Members of the Love Animals insist that they're not lovelorn stalkers. But the group's debut EP, Reckless Holiday, ended up being all about obsessive love.
"It's indirectly a concept about someone being obsessed with another person," explains Steve Gaskell, who plays guitar and sings lead vocals in the band. "Pretty much every song is from the point of the stalker."
The band's favorite effort from the EP is the title track, which has a sense of doom, rolling into some inevitable cataclysm. With a strong beat and churning guitars, the EP makes for a nice road mix.
Gaskell says he the group doesn't generally go in for concept albums. A fan of true crime shows like Forensic Files, Gaskell got the idea to craft some theme songs and pitched it to the rest of the group. Drummer Brenton Smith said it was an easy sell.
"We all like horror movies," he says.
"It's kind of liberating to write something completely superficial," Gaskell adds. "I'm interested to see how other people interpret it."
The Love Animals formed in 2011 out of the ashes of two other local bands, the Shape and Mouth Movements. Joining Gaskell and Smith are Josh Holt (guitar and backing vocals) and David Brown (bass).
All of the members had been inactive musically for a few years before getting together. Their earlier efforts floundered as the members individually found their tastes changing.
"It got to the point where we were like, what are we doing?" Gaskell says. "Our influences have changed over time. That was the main factor in leaving one project and starting something new."
As the members have aged, they've found themselves more drawn to simplicity. "Before, we almost had this idea that we could do whatever we want, and construct a song of five or six parts and never come back to [any of them]," Gaskell says. "In reality, people want a catchy chord."
What does the name mean? None of the members are quite sure. They get likes on Facebook from animal rights groups. "People ask us all the time if we're animal-rights people," Brown says. "No, not really. It's just our name."
The songwriting efforts are very much a group effort, the band says. "I don't think we have any songs where one of us wrote a song and presented it to the band," Gaskell says. "They've been all group efforts."
"We'll come up with an idea and work on it together," Smith says. "Sometimes a random part of a song will turn into a song. We just try to have fun together."
Adds Gaskell, "I feel like we've learned through recording as the Love Animals—what we thought was a complete song changes in the studio."
As the band members have gotten older, they've grown to appreciate their hometown, as well as Pilot Light, the Old City club that has nurtured so many local bands.
"Knoxville is our home," Brown says. "It's like a huge family. There are so many bands here. Knoxville is a big part of where our music is from. There's a tight fit of friends first, bands second."
The group came to realize how special the place is after trying to book some out-of-town shows recently. Years ago, it was much easier to hook up with bands in a different city to arrange gigs.
"I remember being in these bands between 2002 and 2008, booking two-month-long tours in a few days," Gaskell says. "This time around, it took me two and a half months to book one week's worth of shows. ... I couldn't even get bands to respond to an e-mail, not even a ‘no'. But I see bands here reaching out and helping bands get shows all the time."