‘Hidden Driver’, the opening track of LVL UP’s third album and Sub Pop debut Return to Love, never stops moving. What starts with unassuming guitars and vocals adds new lines, depths, and intensity, until its unrestrained, triumphant finish. “God is peeking, softly speaking,” repeats the chorus, working through the relationship between spirituality and creative inspiration, and introducing a band that is always pushing further.
The sound of their new record is marked by reverb, harmony and tape distortion, with a keen balance of pop and experimentation. Formed in 2011, LVL UP — guitarists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin — is a true collaboration, a band that takes the stylistically distinct ideas of four members and brings them together into something new. Caridi, Benton, and Corbo write and sing equally, bringing their work to the group to be fully realized, resulting in an album built on different perspectives but a common drive.
“We have very different inspirations across the board,” says Benton, noting his own admiration for the writer and documentarian Astra Taylor, Corbo’s interest in the mystical and the occult, and Caridi’s attention to personal storytelling. The music itself grows from a shared melodic and experimental sensibility, as well as a nod to iconic influences like Neutral Milk Hotel and Mount Eerie. But each songwriter has a different vision every step of the way, and there isn’t always alignment–it shouldn’t make sense, but in the end it does.
LVL UP play The Sunflower Lounge Birmingham on Sun 2nd April 2017, with support from Colour Me Wednesday, Grain Death and Spoort. Tickets available here.
Watch the video for ‘The Closing Door’ below: