Loves It Loves Touring

Vaughn Walters and Jenny Parrott of the indie duo Loves It talk with Pollstar about their lives as constantly touring musicians and how their individual musical differences combine to create a sound built upon folk, R&B, rock and other influences. 

Walters and Parrott also talked about their new album. All We Are arrives Oct. 29 on Team Austin Records.

Brand new bands considering their first tour could learn a thing or two from Loves It.  The duo fully embraces the DIY work ethic as they drive across the country with their dog Boxie, visiting town after town and playing gig after gig.  They’ve learned how to keep costs down while playing to as many people as possible as they chase the dream.  Although Loves It doesn’t live the glamorous life of hotels, fancy restaurants and parties, Walters and Parrott are their own bosses, calling the shots when it comes to their records, gigs and, of course, touring.

Photo: Laura Partain

Loves It reflects old-fashioned folk as well as R&B, straight-ahead rock songs and other influences. In a world where people try to describe bands using five words or less, how do you characterize your sound?

Vaughn: I’m not really sure.  I grew up listening to punk and playing in punk and rock bands. … The R&B influence is all [Jenny’s]. She’s really into soul. … I think it’s basically for people into roots music.  It’s a little harder, as far as a genre, to figure out. I think if we say “roots music” or “Americana,” which basically means nothing, I think it kind of fits into that category.

Do you see the “Americana” label as kind of a catch-all for the music that can’t be categorized?

Vaughn: Jenny said, “funkry western” and we had some guy call it “hippie western” but I don’t even know if that does it.

While touring, is it strictly the two of you or do you have backing musicians?

Vaughn: We do most of our touring in America with just me and Jenny.  On the East Coast we tour with this guy Kurt Johnson, an upright bass player.  When we did Europe we toured with him and we had a sax player for part of it, too.

For the songs that have a bit more instrumentation, such as the R&B influenced songs or the rockers, how do you present that on stage when it’s just the two, or sometimes three people?

Vaughn: The guy on the record and the guy we have live are just crazy good so they can pretty much fill a soundscape really well.  We wrote these songs just as a duo. … But after having a band it is kind of difficult to strip these songs back down to playing with a duo. We miss that drum sound or that bass sound. By the time this album comes out next year we’ll probably have a bass player with us, but for now it’s just us two on this West Coast leg.

How about long-range plans extending beyond next year?  Are you hoping to have a complete band?

Vaughn: Oh, yeah, totally.  We’ll have a bass player and a drummer.  I’d love to have a keyboard player.  And if we can get this saxophone player, he lives in Berlin but he’s Viennese, when we tour with him, I really love the sound he brings.

Do musicians ever approach you after shows and say something like, “You need a drummer? I can play drums.”

Vaughn: No, but if they did, we’d probably be like, “OK.  Great.”

So you’re not seen as a source of possible employment by out-of-work musicians?

Vaughn: No. If we lived somewhere and toured out of there, we could probably find [someone]. … “Hey, do you want to go on this tour? Do you want to basically live in a van for two years straight and play like a million gigs?” I think it’s kind of a hard sell.

We got the van last August.  Then we were in Europe for two months and didn’t put any miles on it.  In about 11 months [we’ve logged] 80,000 miles.

How many people are traveling with you? Do you have a road manager or someone to share the driving?

Vaughn: Just me, Jenny and Boxie right now. Jenny is the daytime driver and I’m the overnight driver. 

How did you land on the name “Loves It?”

Jenny: He [Vaughn] doesn’t like our band name so I’ll tell you the story.  When I met Vaughn and we became best friends, I also really liked the show, “The Simple Life,” with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. I had blonde hair, so I was Paris and he was Nicole.  They always say on that show, “Loves It” or “Love you, bitch,” anytime they like anything.  So I used to say that to Vaughn all the time and he was like, “If we ever have a band we should call it, ‘Loves It.’” Then I got really excited and started making a website and homemade T-shirts for our band “Loves it.”  And he was like, “I’m just kidding.  I don’t like that name.”  When you joke with the feelings of a young woman …

When choosing the band name, was there any consideration regarding Google or social media searches?

