Lovedrug has taken a novel approach to funding their upcoming album release. The Alt-Rock veterans have been sharing their distinctive sound for nearly a decade, but now they’re taking a creative new approach that re-defines Indie music. Michael Shepard, the engaging and talented front man stopped by the farm to share the I AM LOVEDRUG experience, as well as to chat about a few other things.
Cretin: So, before we get into the I am Lovedrug experience, can you explain the group’s name? I’ve heard that it is not a reference to an aphrodisiac, but more about your passion for creating music?
Michael Shepard: You’re correct. It’s funny, a lot people do think of it as we’re slinging ecstasy or something. That’s not really what our M.O. is. It was really a time when I had gone through a lot with my old band and decided to get out of the game and spend some time away from music. I realized it was something I couldn’t escape. My passion or whatever that inner desire is that exists in people when they have something they know they should be doing. It’s just something you can’t walk away from. The name is really derivative of that concept. The love for something sort of drags you along whether you want to or not.
Cretin: You guys went the major label route and had some ups and downs. Now, you’re taking a novel new approach with a Pledge Music campaign. How did you choose that route, is it something new?
Michael Shepard: I had never heard of the concept until a friend of mine went through a Kick Starter campaign to raise money to record her album. I thought it was really fantastic how the fans could get involved and help the artist. I thought it was a wonderful concept so we started doing research and found several sites that do a similar thing. Some are more geared toward businesses, others are for the arts. Kick starter is about anything you can imagine. Pledge is strictly music. The inner workings are a bit different and made the most sense for us and where we’re at.
Cretin: looking at the website, iamlovedrug.com, it looks like you had a great response to it.
Michael Shepard: We really did. It was above and beyond our expectations. We raised enough money to record our first album and everything that we were shooting for we got, and it was all thanks to the fans that pledged through that site. It worked 100% – more than 100%, we were ecstatic.
Cretin: I was looking over some of the things you did and some of them were off the wall. Answering machine messages, postcards from the road, standard stuff like autographs and liner notes, but then I saw you had an afternoon of bowling thrown in there. Where did those ideas come from?
Michael Shepard: Yeah, haha. Well some of them we thought up, and our manager was sort of cooking up some of those schemes. Bowling was mine because I love to bowl and thought what a better way to celebrate an afternoon than to hang out with someone who digs our music and go bowling.
Cretin: I thought that was out of the box – an awesome idea. Was there any one item greatly appreciated by the fans or that had a great response which really surprised you?
Michael Shepard: Well, yeah, the biggest response was for cover songs. We got so many requests for covers because it was not an astronomical price(it was only $150). It was something that if someone wanted to donate kind of above and beyond, but not crazy they could get this cover song option. We were shocked at how many responded to that. It was a challenge, because they would pick the song, we’d do it the way we do it, personalize it and send it to them. We got songs all over the map to cover which was a challenge to me personally, but a lot of fun, too. That’s why the tail end of all that we put together The Best of I Am Lovedrug CD which is actually just a compilation of some of those cover songs so that everyone could hear how they turned out. It was a lot of fun.
Cretin:You guys were offering videos at a reasonable price too weren’t you?
Michael Shepard: Yeah, that was another option we had. In retrospect we probably should’ve shortened it a little bit more just because of the amount of work that went into it we were shocked when we have tons and tons of cover songs to record, but it was worth it, at the end of the day it was all worth it.
Cretin: I was talking to Eric James of The Last Royals and I asked him what his favorite cover song ever was and he picked your cover of “Pure Imagination.” I first thought “someone covering Willy Wonka? That’s insane.” But it was really cool; you put your own spin on it, an interesting approach to the song.
Michael Shepard: Thank you, we really enjoyed doing that one. It was actually our guitar player’s brother who requested we do that one. It was sort of a little poke because Jeremy Gifford, our guitar player is a huge Willy Wonka fan – one of his favorite films of all times. So we were pretty excited to cover that one.
Cretin: During that whole event was there one song other than “Pure Imagination” that you really enjoyed recording for one reason or another.
Michael Shepard: Oddly I really liked the way “Nights In White Satin: turned out, we did that, too and it sort of pulled on my heart strings. I can’t even explain why. It just sounded a lot more melancholy than I meant it to sound, but very cool and is actually one of my favorites.
Cretin: That’s an interesting choice. I grew up with an uncle who is a huge Moody Blues fan so I listened to that music a lot when I was a kid. Is that cut on your The Best of I Am Lovedrug record?
Michael Shepard: Actually I don’t think it made it on there. There were a bunch we had to choose from and it was a collective choosing to figure what should go on and what shouldn’t. It didn’t quite make the cut, but it still remains my favorite.
