Strolling Down Cuba Street with the Love Experts

“The Love Experts” is such a great name for a band that it’s hard to believe no one’s used it before. But the moniker’s firmly affixed to the St. Louis quintet of Steve Carosello (the band’s lead singer and songwriter), Dominic Finocchio (guitar), Dave Collett (guitar), Steve Scariano (bass), and Bob Trammel (drums). Befitting such a fortuitous appellation, Carosello and his bandmates not only clearly love their rock, but play it with expertise, indeed—all of them having been involved in music professionally for many years. Cuba Street is their debut recording for Undertow, and the six-song EP is about as lean and no-nonsense a set of tunes as any fan could want—only two songs break the three-minute mark. The snappy title cut fairly leaps off the record; it’s played with such economy and self-assurance that you’d think these guys had been making records for years (a few of them have, actually, but not in this configuration). On “Lida’s Song” and “Can’t Tell You,” there’s a surprising tenderness and melodic strength in Carosello’s voice that bears just a hint of Roy Orbison; one might also recall the plaintive timbre of Dr. Hook’s “Sylvia’s Mother.” But in the decisively forward thrust of the music and the seamless blend of vocals and instruments, a stylistic corollary might be Dave Edmunds, whose records were always precisely arranged. There’s both familiarity and freshness in the sound, and in its brisk 16 minutes or so, Cuba Street conveys an upbeat vibe clearly reflecting its makers’ exuberance. Other than a psychedelic interlude on the delightful “Bright Red Carnation,” everything here is delivered in a quick burst—no artificial ingredients added.

The Love Experts seldom perform live, making one wonder about their overall ethos as a band. “We’re of the feeling that the pond is stocked,” Carosello explained. “I’d much rather someone mark their calendar in anticipation of our show than feel they could miss one, ’cause we’ll be playing again in a couple of weeks. I’m hoping that playing in other cities, though, will come up after this release.” It certainly should, as Cuba Street reflects an old-fashioned, deliver-the-melodic-goods approach that’s an endangered species in this tech-crazed age. Long-time fans of the band will view this release as a godsend. Perhaps a lyric from the catchy “Your Shining Hour” could sum up the sentiment: “It’s your shining hour/The one that you’ve been waiting for.” We solicited a few thoughts about the band from the genial Carosello.

Cuba Street is amazingly tight and free of self-indulgence; it just zips along, getting the job done straightforwardly. Is this economy of purpose an overall aesthetic, or was it just to do with this particular EP?

In choosing the songs, the intention was to provide a good cross-section of different styles and moods for the first-time listener. These were chosen from our set list to have a certain flow from beginning to end.

You guys have all lived and breathed music for many years from a variety of angles. How do you think knowing your rock so well affects the creative choices you make when recording?

Bryan Ferry has a lyric, “All styles served here,” which remains, for me, an admirable goal. When you have this kind of encyclopedic background as a resource, it hopefully gives you the kind of license to allow an endless degree of stylistic choices.

One thing many bands struggle to achieve is a good balance in their sound. Sometimes a vocalist is too overpowering and the instruments are diminished, or there’s a great guitarist but a weak vocalist. And a good rhythm section’s always important, yet some bands don’t deliver in that department. On Cuba Street, you do have that balance; every performer contributes equally and a lot of attention was obviously paid to the sound. Could you comment on how you achieved this?

I’ve always felt the first challenge in a creative leadership situation is to identify and apply the strengths provided by all participants. Everything needs to service the song itself, but taking any particular chord sequence and set of lyrics, the possibilities should be fairly infinite. Attempts are always being made to fine-tune things in ways that make the most of the particular strengths being brought to the table by those people.

Who are the musicians that are influences or heroes to you, or that you’d at least want to emulate in the way you perform and create music?

There’ve been so many that the best list will inadvertently omit several personal giants. People whose exceptional talent combined with real vision without borders, like Bryan Ferry, John Cale, Paul Simon, and Australia’s Phil Judd would be good examples, though you wouldn’t necessarily hear strong veins of specific influence in Love Experts music.

You wrote the songs and you’re the vocalist; it’s remarkable that you also produced Cuba Street. Was it difficult for you to wear the producer’s hat when you had so much creative energy already invested?

Every song is fairly well-formed in my imagination from the earliest stage. That’s not to say space isn’t provided for allowing the “happy accident” and other modifications springing from everyone else’s creative input. The shaping process is a particular favorite of mine, so I feel the producer’s hat never really comes off, except perhaps in live performance. In the studio it comes down more to editing and quality control to ensure that the goal of each song’s purpose and impact is met.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply