– by Kim Hughes (Canadian Musician described her as "one of the best-known music radio personalities in Canada and the Toronto Star referred to her as "one of the Toronto pop-music industry's most respected and influential figures". Widely known for her work at 102.1 The Edge (CFNY-FM) in Toronto, Ontario, Hughes is seen in the industry as an unusually intelligent interviewer, and was credited for introducing to wider audiences bands that did not neatly fit into her radio station's format.)
Founded and steered since… well… forever by singer/rhythm guitarist Shane Hooper, lead guitarist Dexter Nash, and bassist Noah O’Neil, Lovers Touch has coalesced into a powerhouse with the recent addition of drummer Andrew Taylor and keyboardist, trumpeter and vocalist Sam Lewis, all left coast natives determined to conquer from their newly adopted perch in Canada’s cultural capital.
“This Is an Arrangement” is the first in a series of dazzling self-produced singles/videos — see also “Dancing Like a Man,” “Nine to Five,” “I Need It.” Given the band’s swaggering, accessible yet utterly un-pigeonhole-able falsetto-goosed sound, dispersing new music one single at a time is perhaps the best way to acclimate fans to this game-changing aural assault.
And yes, as guitarist Nash confirms with a chuckle, “tongue in cheek” is very much part of his band’s playbook. “Rock and roll is kind of silly in the best sense,” Nash says. “We take our music seriously but not ourselves.”
“Much of the material we’ve written over the years began in a rehearsal space in my parent’s basement that we called the ‘Jamroom’ where myself, Dexter and Noah would assemble after school or on weekends to just start playing,” offers Hooper of his band’s creative process, which flourished during their high school days.
And those exceedingly hip parents with a dedicated jam space in their house!? Tom Hooper of folk-rock stars The Grapes of Wrath and Suzanne Little of indie-rock darlings Lava Hay. Jamroom, meanwhile, lives on as the handle of a boutique imprint (“More of a collective really,” Nash says) run by Lovers Touch with Shane’s brother Owen Hooper and currently also hosting emerging acts Mouth Breather, Pleasure Craft, and Blessings from Montreal, and Toronto.
Hooper continues: “Now that we are in Toronto and don’t have the jam space, our song writing tends to happen in a more traditional way though the arrangements are always the hardest thing to get right. But it’s definitely collaborative and it’s a democracy. We don’t really have a leader. When we welcomed our two newest members we also welcomed their opinions. Now, when I listen back to our early EPs (recorded when the band was a trio), I find them charming. But they also show just how far we’ve come in our song writing and musicianship.”
While it may be convenient to classify Lovers Touch as a musical throwback, the idea is really more about “reviving a style that maybe isn’t around so much anymore while fully embracing new music.
“Bread singer David Gates is one of my all-time favourite vocalists,” Hooper says. “When I say that to people of my parent’s generation they kind of laugh it off, dismissing the music as cookie-cutter. When I listen to it, I think it’s amazing. Gates really inspired me to work on my falsetto. And I would fully expect to find Lovers Touch filed in record stores alongside bands like Bread and America and maybe Hall & Oates who also seem very hip in retrospect.”
Like their influences, the band members’ back stories are unique which may help explain the stylistic breadth of their sound. Witness the Haircut 100-reminiscent, thwackety-thwack pulse of second single “Dancing Like a Man” (one of their oldest tunes) and the synth-fuelled, knock-kneed splendour of chiming pop gem “I Need It,” planned as the third single and a vivid sonic snapshot of the newly minted five-piece right now.
And those extraordinary back stories? Hooper’s first solo album, Orange Honey, was a national finalist in the esteemed CBC Searchlight contest. Released in 2014 while he was still in high school, it featured Nash, O’Neil, dad Tom and uncle Chris Hooper. Nash, meanwhile, grew up in a film family; mom Elizabeth Yake served as producer on 2004 cult hit It's All Gone Pete Tong among many others. “And she may direct a Lovers Touch video in the future,” Nash confirms.
Finally, Nash and O’Neil ditched the first semester of grade 11 to bicycle across Canada. “We convinced our school we could do schoolwork and journal on the road, so we biked from Salt Spring Island to Marathon, ON, the northernmost point of Lake Superior near Thunder Bay,” O’Neil recalls with a laugh. “Where we come from, that sort of thing is encouraged and seen as educational.”
Distil all those experiences, and what emerges is inventive, highly lyrical, and wholly original contemporary pop/rock that’s indebted to the past but also miles beyond it. The band’s electrifying live shows aren’t too shabby, either.
“The music should stand alone but we are also just buddies doing our thing and having fun,” says Nash. “The live show is always going to be different than the recordings and the new recordings are always going to be different than the old ones. People should expect change from us all the time.”
“We are very collaborative and because of that, we hit on many different genres,” O’Neil adds. “The hope is that people will appreciate a song rather than be, ‘Oh, Lovers Touch sound like this!’”
“We’re not going to be confined to one era of music,” Hooper says, citing Chicago garage-rock maulers Twin Peaks as kindred spirits. “The hope is that we can be successful in getting others interested in the kind of rock that interested us growing up, and still interests us today; stuff that can be broadly described as ‘dad rock.’”
– Kim Hughes