Soundcheck: Yellow T-shirt.

Pre-gig interview: Nautical-looking horizontally striped long-sleeved top.

Gig: Dark shirt with white polka dots.

Keep your entourage, J.Lo; your floristry bills, Elton, and your rugby ball-sized diamonds, Missy Elliott. Truly authentic star quality is making three costume changes before you’ve even stepped on stage atthe Buffalo Bar.That’s right. The Buffalo Bar. As in living room-sized north London indie venue. As in capacity: enough to accommodate a medium-sized kids'birthday party.

Then again, to expect less from bubblegum punk megalomaniac Simon Love would be like asking Roman Abramovich to desist from being a multi-millionaire energy oligarch. It's just what he does.

Pennyblackmusic is not afraid to admit to feeling nervous meeting the Loves' notoriously perfectionist singer, songwriter and whip-cracker. This is the man whose battalion of sacked former bandmates number enough to form a Polyphonic Spree tribute band without having to recruit. And before he’s even walked through the door (an hour late – annoyingly due to heavy traffic rather than diva-fit reasons) his Freddy Krueger meets Pol Pot rep forms a shadowy welcoming committee.

Waiting at the venue, Loves bassist Danielle confirms matter of factly, "There’ve been 28 members of the Loves, including this line-up. Why? Because Simon’s such a nazi. I’ve known him for years and this is true: one New Year’s Eve we all went out and he smashed my head on a pavement..."

But before she can elaborate on this extreme management measure, Simon walks in and she legs it off to cart equipment in.

Soundcheck completed, Pennyblackmusic ushers Simon to the pub to explain himself. It soon, however, becomes clear he's sent an imposter in his place. This Simon Love emanates chilled-out calm as he quietly sips vodka and Coke. Surely the real Simon Love would be verbally eviscerating rivals, and band members current and past with the cruel precision of a newly sharpened ice pick by now.

"I’m not a very nice person. I don’t suffer fools gladly. I know how I want things to be. And I’m jealous of [fellow Cardiff scenesters] Los Campesinos !I got asked to help edit one of their videos and I said no."

…Aah. Our mistake.

Identity issues ‘bracingly’ quashed, Simon warms to the subject of disharmony by listing recent Loves spats: "There was a big hoo-ha when I caught Liz yawning in rehearsal. We had to sack our guitarist in February, and our drummer left about the same time. The guitarist put this great big rant about me on his MySpace page."

"I don’t know...[when new people join] it all starts really well and then it goes really bad really fast. But saying that, I don’t make any money doing this. I do it for fun. So if I’m not having any fun..."

Erm, we get the picture.

If you know anything of the Loves, chances are it’s down to their fizzbomb of a debut album, Love, released in 2004; their backstage dramas, or Simon’s‘Welsh Mark E Smith’ appellation. And, most probably, all three.

"They are," declares Danielle, "One man’s musical vision."

"I write all the songs," agrees Simon. "And I say how everything should be."

An incendiary mix of Madonna-esque ambition, messianic belief in pure pop, and a small nuclear device, Simon began his musical odyssey aged seven with the purchase of Ray Parker Jr’s 'Ghostbusters' on seven inch, and soon graduated on to his dad’s Beatles singles. Fast forward several years and he was treading water in "a band like The Spaceman Three – we were proper two-chord droning and we were really bad. We rehearsed for a year and we didn’t get any better. The height of our career was blowing an amp in a club."

In 2000 he had an epiphany and formed the Loves in his parents’ garage, with the intention of making as one the output of the Monkees and the Velvet Undergound.

"With the Loves we made a conscious decision to do everything quickly. We’d write a song one night then record it or play it at a gig the next day."

"Quickly" ? More like hyper speed.

Enthused, Simon sent a tape to BBC Wales, with instant success. "They must’ve liked it. They had to put it onto another format to play it on the radio." A record deal soon followed and, soon after, patronage from John Peel and acclaimed support dates with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. By early 2003 the band found themselves playing at the New York New Music Seminar with Meg White in the audience and the world at their feet.

"After the first album came out I was planning our first arena tour", remembers Simon.

"It’s been downhill since then."

While a hallowed indie-ocracy place exchanging drugs/groupie/tax exile anecdotes with his contemporaries seemed to beckon, fate aimed a stun gun at the band, paralysing them with incessant rows, constant line-up changes, and disastrous gigs.

"In 2004 this bloke came from the States to see us play in Cardiff," Simon recalls sheepishly. "I got really drunk, had an argument with [keyboardist] Liz and bashed my head on her microphone, so I had blood running down my face. Then I collapsed on an amp and a guy from the support band had to carry me back on stage. We only did six songs and I played one of them lying on the floor. Not one of my finest moments. No, the American wasn’t too impressed either."

Remaining defiantly out of step with music industry whim hasn’t helped. “When we started out everyone in Cardiff wanted to be a punk band or Radiohead. We were the only ones having a good time. Now everyone wants to be ‘real life’ like the Arctic Monkeys."

"We don’t play at the right places and we don’t hang out with the right people," he adds. "We won’t play with bands we don’t like. We can’t play Artrocker in London because we’re ‘too twee’. We can’t play How Does It Feel To Be Loved ? (London C86 night) because they say we’re too garagey. If the NME invented a nu-bubblegum movement we’d be there."

There are only so many soul-crushing lows even the most driven indie genius can take. Has giving up ever been an option?

"Sometimes. Every time you play to six people and they’re like [mimes yawning and polite applause] and there isn’t enough money to get home. Other people have mortgages and I still live with my parents. In my room I’ve got a computer and a Farfisa organ I bought off eBay. I’m surrounded by DVDs and CDs – it’s as if I’m walling myself in there." He laughs, "But when I moan about us not being successful yet the band just tell me off for complaining."

Simon admits sheer bloody-mindedness helps, and his talent for "getting drunk and annoying people" might have worked back-handedly in his favour. "I’m not giving up. I’ve upset too many people to quit. It’d give them too much pleasure."

The money is a factor, ("I got a £190 royalty payment from the PRS last year. I blew it all straight away.") And support comes from unconventional sources: "I work in a solicitor’s office in real life. I gave my boss one of our CDs on a Friday and he came in whistling one of the songs on the Monday. And my dad’s a hospital radio DJ, and he always plays our stuff on his programme: 'That’s my boy’s band...'"

Described as ‘living in a pop music bubble’ Simon has evangelical belief that nothing should be ruled out as a source of inspiration. "I love Busted and I really like McFly. I don’t like that term ‘guilty pleasures’. If you like something there’s a reason you like it. I bought a Davey Jones [former Monkees singer] solo album and it’s rubbish but he covers 'Any Old Iron' and 'It Ain’t Me Babe' and they’re brilliant. And ELO – I like ELO. Why are they a guilty pleasure?"

Magic-ing his ‘anything goes’ approach into the band’s summery, eclectic second CD, 'Technicolor', Simon has probably engineered his band’s second coming. The Sunday Times made it Album of the Week on its February release, and this sees them bubbling with confidence as they return to the studio this month to record their third album.

What’s inspired them this time around ?

"...Girls. Coca-Cola. Oh, and PJ Proby."

The 60s trouser-splitter? "Yeah. The lyrics are all lines from an autobiography I read about him."

The newly invigorated Loves go on the road to resume their campaign for our hearts and minds this autumn.

"We’ve got a new single out in September and then we’re going on tour in October. It’s our first proper tour and it’ll be exciting."

Plus, more importantly: "I’ll have an argument with everyone."

We wouldn’t want it any other way.












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