Leo of Brooklyn’s retro-feelin’ rock ‘n’ roll band offers a track-by-track breakdown of the debut album, which documents six years of growing up and making art in NYC
In most cases, a city is simply where things happen.
Cincinnati can serve as a setting and Baltimore can definitely be a backdrop. I’m sure LA is a lovely environment and Miami surely makes for a solid mise en scène.
But New York City… well, it’s not just a place. It’s a protagonist. Especially in the case of All You Need is Lovechild, the debut album from (you guessed it!) Lovechild. The band’s brand-new release continues down the path of their 2021 single “Costume Boxes”—a product of “25 years of watching this city unfurl little by little each and every day”—and puts NYC at front and center, positioning it not just the where but also the who, what, when, why and how.
“I write about New York a lot,” Leo Lovechild (née Leo Liebeskind) says in the documentary that the band released alongside the record, further detailed below. “I feel like it becomes a character in everything I write. It’s hard not to write all about New York City when you’ve lived here pretty much your whole life.”
Of course, there are other themes present in the album as well: the always-relatable exploration of youth, love, loss, heartbreak and the pursuit of happiness that you want in a record, adorned with imagery, wrapped up in metaphors and enhanced with the occasional slacker-slung “bullshit” or “fuck it”—all effective linguistic tools befitting of a 27 (1/2)-year-old pot-smokin’, rock-‘n’-rollin, Columbia-educated poet and NYC native. Leo dives into some of these themes below, but first, a word on the album as a whole. Shortly following the record’s release, Leo shared a little bit about the band’s origin story—a project born and grown in his native NYC over the past half-dozen years—as well as the artist’s hopes for his eponymous band and the original song that started it all.
“All You Need is Lovechild is the sound and the story of what I can only hope will go down one day as the first chapter in the Lovechild epic, or something like that but less self-indulgent. When I was 19, I wrote this song called ‘Hats Off’ that I was extremely hyped about, pretty much decided then and there to drop out of college and come home to New York City to follow my musical heart and start a rock and roll band. I met Aaron [Mones] and Wyatt [Mones] about a year or so later at Muchmore’s when there were still DIY shows in Williamsburg. I could try to explain the next 6 years of my life that I spent playing and recording my songs with my best friends while coping with young adulthood in New York, or you could just listen to the album.”
I recommend you just do that. From Lovechild, this is All You Need is Lovechild.
While an album may serve as a time capsule, Lovechild’s sound is one that feels timeless, and the ideas explored in the songs—from doomed romances to city struggles, feeling low to getting high—are equally eternal. Shortly after the record’s release, Leo offered some thoughts on the nine tracks that together form All You Need is Lovechild and told us a bit about how the trio worked together to bring them to life.
All You Need is Lovechild —TRACK BY TRACK:
This is the song that birthed the band and the one that’s been with us for our whole young adult lives making music together. Basically, I wrote “Hats Off” when I was 19, still at college in Ohio. I more or less finished the song and then made the decision to leave school after my sophomore year and instead come home to New York and play music. I met Aaron and Wyatt about a year and half after that at Muchmore’s in Williamsburg, and we’ve been doing our best to play it loud ever since.
“Baby, Won’t You Pass Me the Light?”
“I wrote this song on the 2 train, then the 14th street tunnel between 6th Ave and 7th Ave, and then the F train. I had just started seeing someone whom I could tell I shared something special with, but I also knew it was a relationship that was doomed from the start. We did a great job getting high together though for a few months.”
