The Lovemakers - Shake That Ass

by Stephaine Witherspoon

The Lovemakers’ music is infinitely danceable and catchy. I should know. I just spent fourteen hours listening to the same track, yet still find it in my heart to shake my ass whenever I hear the opening beats. In fact, I can almost hear them now– or maybe they never stopped–whatever the case, it’s those first few bars with the steady thump, thump, thump and Lisa Light’s high, breathy promise of: “you can have my love, take my body” that makes me want to down three cocktails and go right out and screw something.

Yes, A Fine Tooth can put another notch on our Gucci belts, because we’ve just outfitted the Lovemakers for their new video and as a bonus they’ve asked us to participate as one of the extra “make-out” couples.

The shoot starts at 11:00 am at the Café du Nord, a basement bar and music venue where the band played most of their early shows. The place has a Victorian saloon, red crushed velvet, isn’t-it-too-bad- they-banned-smoking type of atmosphere, but if you can pass a hipster pop quiz and are at all versed in the S.F. music scene then you already know this.

The day is harshly lit, doors flung open to reveal the black pit of the awaiting club. It gives everyone standing outside a dazed, hung-over appearance as if they’d partied all evening and suddenly found themselves on the sidewalk to smoke a last cigarette and appraise each other in the critical light. Which fits in nicely with what Lisa said earlier of her onstage look: “It’s kind of drunken starlet on a yacht that’s lost part of her outfit…the morning after.” Already the other couples are corking Champagne bottles and sipping 40oz micro-brews to get in the mood. When I ask where I should be, if I need another change of clothes, if they’re ready for us in hair and make-up, etcetera, Scott Blonde, lead singer, informs me to relax, “We’re all going to be here a very long time.”

The director, Victor Solomon, Vic Panic, or V, as he’s known, is shooting the video as one of the two final projects for his senior thesis at SFSU. You wouldn’t know it from the set. An impressive amount of equipment and techies stand about. V moves economically from group to group giving quick directives within a flash of gestures. His shirt’s askew, sleeves rolled and you can feel his mind winding in finely calibrated circles. He seems wonderfully arrogant; you’d think he’d done this for years. When I ask him what his second project is he says, “Don’t know yet, one thing at a time.”

The video concept is nice and simple, like a little black dress. The Lovemakers are onstage playing to a packed house. Their performance is an aphrodisiac and people start pairing off and gettin’ down on the pool table, the stairwell, the dance floor. Lisa and Scott dance within an inch of their lives and taunt each other with each line in a consummate show of sexual tension, while Josh nails the drums and Jason holds it all down in synthesized bliss behind that gorgeous Mahogany Moog of his. Hot, people, very hot.

The vibe is what people have come to expect from the band’s live shows. They are a good time, a kind of revved up Human League for the new millennium. The band started when then couple Scott and Lisa were kicked out of their old band and joined forces in 2002 with drummer Josh Kilbourn and charming Manchester import Jason Proctor. Jason’s full of delightful quotes like: “cat’s aren’t really sleeping, they’re just contributing their mind to the global intelligence– at least that’s what their P.R. people say,” or, “Braveheart’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show of Scottish history.” He’s pictured as the voyeur in the background of most of the band’s photos, giving the impression that there are only three people in the band, but it’s more like he’s the group’s conscience, chronicling the couple’s, i.e. the band’s, performance.

The live shows contain plenty of make-out sessions, even now after Lisa and Scott’s breakup, which you’d think would be awkward, but they seem perfectly at ease as do their new significant others. It gives everyone in the audience a chance to play the voyeur and the way Scott and Lisa shake it, with Scott’s hips moving like a reinvented Iggy Pop, it’s scintillating. But what else would you expect from a Stanford marine biologist/classical violinist, and homegrown Vermont boy?

