by Roman Mitz, Open Spaces
If you think the name Lovelocks has a sense of permanence to it, you’d be right on the money. Comprised of best friends Ali Raney on fiddles and vocals, and Zoe Neumann on acoustic guitar and vocals, the duo has deep roots and a bond that has taken them from singing in local churches to the point where they have just released their solid second EP, ‘Born To Love’. A love lock, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a padlock which sweethearts lock to a bridge, fence, gate, or similar public fixture to symbolize their love. For Ali and Zoe, the catchphrase goes well beyond that.
“Ali and I have been friends for over 10 years,” says Zoe, locked on the telephone line with Ali from their respective Toronto-area digs. “We met singing at various community events at the same church and we would always get the comment that we sound like sisters, the way our voices blend. We were drawn to each other as musical partners to create and perform music together. There was no real intention of creating a country band but it very quickly snowballed into something that we could never have imagined. Our name is inspired by the love lock phenomenon and the way it symbolizes commitment to love. That’s what you hear throughout our music, as we sing about all facets of love.”
What started the momentum for the Lovelocks snowball was a crowd-funding campaign that has raised over $65,000 to date and lead directly to the creation of their first self-titled EP as well as their latest offering. Ali acknowledges that “we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for those people who stepped forward in the beginning to support us”. It’s not difficult to understand why folks would be eager to jump on the bandwagon when you listen to the title track of Born To Love, as Ali’s signature fiddle and the song’s driving rhythm hook you right away.
“Both Zoe and I grew up playing the fiddle,” Ali begins. “We played classically and eventually transitioned into country music. When we started the band it was obvious to include the fiddle and Zoe was interested in exploring the acoustic guitar so we kind of played off of each other which made for an interesting contrast.
“What actually came out of us was a rootsier approach to country music”, Zoe chimes in. “Our goal is to make that sound as accessible as possible in order for us to get out onto the airwaves. It’s a constant line we’re walking of trying to stay true to who we are, but also being accessible enough to be heard on the radio. It’s been a journey for us to find that space.”
The second single from the EP, Home Sweet Home, is quickly heading up the Canadian country charts, becoming the band’s biggest single in the process. You’ll find yourself humming the song’s chorus before it’s over due to its memorable melody, and this may be attributed to the duo’s song creation process where they will start with a hook and build the song from there. They’re extremely proud of the fact that six of the EP’s seven songs are Lovelocks co-writes.
“We love writing as much as possible so that our collective voices are represented within the album,” Ali says. “We get pitched songs constantly but there’s something very special about songs that you write from your own personal experience. One of our co-writers, Travis Wood, brought in the original chorus idea for Home Sweet Home, and as soon as we heard it we knew he had something. We spent the next three or four hours crafting it and I remember leaving that night thinking that we had hit the mark and that people would be able to connect with the song.”
While the album is full of originals, Zoe and Ali are certainly not averse to throwing in a few cover songs when they are on stage. At their CD release party in Toronto they performed a lively version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, and a little later in the set they covered Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” which somehow segued from pseudo disco into a full assault bluegrass breakdown. For Zoe and Ali the key is taking a cover song that they both enjoy and putting their stamp on it.
“We also like to pull in some current pop covers as it’s a nice way to bridge the gap between our new fans that don’t know us.” Ali explains. “We’ve created a new verb saying that we like to Lovelock things to put a different spin on numbers. It’s our kind of take on the music. We do what we can to keep rooted in the history of country music, and at the same time we try to pull in some new sounds and make them true to our sound.”
One of Zoe and Ali’s original songs that didn’t make it onto the album is the rip snortin’ “Call The Doctor”, a swampy blues work-out that had the males at the CD release party waving their beer bottles in the air. The female contingent had their say with “I Do Not”, a song from the new CD in which Zoe defiantly tells her man ‘You think I need you and want you? I do not’. By song’s end it had turned into something of a giant singalong.
“I Do Not is a song that we had a lot of fun writing,” Ali recalls. It doesn’t necessarily speak to our current love situation with our respective partners but before that we definitely had a story to tell, being young women who were dating. I think there’s something universal for all women, and men for that matter, about being disrespected and being screwed around by the wrong person. There’s something kind of tongue-in-cheek and funny about that collective experience. So yeah, a lot of women tend to love that song and we get a lot of whoops and hollers.”
After working up the crowd with the foregoing numbers it came as somewhat of a surprise that The Lovelocks returned for an encore in which they showcased the moving ballad “‘Lovely”, the final track on the album. Zoe and Ali both consider the song to be somewhat of a gamble in a live setting, but it was something that they just had to do.
“”It is a bit of a risk to play such a stripped down song in larger venues.” Zoe says. “But it’s such an important song to us on the album in terms of an expression of true love. It’s the one song that shows the heart of us and the heart of our project. A number of people have told us how much they’ve been touched by it so it’s something we try and include.”
Speaking of love and hearts, the band will be embarking on a tour in April and then playing some festival dates in the summer, but that will have to wait until Zoe ties the knot, which brings to mind the obvious question. Will there be a love lock involved?
“Maybe so,” Zoe laughs. “My fiancé and I are going to Italy for our honeymoon so I have a feeling that we’re going to be finding ourselves a bridge with some love locks in honour of our moment.”
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