Jenny: There was definitely no consideration for that. It took, probably, 12 months before you could Google us and get us right away.

Any tricks of the road you can pass on to other musicians, say, which fast-food restaurants offer the most bang for the buck?

Vaughn: We just realized McDonald’s has Wi-Fi. If you can’t find a Wi-Fi connection and you need to get a bunch of business done?  Pull up in front of the Wi-Fi, pull out the laptops … sit there and grind away at business.  As far as fast foods, that’s the one.  We also stop at Trader Joe’s out west.

What about keeping the van in shape? Are either of you skilled in auto mechanics?

Vaughn: No, but I know just about every Sprinter mechanic in the country.  I don’t have skills keeping it running but I do have skills finding mechanics. We’re starting to build a database of Sprinter mechanics in every state.

What’s your favorite city to play?

Vaughn:  I love playing my home state, West Virginia.  We love playing Austin, which has been our home base for years.  We had a good time out in Santa Rosa, Calif., recently. 

I wish I could say our favorite towns are more concentrated in a region.  It’s like, we kind of have favorite towns in different time zones.

With all the touring you two do, does all that traveling ever feel like one big vacation in which you’re sightseeing, doing vacation kind of things along with performing?

Vaughn: It definitely feels like a tour.  We have an itinerary every day.  It’s not as freeform as a road trip might be. When we have two days off in a row … we went to Yellowstone for two days and that felt more like a road trip or a vacation. If we have two days off, maybe we’ll get a motel room and watch “Law & Order” for a few days and that kind of feels like time off, a vacation.  I love the driving and going to gigs and playing music but it never feels like just a road trip.   There’s always so much work to be done. It kind of feels like all day we’re grinding through work while driving.

So you never get a chance to do touristy things while traveling?

Vaughn: We just don’t have time for that.  When we have two days off, sometimes that will happen.  If we have a day off, it’s come to the point now that, “Well, we could go and be tourists and be around people. Or we can really take a day off and just rest.” 

We did go and see Susan B. Anthony’s grave up in Rochester, N.Y.  Frederick Douglass, too.  [They’re] buried in the same graveyard. 

But none of the tourist attractions like the giant ball of string or butter sculptures of Elvis?

Vaughn: If we had time I’d love to see the giant ball of string.  Sometimes I’ll go and see a baseball game. I’ve seen three minor league games this year. That’s kind of like my tourist thing.

What is the song creation process like for the two of you? Do you work in separate rooms and then bring your ideas to each other?  Or does a song literally have its genesis when the two of you are working together?

Vaughn: Often the beginning of it will be when we’re separate. I’ll have an idea and then bring it to Jenny. I don’t think we’ve ever had a song that was like, “OK, let’s write a song” and then start working on it together. We basically had those but we threw them out. Every song that you throw out leads to something else that’s hopefully cooler.  It’s never a bad thing to throw a song out.

Does the reverse of that happen? Does Jenny work up songs and then bring them to you?

Vaughn: Yeah, totally. On the last album I brought at least one song to Jenny that she finished.  On this album she brought a couple to me that I helped finish.  But some of the songs we write separately.

Spending so much time together – by the time you go into the studio, do you already know what it will sound like?

Vaughn: For this album we didn’t. … I had just planned on recording bass and drums in Austin and then recording the rest of it, just like collecting friends around the country and having them play on it.  The guys who recorded bass and drums are so quick, we got all the bass and drums tracks done pretty much in one day, except for one track. They knocked it out of the park.  So we had more time and the engineer, James, had more time available and he was like, “We can finish this thing [now] if you want.” So we just kind of tore through it in three days and didn’t have any expectations of what it was going to sound like.  We [just] knew those players … and the steel player and the electric players were great.  So I guess the expectation was like, “Whatever these guys do will probably be pretty good.”