Cretin: Very cool. I’ll definitely look for that. (I did look but could not find a copy anywhere, but there are a slew of very creative covers on the album). Going back to your approach on the forthcoming album; in the past you were with Columbia then before that you were with Militia Group but now you’re really on your own.
Michael Shepard: Yeah, we’re really doing everything ourselves. It’s us and our manager. It’s a lot different than when we started out.
Cretin: Different in a good way or bad way? I imagine it’s a bit of both?
Michael Shepard: It is a bit of both but mostly positive. I’d say 90% is positive actually just because there is no red tape. There is always a certain amount of waiting room effect. “OK, great you turned out a record now sit out here while we do our thing,” and things seem to get sort of lost in the cracks and its unfortunate but when you’re working completely independently like we are now there is more freedom to make decisions like we did to connect directly to fans and say “hey we want to make a record, we need your help or we want to cover a Moody Blues song and throw it up on the internet.” We can do these things and there are clever ways to propel ourselves. There’s a little bit of freedom that’s lost when you’re dealing with a label. It’s been a blessing honestly, maybe in disguise at first, but we really enjoy the freedom now.
Cretin: It has to be rejuvenating to go through that process and do what you think makes sense. It’s really all riding on you guys and your manager whether this album makes it and the album is successful.
Michael Shepard: Absolutely. Not that there was finger pointing before, but you only have yourself to blame. We know that if we’re giving 100 percent and working hard, there’s no way the ball’s going to get dropped unless we drop it. Really that whole concept is so indicative of where we are at right now as a band.
Cretin: A new approach?
Michael Shepard: Yeah, everything. We’ve been a band for ten years now, but at the same time, this feels like our first album. We feel like a new band, and that same energy is still there and I feel like it’s becoming even more intense and bubbling up like it used to when you first strapped on a guitar and start a band for the first time. That feeling can kind of wane, but fortunately for us, we’re at a point where we’ve rejuvenated ourselves.
Cretin: So, now that you’ve been doing this for ten years, any major shifts in the way you approach things?
Michael Shepard: There’s been a lot of changes. The way we approach writing is a lot more relaxed now. A lot of the pressure used to be on me, just because I was working with musicians that were hired to be on call and it wasn’t much of a band but more a solo thing, whereas now it’s way more of a collective effort. The group of guys in this band all put their equal input into the creative process and it makes for a much more enjoyable song in the end.
Cretin: Sounds like you’ve now got a band with a lot more passion about what they’re doing?
Michael Shepard: And it translates in all kinds of ways. It certainly translates live, because inevitably someone is just going to play more passionately when they had a part in the making of what you’re playing.
Cretin: So, I noticed “Pink Champagne” off of your recent EP will be on the new record. Are there any other songs we’ll be familiar with?
Michael Shepard: There will be a couple. The songs “Ladders” and “We Were Owls” were on the EPs and they made the record, and then there were a whole bunch that we hadn’t released that we wanted to save for the final album.
Cretin: Tell me about directing the video for Dinosaur, the first single from the new album.
Michael Shepard: I went to film school during my break from music. That video was a short story I had kicking around for awhile so I thought it would be fun to bring it to fruition via a Lovedrug video.
RARA’s Six Pack (six quick mindless questions):
Cretin: You grew up fairly close to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When you are inducted, who do you want making the induction speech?
Michael Shepard: If he’s still kicking around, Billy Corgan. I was a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan, One of the first bands I heard that really turned my world upside down.
Cretin: Your favorite cover tune?
Michael Shepard: That’s a tough one. One that always made me chuckle was The Deftones cover of Freebird. That was pretty hilarious and awesome.
Cretin: What’s your high score in bowling?
Michael Shepard: I’m very proud to say my high score was 269.
Cretin: Do you have a favorite city where you like to play?
Michael Shepard: I could name dozens that I love to play. The ones that stand out are Chicago, I love playing Chicago, and we always get fantastic responses playing in New York. And, actually Nashville which is one of the many reasons we moved here.
Cretin: Of all the bands you’ve toured with over the years, who left a lasting impression?
Michael Shepard: We’ve toured with some fantastic bands, and some not so fantastic bands, but we won’t name those. We got to play with The Killers a long time ago before they were big and that was cool. They were really nice guys.
Cretin: What’s your favorite roller coaster?
Michael Shepard: Probably still The Magnum at Cedar Point. Not the tallest one any more, but it scared the living shit out of me when I rode it.
Cretin: Thanks for visiting with us and best of luck with the album.
Michael Shepard: Thank you. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has helped us out and pledged along the way. I know it’s been a long process, but I wanted to thank everyone for their patience, and let them knwo the record is going to be out by March.