Taken directly from their biography on facebook…
“LVL UP was formed in winter of 2010-2011 by David Benton and Mike Caridi as a joke. Dave and Mike intended to use LVL UP as an outlet for writing short lo-fi acoustic pop hits. After demoing their first few songs, the boys decided to spice up the mix with the sultry Benjamin Smith, Nick Corbo, and Greg Rutkin. After 8 months of recording/rerecording/playingTonyHawk’sProSkater4™ LVL UP produced “SPACE BROTHERS: A 13 SONG TRIBUTE TO GIORGIO TSOUKALOS” in October 2011. “SPACE BROTHERS” is available on cassette through DOUBLE DOUBLE WHAMMY, and will be available on vinyl via Evil Weevil in February 2012. *_*”
Sweet Nothings: So, how did the whole “short song” idea come about? Was it one person’s idea in particular?
MIKE: It was sort of an accident. I kind of naturally just write short songs because I get bored if something goes on for too long. One or two minutes is perfect length for a song for my taste, it’s probably why I like punk music so much. Anyway, we just started writing these demos on acoustic guitar and sending them to each other, and it just sorta stuck.
NICK: I wouldn’t say we write with the intention of having a short song, but it’s more that we don’t put any sort of emphasis into overwriting or really thinking that a song needs to have 3 verses to be done, which saves us a ton of time and stress.
Sweet Nothings: How did you guys come up with the band name?
MIKE: I think Dave and I were talking via facebook chat over winter break of 2010/2011, and we had previously jokingly called the band “UNHOLY STRENGTH” based off the name of a Magic card, and then Dave said something about leveling up and then we said “fuck it lets call the band ‘lvl up’.”
Sweet Nothings: How did the first show play out?
DAVE: The first show ruled! All our best buds were there and Dave Grimaldi got the whole thing on a siq video recording.
NICK: The first show we played at school was really amazing for me. I guess we had just spent the better part of the fall circulating those songs around and I was honestly really surprised at how many people were singing along and having fun. It was pretty magical for me, to be honest. I love that video.
SN: Have you ever had a bad experience during a show?
M: Playing on stages isn’t one of our favorite things, so when we played on a stage at our show in Hoboken with H20 it was pretty awkward cause no one knew us and we weren’t very comfortable.
SN: A lot of people seem to claim you guys have a “90’s style.” Do you agree with this, and was it something that was intentional when creating your sound? If so, what are some of your favorite bands from that decade?
M: We didn’t start the band to sound that way, it just sorta happened. People compare us to Guided By Voices a lot, and I really love that band, but I don’t think we actually sound like them, I think we just both have short songs. I personally draw a lot of influence from indie-rock bands like Superchunk and Pavement, as well as punk bands like Lifetime and Jawbreaker. I think it’s a given that all of us draw from bands like Modest Mouse and Built To Spill.
SN: Although the album feels organic, was there any fear of disconnecting the album by recording with four vocalists?
D: I definitely had some moments near the end of the recording process, when I was like, “ehhhh I dunno if this is gonna come together that well,” and I was sort of doubting it, but turns out all the songs fit really well together for some reason. I think a lot of that is due to Mike Ditrio’s input to the record, helping us out with mixing and mastering the thing. It really didn’t have such a cohesive feel until he got his hands on it.
SN: What is each of your favorite songs you’ve written so far and why?
N: If I had to pick a favorite one of my songs I’d probably say “Nightshade.” I wrote it pretty easily and while I was in a nice spot in my life and stuff. I like all the songs though.
M: I like playing “Elixr” a lot because the riff is really fun, and I also really like playing our four new songs because they have a nice flow to them, and they’re actually a little more fleshed out in structure than most of the songs on Space Brothers.
D: Don’t wanna be that guy, but the new songs are my faves. For my songs I’ve always been proud of the bro chillers recording though! Good vibes I think!
SN: ELIXR (19) is a powerful and fitting conclusion to the album. Was there ever any confusion or hesitation as to who should end the album?