By mid-afternoon the crew’s moved through most of the couples’ make-out scenes. It’s, in keeping with the theme of voyeurism, turned into a type of porno set with everyone standing around to watch, clapping after a particularly passionate display. When it’s our turn we’re instructed to sit in the lit stair well. You can’t see anything once in place, just a blinding light surrounded by darkness. I have to cover my eyes and speak out to the disembodied voices, “Is this ok?” V pops in and repositions an arm or strand of hair then disappears through a hole in the air. I move through the rather awkward motions of sucking James’ thumb while a disquieting hum of lights and eyes overlook…someone coughs. “Cut.” “Shoot it again.” “No, that’s good. It’s hot.”

I watch the other couples on the monitor and visualize it coming together. When they start shooting the band it looks, real. MTV real. Big budget, high definition real. And it is. It was just done for almost no money. Café du Nord has offered the space (which typically isn’t cheap) for free, V is doing this for graduate credit, the other couples are all friends, the equipment is pretty much free, our services gratis, yet everyone is benefitting.

Call it the favor economy, guerilla marketing, the San Francisco way, or just lucky, but it seems to be the new standard. Especially in the music industry where labels no longer give huge advances to signed bands hoping they’ll work it off in record sales. Now many bands are profiting through significant tour and merchandise contracts before they’re signed, and after they’re signed this is still often the main source of income. The Lovemakers are making this video in the hopes their Label, Interscope, will like it enough to step up distribution–where the real money comes in.

Josh talks about the label execs with us, “They are exactly as you’d expect. You think to yourself, ‘No, it’s not really going to be like that’ and then it is. A great story: we’re playing this show at this L.A. club and the place is past its prime so nobody’s there except for industry people. The crowd is awful, but the label likes us and takes us out to dinner and drops eight hundred or so bucks. It’s like, dude, get us better gigs for that money.” The band was recently approached by a well known clothing company asking for merchandizing rights, which given the company’s notoriety could have been a perfect arrangement; but it would have blocked the band from selling merchandise anywhere else, so they declined the offer. “We decided to take our chances.” Add this type of risky behavior to the venerable “sex, drugs and rock’n'roll,” and you’ll have a new picture of what it’s like to make music in the 21st century.

It’s late in the evening. The crowd that waited over an hour to be in the video has come and gone. The band is on its twentieth take of the onstage scene each time giving the same output of megawatt energy. There’s even blood on the ring we gave Josh from banging it against his drumsticks! At the final take it’s 1:30 in the morning. V looks to his main camera man, “Is it a wrap?” “Yeah, I think, it looks good, but you know I’m highly critical.” We, as part of a much-diminished crowd, have been watching the monitor for the last hour: It looks incredible.

Within minutes, Lisa is throwing her heels and micro-minis back into a giant suitcase, her petite body bending with the strain of closing the case. She has to work in the morning, early in the morning, at a restaurant in Oakland where she waits tables. As someone who’s worked as a waitress for many years the thought of getting up and engaging in that activity right now makes me want to regress back into the womb indefinitely. She seems unfazed. Jason, too, has a day job for an Internet security company, securing bank accounts and the like. (BTW those new measures Bank of America recently implemented–still, not enough.) We talk of a time when all the artists and musicians will run the world and we can all quit our day jobs; then we laugh. “When the revolution comes they won’t know whether to shoot me or make me President,” he says, in that posh accent of his. “Damn his varied interests!”

But artistic endeavors are sometimes best when fit into the margins of life and then, if you’re lucky–or maybe just if you’re living in San Francisco, where people seem to be able to tell a good fight from a bad one—others will notice and help out, with their cameras, their clothes, their tongues, and ass shaking and, together, all our little personal vessels will rise.

Viva la Revolution! But before you grab your ipods and charge the hill like “a pink Ferrari driving through a mountain of coke” (the best anonymous description of The Lovemakers’ sound ever), check out the video.

RELEASED Apr 14, 2006:

More Lovemakers photos by Xavier Gomez.

Production Stills for Shake That Ass by Paul Yem.