My Dope Friends Do Dope Things: love+war’s Nine Lives

(love+war’s Ron Robinson and Coury Palermo)

Simply put, I have dope friends who do dope things as you will come to discover on my website every chance I get.  My longtime friend Coury Palermo’s band love+war (comprised of Coury and band partner Ron Robinson) most recently put out a project called Nine Lives. Knowing that we share a deep love for 80’s music, I was ecstatic to find out that it would be comprised of mostly 80’s and 90’s covers.  Songs include Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” featuring Angel Snow, a movingly soulful rendition of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”, and “When Doves Cry” featuring Melinda Doolittle (Please don’t ask me which song on the album is my favorite. It changes about every time I listen to it. Seriously).

Credit: love + war’s Twitter page at @lovepluswaroff

It is rare that I get the opportunity to be a part of the dope things that my dope friends create. So imagine how even more ecstatic I was when Coury asked me to contribute to its companion coffee table book Portrait Novella: a book of gorgeous photography and short stories written by him and his choice of female writers. I am so honored to be a part of this project and for my first published work to be something that we could work on together. I recently interviewed Coury about Nine Lives, Portrait Novella and the inspiration behind the whole project.

WGT: How did you decide on Nine Lives being your next project?

Coury: Ron (the other half of love+war) and I sat down at the beginning of 2016 to discuss our plans for the year. I thought a collection of covers would be a great “hold-over” album before releasing our first full-length project – something we could pitch to TV/Film while writing original material. We wasted little time – recording what would become the foundation for the album in two weeks. After completing the first three (The Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man”, Depeche Mode’s “Policy of Truth”, & Terence Trent D’Arby’s “Sign Your Name”), we knew we had something special. That was all I needed. By March we had a video trilogy and companion book in the early planning stages.

WGT: Portrait Novella is a pretty unique concept. Why did you choose to create a companion book for the album?

Coury: I love when art is not reliant on the obvious. Rethinking how the traditional “album” should be consumed was constantly at the forefront of my mind during the process. Originally, PN was going to be a collection of portraits by Brett (Warren) and nine short stories written entirely by me. I have long dreamed of releasing a book of short stories, and this felt like the perfect vehicle to test the waters.

Brett and I have worked together several times over the last five or so years. He is honestly one of the most generous and gifted souls I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. His work speaks for itself.

We shot the portraits over a six-month period which gave me a little time to figure out the concept – how we would combine the portrait/story idea into one cohesive piece.

WGT: Was there a particular reason that you wanted the majority of the writers to be women?

Coury: Though I ended up writing two of the pieces, the idea for the majority of the writers to be women came to me late in the process. It wasn’t until the end of January 2017 that it finally hit me – these portraits were not about the male experience. This is a diverse group of brilliant, strong, beautiful WOMEN – these words should be THEIR stories. After deciding to go in this direction, it became about finding their voices – women I admired who had lived extraordinary lives. By this point, I had written two biographically-inspired pieces for two of the portrait collections – pieces about two women I am very close to. The remaining writers came to us very organically. I reached out to some friends I felt had something to say, and they graciously agreed to be a part of the experience. I think we ended up with something very special.

An excerpt from my short story I wrote in Portrait Novella: “Hold your head high and keep a strong chin,” they said. “Remember who you are and WHOSE you are. Heavy are the shoulders that hold up appearances.” Photographer: Brett Warren Model: Aleta Myles (another one of my dope friends who also does dope things)

WGT: You and I share a deep appreciation for 80’s and 90’s music of all genres. How on earth did you go about narrowing down the songs you wanted to cover?

Coury: The list of contenders was pretty extensive – over 50 by the end. At first, the record was going to be a collection of our favorite songs from the 80’s & 90’s, but then “Trouble” came together on a whim one session – the door was wide open, and it no longer mattered when they were written. My goal for this album – sonically – was to create a modern soul album that was heavily influenced by Motown and 90’s hip-hop & R&B; what I grew up on. Sade, Annie Lennox, Al Green, Aretha, George Michael – those are my heroes. These are the artist that made me want to be a musician. When they released a record, it was a cohesive thought – something you could spend some time with. I wanted that. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are the times I put a record on – pulled out the liner notes – spent some time with the work. That was important to me with this project. I wanted it to be an experience.

WGT: I know you are a big fan of each of the artists covered. Is there a particular song that you have been wanting to cover for a long time and just felt like this would finally be the perfect project to do that?

Coury: Wow… that’s a tough one because in a way I’ve wanted to record all of these songs at one point or another. I think the two that stick out in my mind most are “Sign Your Name” and the mash-up of “At This Moment/If You Don’t Know Me By Now” (featuring Rachel Lampa). SYN is my favorite moment on the album and a song that has punched me in the gut since I first hear it as a child. There’s a sadness in the melody that I have always loved. Honestly, it was the most intimidating song (vocally) we recorded for the album. I mean it’s a Terence Trent D’Arby song for the love of God! If you’re not intimidated by him as a singer, you’re full of yourself. We decided to take it an even more melancholy direction than the original, and I couldn’t be happier with how it came out. It is easily one of my top 10 favorites of all time.

ATM/IYDKMBN were two songs I sang together around the house as a kid. The frustration in Billy Vera’s lyric and that melody… I’ll never forget hearing ATM on a rerun of “Family Ties” and being transported. It’s my earliest memory of the connection between a visual and sound. It stuck with me, and I knew if I ever had the chance to try and put the two songs together in the studio it would work.

My introduction to IYDKMBN was through the voice of Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall. I remember hearing it as a kid via MTV and instantly wanting to be a British soul singer. Their rendition (a cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes) has always been a favorite, and when the duet concept of our record came into play we knew it would be perfect for Rachael and me.

WGT: What’s next for love+war?

Coury: We are already back in the studio working on more material – this time all original and much moodier – think a record for a rainy fall day.

WGT: Thanks a zillion, Coury!

Be sure to check out love+war’s Nine Lives at https://lovepluswar.bandcamp.com to find out how you can purchase Nine Lives digitally as well as their limited edition vinyl and companion book.  Also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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