Photo by Scott Trojan
Stove is a band with a sound that you can’t quite nail down. Their latest release, Toad In The Rain has a sound very different from their debut album, Is Stupider. Steve Hartlett, of Ovlov fame, recorded the initial album entirely on his own. Is Stupider relied heavily on loud guitar riffs, lots of distortion and a loud-quiet dynamic reminiscent of bands like Dinosaur Jr..Initially the project was really a continuation of Hartlett’s band Ovlov. In fact, the songs on the first album were initially meant to be Ovlov songs. On this new EP, a clear distinction is felt. Stove is no longer Ovlov with a new moniker.Each band has now come forward with their own clear sound and musical identity. And with both bands continuing to play, that’s an important distinction.This EP is filled with a lot more melody, less heaviness and many more layers.Not quite pop, but certainly headed in a direction where melody and catchiness are key.This doesn’t mean you won’t hear guitar heavy songs at all, just an evolution of the band as a whole. The complexity of the sound doesn’t really hit you at first, even though the beauty of it most certainly does. The EP is very aesthetically pleasing from first listen, but the layers of the songs and how finely crafted they really are, take a few plays.
Steve Hartlett is no longer crafting these songs alone. The band is clearly a collaboration of all its members. Mike Hammond Jr., Alex Molini and Jordyn Blakely all bring nuances of sound to the band that make it stronger.While the initial vision and the lyrics are still the work of Hartlett, a truly gifted lyricist, the difference in this album may be how beautifully this bands works together as a cohesive unit. Giving up full control of a band when you are used to calling all of the shots can’t be easy. But Hartlett seems to have found a group of people who not only see his vision , but add to it in ways he probably never imagined before.
On this EP there is a fine tuning of each song that makes them sound more grown up and more defined. A melding of musical ideas that can only come from maturity and the willingness to work hard until the exact sound you are looking for is captured. While Is Stupider had a story to tell, it got its point across with a wall of sound that washed over you like a tidal wave. In Toad in the Rain, the approach is more subtle, but just as strong.The range of this band has evolved ten fold over the course of such a short period of time.
Stand outs on this album include the acoustic guitar laden Dumb Phone, in which Hartlett harmonizes beautifully with Jordyn Blakely, and Tiny Gaze, where unexpected blazing guitars show up after the first verse. While these songs are my favorites, there isn’t a bad song in the bunch. It’s really a great EP, and one that makes you really look forward to what this band will be bringing us in the future. Take a listen. You won’t regret it.
J. Tell me about your influences as a band. I used to hear a lot of Dinosaur Jr. in your older stuff. Are they a big influence on you?
S.H. Yes, certainly they were in the beginning with Ovlov. Definitely melodically, not so much aesthetically. I was into being as loud as possible at the time. I have a broad spectrum. I really love a band called Disco Doom from Switzerland right now.
J. How about you, Mike? I know your Dad was in the hardcore bands 76% Uncertain and CIA. Did his music have a big influence on you?
M.H. He would take me to whatever shows I wanted to see. Until I was about 14 , he showed me all of the bands that I listened to and then after that we would go back and forth. We’d show each other stuff. But any of the bands who have ever played the Anthrax club ( A punk club that was located in Stamford and then Norwalk, CT in the 80’s) are in my discography. Stuff I listened to. There are a bunch of bands that I liked that I later found out My Dad played shows with. I remember going to see Sebadoh and and they started talking about CIA. I had to go up and talk to Lou Barlow after. It was cool. So yeah, that stuff was an influence.
J. Tell me about the writing process for the new EP.
S.H.: I’ve been writing a lot of the new Stove stuff with Alex on piano. It’s the first time I’ve ever written that way and its kind of changing the aesthetic of it. I wouldn’t even be able to identify what I’m trying to sound like, but Alex is sort of just layering over what I would do. We are working together really well as a unit.
J. Ovlov broke up, but you are back together. Are you planning on keeping both bands together? How is that working?
S.H. Yes, we just got back after an Ovlov tour which was immediately after a Stove tour. I guess for now I’m trying to keep them equal. Work on them equally
J. Steve, your lyrics are really good. Where do you get your inspiration? Do you feel you’re growing as a songwriter?
S.H. I guess from everything bad that’s ever happened to me. Which sounds stupid, because compared to other people they are really just first world problems. I feel like I don’t put a lot of thought into the writing process and then I go back and re-read them and realize some of them are really nice. I’m in a place where I think my songwriting might have been better in the past. Especially with old Ovlov stuff. I don’t want to let fans down. I want them to be able to hear what they want to hear.Change is inevitable, though. I guess the songwriting will always continue to change.
J. What are your goals? And when you write a song how do you decide which band it will be for?
S.H. I’ve been writing. I’ll stay at Alex’s place in Brooklyn for a few days and we try to do at least a song a day. We just keep playing. I don’t even decide which band they are going to go with until they are totally finished. It’s getting easier. Each band has more of a clear identity now. The last batch we wrote, we knew immediately which band each song was for.
There have been songs that I originally thought would be for one band, but after we begin working on them, so much can change with a guitar line and a vocal melody. Once you keep working on it you are sometimes surprised that it turns out completely differently than you originally expected. We really experiment a lot with changing things up. Sometimes we will remove the guitar, or add piano, just continually mixing things up and layering until we get the sound we want. Stove is the first band that we use demos as a tool. We usedemos to better things and sometimes change them up completely.
Our music has grown. For a while I was trying to stick to just 2 guitars and drums because all the band I looked up to were like that, but I don’t know. It’s changing.Realizing how much more you can do. Why would you just limit yourself.
Stove will be playing at Shea Stadium on October 27.
Ovlov will be playing on 10/6 at The Space in Hamden, CT and 10/7 at Middle East In Cambridge, MA
Both bands can be found on Soundcloud and Spotify.