M: I think as soon as Nick sent that song to us I felt like it should end the album, it just screams “ender.”
SN: Do you guys always write and plan out your song structures individually, or are there some songs that you guys have come up with cohesively during a practice?
N: GC’s (guitar conferences) happen. I know Mike helped me out a lot with one of my new songs that wasn’t quite working. I think for the most part, though, we usually figure everything out by ourselves and them bring it in and maybe make a few changes from there. I was a little bit of a hermit for Space Bros.
SN: You all have a distinct style for song lyrics, what are your inspirations when it comes to that?
M: I’m not sure what anyone else’s is, but at least for me I try to keep the words short and simple and pretty accurate to what I’m talking about. Like “Roman Candle” is just about a bunch of shit I did with by best friend before going to college, and “Walking Home” is literally just about walking home and thinking about stuff. That’s what works for me, but I think Dave and Nick have a little of a deeper process maybe.
D: It’s just stuff! I think up until right now-ish I’ve been working with sort of the same styles and themes but things are starting to change and I’m really feeling it (for both the LVL UP and Spook Houses songs). Inspirations from the Space Bros record include family (grandparents especially), being alone and chillin with your bros (in the gender-inclusive sense of the word.
N: That’s really hard to say. Lyrics are a combination of what you’ve been looking at, what you’ve been hearing, and what you’ve been thinking about. I’ve always been really into lyrics and I have a hard time letting things slide that are too regular. It’s why I write songs very very slowly and give up easily. Most of the time I just think of creepy shit and then figure out what it means to me later on.
(Mike and Dave getting ready for a sick LVL UP show back in December, with Elise Granata accidentally stealing the spotlight. Together they make up the tape-label//music blog Double Double Whammy. I didn’t know any of their names then.)
SN: “Topsider,” is a truly great track. Will Ben be singing more on future releases?
N: Ben rules and is probably the best singer out of the 5 of us and will definitely still be in there.
SN: Have you ever thought about doing a b-sides only set?
M: I feel like we kinda did that already, just individually. The B-Sides for the most part are just acoustic versions of songs we play full band, and Dave, Nick and I have each played acoustic sets over the past year including those songs.
SN: Are there any plans for fully fleshed out recordings of any of the b-sides of Space Brothers?
M: Yeah man definitely, we recorded four new songs at the end of last semester, two of which were Space Bro b-sides. I definitely think there’s room for one or two more of those on this next release, but we haven’t completely figured that out yet.
SN: Will Greg ever consider singing?
N: Greg Rutkin sings like a little baby angel. *_*
SN: Where does the eastern philosophy influence in Nick’s songs, as well as band artwork, come from (I.E. tracks like “Third Eye” and “Nightshade”)?
N: I don’t know, man. It’s mostly situational. When I wrote Third Eye and Nightshade I sort of happened to be getting into this spiritual kick that I’m still riding off of. I mostly just think it’s interesting and mysterious and spooky. Plus I’m a big nerd and I like circles. Also I steal everything from Thomas Hooper, who is a genius, and also a bit of a borrower himself.
SN: In the demo of “Third Eye,” there is a whole extra verse. Was there any particular reason for cutting it out? Was it just because of time issues, or can we expect a “Third Eye Part 2” in the future?
N: I wrote that little part for homework in our common room and it was a different little idea. After I finished Third Eye I just realized that I used the same chords and practically the same melody so I couldn’t make it two different songs but I thought both together was a little long. Honestly sometimes you switch things up just so that people wonder why and ask you why you just did something, which is actually happening right now. It’s cool.
(Nick Corbo. That is all.)
SN: Now Dave, I know you do a lot of your songwriting acoustically first. As an active member in your other band, Spook Houses, do you ever go into writing a song knowing it’s something specifically for LVL UP or is that something you figure out afterwards?
D: Ah man this is a semi-tricky one. The easy answer is “no” but sometimes it’s really hard to figure out where stuff fits. Sometimes I feel weird about splitting the songs up like they are, but usually I think it works out. I guess the Spook Houses songs are typically longer (or have been in the past). Spook Houses is going through some big changes stylistically so the gap between bands may broaden slightly in the next year or so.
