also love that the White Stripes and Detroit Cobras are bringing it back. It’s fun to trace the music from where it came.”
The Love Me Nots and the Anabolics, the Record Collector Store, 358 Farnsworth Avenue, Bordentown. Saturday, September 5, Doors open at 6 p.m. The Anabolics and Mondo Topless open. All-ages show. $10 in advance; $12 at the door. The Love Me Nots on the Web: www.myspace.com/luvmenots. www.the-record-collector.com.