How did you make the connection with Kinky Friedman?

Jenny: In 2008 I was his assistant on an indie film called “Mars.”  They didn’t really have a job description for [me] but I was supposed to keep him from smoking cigars inside the building.  We didn’t really like each other the first couple of days. He can be a little grouchy. … I think he seemed to like me after I gave him some grouch right back.  We kept in touch, sometimes we’ll have a meal or talk on the phone. I’ve been out to his place, hung out there and brought my dog, brought my friends, and played pool all night and listened to records.  Stuff like that.  He lives outside Austin, maybe a couple of hours.  He tours a lot and is really busy, so we don’t see him that much but he’s been very supportive. … He’s never been a career adviser, but he’s definitely helped a lot with the quotations he’s given me and the support of a friend who’s been there and done that. That’s really meaningful.

Your press mentions how, while driving, the van was “plowed by a beer truck.” Did that result in the new van?

Jenny: Yeah. Last July [2012] we were the third vehicle in a three-vehicle collision.  The second vehicle was a van carrying Fat Tire Beer and the first vehicle was a fully loaded 18-wheeler going 70 mph. The van between us took a hit from the back and then it got crushed from the front when it hit us.  Then it pushed our old RV, ripped off the back door and pushed us about a quarter of a mile down the highway without brakes or steering.  I pulled out of the way to avoid the collision with the car in front of us.  One guitar got messed up and our bodies got pretty mangled.  But we lived and we’re still talking and playing. It was pretty horrible, though.

About the accident and getting injured, do the two of you have health insurance?  Do you have enough coverage to get you through moments like having instruments or transportation damaged or destroyed?

Jenny: We have vehicle insurance and instrument insurance but no health insurance.  We’re waiting for the trucking company to pay all of our medical bills. 

In Austin, when you live there, you qualify for a very great basic … they tell you not to say it’s insurance but I don’t know how else to say it – Health Alliance For Austin Musicians. When we lived there and had an actual address they helped me through all kinds of things. I had surgery a couple of years ago and they paid for it. So if you live there you can have pretty free health stuff, but we decided we didn’t qualify because we gave up our address.

Most bands don’t have instrument insurance but I’ve heard so many stories about crashes and robberies that I decide to get it.  It’s a great thing for peace of mind. If we lost everything I don’t know how we would replace it.

Who did you listen to while growing up? 

Jenny: I listened to whatever my parents were listening to until about sixth grade.  I really loved 90s R&B divas. And I really loved Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple.  As I got older and went to record stores in my hometown, I started listening to Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Neil Young and things like that.  I’m not a punk rocker but I like the vibe [Vaughn] brings to some of my pop songs.  He makes them rock.  He makes them rockin’ punk sort of things.

How did the two of you meet?

Jenny: I was playing at a pretty divey place in Austin with my old band. The bar is called “The Hole In The Wall” and my old band was Shotgun Party.  I was playing a show, I finished and Vaughn walked in to see the band after us.  We started hanging out and dancing.  The Hole In The Wall was where everyone of our music generation in Austin was cutting their teeth.  When we were starting out in Austin we were excited to get a gig there.  Then, finally, some people got residencies there and it turned into something bigger.  That was the favorite bar for a long time. Vaughn used to call it the “community  center.”

After that first meeting, how much time took place before the two of you actually began working together?

Jenny: Years.  That first night we met, I thought he came on a little strong and I avoided him for about a year [laughs].  We didn’t start working together until years later.  But I always sort of had the idea in my head that I needed to be in a band with Vaughn Walters and how I could make that happen as quickly as possible.  He’s a great bandmate.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Jenny: I hope to be on the same track, hopefully making great music, working my butt off and feeling fulfilled.  I think Vaughn is a lifer and will be playing music.

