Most bands hate it when writers play spot-the-influences—understandably (and rightfully) so. But LVL UP, playing Sunday at Chop Suey, are not most bands.
Formed by college buddies in 2011 who nestled into a tight-knit community of DIY artists in Brooklyn, the quartet has been pumping out unstoppably catchy lo-fi pop-rock for the past few years, sometimes on their own Double Double Whammy record label and sometimes for others.
Return to Love, however, is LVL UP's first release for Sub Pop, which means more people will hear it and think of Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill, the Microphones, and Pavement, among others. And that doesn't bother the band one bit.
"We've always kind of worn our influences on our sleeve and even gone so far as to actually talk about them blatantly in song," says guitarist Mike Caridi. "I mean, it's not like it's a big surprise."
Caridi cites a vague memory of seeing a written chart of song origins and borrowed ideas crafted by Phil Elverum, the fertile mind behind the Microphones and Mount Eerie.
"I like talking about it because it feels good," he continues. "It creates a web of influences and references. One time we even talked very briefly about making some sort of index regarding references and ideas and where they came from. I always thought that was kind of cool, 'cause then you see a little bit of what goes into [the music]. Some things are more obvious than others, but you'll see a little more of a background, I guess."
To be clear, LVL UP's music is not the result of one person's brain. Greg Rutkin plays the drums, while Caridi shares writing and singing duties with guitarist Dave Benton and bassist Nick Corbo, which is why Return to Love feels like much more than a one-note exploration of fuzzy rock 'n' roll.
Trying to accommodate three different songwriters with their own sets of influences and ideas has taken down more than a few bands, but Caridi doesn't consider that an issue for LVL UP.
"It makes things easier, because it's less pressure on any one person. Nobody has an ego or anything like that," he says.
Just then, a voice from elsewhere in the tour van jumps in: "Morph us all into one being if you want," it says. "We've abandoned our personal identities at this point."