“I was sitting in an old living room with my good friend and ex-roommate Pat Robinson, reading an article about murder rates in various American cities. I guess the article listed the neighborhoods in New York that had top 3 murder rates in 2015 for some reason, and I saw ‘Ocean Hill’ on the list. As a lifelong New Yorker, I was obviously a bit thrown by the fact that I didn’t know where this place was. So, I looked it up and lo and behold learned that ‘Ocean Hill’ was the name of sub-neighborhood at the end of Bed Stuy, tucked into a corner bordering the starts of East New York and Brownsville, but the name fell out of fashion and it just became Bed Stuy at a certain point. It happens to be where my then girlfriend was at the time. Pat said, “You should write a song that goes ‘I went to see my girl down in Ocean Hill,’ and so the song was born. Soon, a coffee shop opened in the area and gentrification came in swiftly and suddenly Ocean Hill was popping up in property listings again.”
“This one is dedicated to anyone who’s ever stood on a roof and looked out at their city and thought about the struggle. It’s a love song to New York.”
“Probably my favorite song on the album, and the song that we had the most fun and cohesive and collaborative recording process on. Everyone was able to be in their element with this song: Wyatt as the genius producer that he is, Aaron as someone who’s just goddamn amazing at playing anything with strings, and me getting to just be a songwriter.”
[Sam’s note: Watch the video, which premiered on BdBK, here!]
“Know That You Love Me”
“We actually had no intention of putting this song on the record. We thought the album was finished, and then I recorded this one day thinking it would just scratch tracks for a demo. I showed it to Wyatt and he loved it, so it went somewhere very fast.”
“Originally ’73’ was a kind of standard somewhat punky, angsty breakup song. We liked it that way and it was fun to play live like that, but when we took it into the studio, Aaron had the idea to scale things back a little and turn it into a more psychedelic, less genre-defined song. I love the wild and frenetic energy we were able to capture on the recording.”
“A lot of the songs on this album started one way and ended up sounding very different by the end of the recording process, but none more so than ‘Happiness.’ It was always a song that relied on the emotional content of the lyrics and several extreme and sudden dynamic shifts to get its point across, but it went from being a kind of wonky take on an Elliot Smith song when I wrote it to being the song that we wanted all our influences from the Stones and the Beatles all the way to Frank Ocean to come together and shine as one piece of music.”
Along with the album, the band released the aforementioned doc entitled Driving With Leo, filmed by the band’s longtime collaborator Jack Tumen (director of photography for the “Costume Boxes” video), which follows Leo cruising through the city streets.
In terms of style, think Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee but it’s just one musician talking, toking, breaking the occasional traffic law and chatting about the city, the industry and what he’s hoping to accomplish with his art—all while eating cookies and driving up to the Cloisters. At around seven minutes, the video is easy, enjoyable and well worth the watch (you really feel like you’re sitting in the car with Leo), but I still want to share a few quotes from the film that seem to sum up the ethos of Lovechild and capture, in Leo’s own words and what appears to be unscripted fashion, what the project is all about:
On his purpose as a musician:
“I guess I’d like to teach people that life is tough, it’s okay. Try to insert your personal life into the discussion on that, ya know. And hoping it means something. I’m not claiming to be an expert on world peace or anything. I’m just trying to be a songwriter. I guess what I’m trying to teach people is something about the ups and downs and intricacies of getting through each and every fucking day… I think the best art is art you can always learn from in another new way.”
On living in NYC as an artist:
“I think New York is better than most places because there’s no boundaries as far as being an artist when you live in New York.”
On the quintessentially rock-star search for eternal youth:
“The effort to stay young never dies. That’s probably the main thing about rock ’n’ roll: trying to stay young.”
While looking for parking:
“Oh fuckkkkk, that’s a spot.”
Pure fucking poetry. Do yourself a favor and listen to Lovechild’s new album—a 33-minute love letter to a city we love so much—now. A romance with New York is never gonna be an easy one, but I think as people (you/me/them) who have chosen to live and love and try and fail and make things and break things and and fall down and fall in love and do the whole damn being-a-human-being thing here, we can all agree that here we’ll take the lows to feel the highs and that the risks are very, very much worth the rewards.
Plus occasionally, as a bonus, we get some really, really great art out of it.
Feature image provided by the band.