Vaughn: I just want to be able to continue working really hard.  I’d like to be playing cooler gigs. I feel as if things are moving forward.  I feel like if they kind of continue at this rate and I keep learning, I’ll be where I want to be in five years.  Playing with other bands that I love, having a four-or five-piece band and being able to play shorter power sets each night.  For a duo to play a three-hour set, it’s like nobody wants to watch three hours and we do those gigs sometimes.  But I think as you move on up you do an hour and 15 minute set with a couple of other Austin bands. That’s where I’d kind of like to be.  And in the summer, play festivals.  Also have a place to live so I can create, read a book and a room of my own. Something like that.

I’m really not worried about it because I feel if we keep working like we’re working now, that’s going to happen. You just keep that in the back of your mind and whittle down all the rest of the crap that doesn’t matter. You keep focused on it and it will find its way there.

Photo: Ryan Wisniewski
“Every song that you throw out leads to something else that’s hopefully cooler.  It’s never a bad thing to throw a song out.”

Upcoming gigs for Loves It:

Sept. 26 – Tucson, Ariz., Plush
Sept. 27 – Gallup, N.M., Coal Street Pub
Sept. 28 – Enid, Okla., Government Springs Park (Fling At The Springs)
Sept. 30 – Memphis, Tenn., P&H Cafe
Oct. 4 – Huntsville, Ala., Lowe Mill
Oct. 5 – Sarasota, Fla., House Concert
Oct. 6 —
Austin, Texas, The Rattle In
Oct. 8 – Sarasota, Fla., Old Packing House
Oct. 9 – Gainesville, Fla., The Bull
Oct. 10 – Orlando, Fla., Will’s Pub
Oct. 12 – Cocoa Beach, Fla., Surfer’s Sports Pub
Oct. 13 – Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Area 7 Music & Ale
Oct. 15 – Cape Coral, Fla., Rack ‘Em
Oct. 16 – Sarasota, Fla., Old Packing House
Oct. 17 – St. Augustine, Fla., Nobby’s
Oct. 18 – St. Augustine Beach, FL  Jacks Bar-B-Que
Oct. 19 – Jacksonville, Fla., Shanty Town Pub
Oct. 20 – Tampa, Fla, Skipper’s Smokehouse
Oct. 22 – Mobile, Ala., Kenneth’s House Concerts
Oct. 27 —
Lafayette, La., Artmosphere
Oct. 30 – Austin, Texas, The White Horse
Oct. 31 – Llano, Texas, The Badu House
Nov. 2 – San Antonio, Texas, The Cove
Nov. 5 – Marble Falls, Texas, River City Grille
Nov. 7 – Austin, Texas,  Victorian Room At The Driskill
Nov. 8 – Marfa, Texas, Padre’s
Nov. 9 – Terlingua, Texas, Starlight Theatre
Nov. 14 – Lufkin, Texas, Standpipe Coffeehouse
Nov. 16 – Austin, Texas, Hargrave Arcade
Nov. 22 – Wharton, Texas, Milam Street Coffee
Nov. 23 – Decatur, Ga., Eddie’s Attic
Nov. 24 – Chattanooga, Tenn., JJ’s Bohemia
Dec. 4 – Staunton, Va., Baja Bean
Dec. 5 – Frederick, Md., Café Nola
Dec. 7 – Arundel, Maine, Flora’s House Concerts
Dec. 8 – Portsmouth, N.H., Press Room
Dec. 11 – New Haven, Conn., Café Nine
Dec. 12 – Worcester, Mass., Nick’s
Dec. 13 – Brooklyn, N.Y.,Red Hook Bait & Tackle
Dec. 14 – Philmont, N.Y., The Main Street Public House
Dec. 20 – Pittsburgh, Pa., Howler’s
Dec. 21 – Morgantown, W.Va., Gene’s Beer Garden
Dec. 22 – Thomas, W.Va., Purple Fiddle Café
March 8 – Kingwood, W.Va., Laurel Mountain Coffeehouse

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