SN: Who produced the album artwork for SPACE BROTHERS? What is the meaning behind it?
N: On the fly, dude. We all put it together. Dave and Mike take a lot of disposable camera photos. I think that particular one is of either Ben or Danny Drake in the Stood. In Mike’s cottage we were going to put our 3 singles on the web and wanted a photo and I happened to have that circle drawing on my computer. I drew it the night a friend of mine’s dad passed away. For the album we just asked Colin to be a photoshop wizard and put them together. It’s like, all by themselves the different little parts are small and they end up contributing their meanings to the bigger picture. I’m into that.
SN: Mike, I understand you took the photo on the back cover of SPACE BROTHERS, what was going on in that picture and how did it come about? Is that a real spaceship? It has to be real. You wouldn’t lie to your fans, would you?
M: I took that photo the summer before going to college (summer 2009), at a fourth of July BBQ at my best friend’s barn. I was really into doing weird photo stuff at the time so I think I left that roll of film outside in a thunderstorm before shooting it, which is why the quality is extra shitty. The people on the front cover are my dad (on the right with the jean jacket) and my two neighbors on the left, one of which was pointing towards the horizon where we could see fireworks going off in the distance. I always liked that photo even though you couldn’t see the fireworks, and when we were designing the album art we thought that’d be a neat fit for the back. It was after we submitted the art to EvilWeevil someone pointed out that UFO to us, which we actually had no knowledge of before hand. It’s being studied by homeland security right now I think.
SN: And now we’ll take some submitted questions from the site! First question, Raymond Chalame (SUPRtiny) asks: “Who would you say is the band heartthrob”
N: Ben Smith without a doubt and you know it.
Inner Summer: “What do you guys think about being a pop band?”
M: I love pop music, so I’m into it.
Anonymous: “Have you guys ever thought about doing one song where all of you provide vocals?”
M:Yeah we’ve talked about that a lot, we really want to do something to that effect but it’s actually really hard. On some new recordings we tried having a bunch of us sing but it didn’t sound very good. We’ll keep trying.
Anonymous: “Hey Nick, do you think you look like my brother?”
N: I look like a lot of people’s brothers. I have regular white guy syndrome, like Dave.
Anonymous: “Is *_* about me?”
D: Nope, about my grandma. She was throwing a wrench in thingz.
Anonymous: “Are you guys Ancient Aliens fans? Giorgio Tsoukalos FTW!”
M: Dude check the liner notes, we thanked Giorgio! I love that show and Ancient Astronaut theory is one of my major interests. We’re thinking about sending Giorgio a record, I’ve been looking for his address!
Anonymous: “WHERE’S THE MERCH? I WANT TO BUY THINGS FROM YOU.”
D: We have it, it’s just not online. Er kinda. We have shirts. They’re cool. Buy our LP so Evil Weevil doesn’t get mad at us!
Anonymous: “Whose voice is that at the end of ‘Nightshade?’”
N: I recorded the demo of that song while I was volunteering at a monastic center in Vermont. My dad’s friend from college lived there with his family and they had a very colorful 3 year old daughter that loved my tape recorder and wanted to sing a lot. 60 years ago she would have been famous.
Sweet Nothings: Alright, well thank you guys so much for doing this interview! What can we expect down the pipeline next?
LVL UP: Thanks so much for doing this dude, we’re always super excited to talk to people! I’d say keep an eye out for this 7” or 10” (we don’t know yet!) we’re working on right now, we’ll finish recording that early next semester to hopefully see a winter release! Other than that, really nothing – we’re gonna hopefully play a bunch next semester, but it’s difficult with both the Sirs and Spook Houses records coming out (and Morrison Brook released their record a month ago!) since we’ll all be focusing on those. But definitely expect to hear from us in the future, LVL UP is way too fun for us to want to stop! Keep it intergalactic *_*
<3 LVL UP