Los Angeles-based chill-pop outfit Lovers & Poets recently released their single/music video for “Sugar High,” the title track from their latest EP.
Made up of husband-and-wife team of Shannon Hurley and Ben Eisen, Lovers & Poets’ genesis occurred in Nashville, in 2009, followed by the release of their first LP, Lovers & Poets, in 2010. In 2016, they released another LP, Lovers & Poets II, which featured two noteworthy covers: a trip-hop version of Duncan Sheik’s “Barely Breathing” and David Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes,” which received airplay on L.A.’s KLOS, attracting beau coup attention.
“Sugar High” drips with low-slung sensual electro-pop textures, as Eisen’s dark throbbing bassline infuses the rhythm with a dangerous tang. Hurley’s alluring temptress tones suffuse the lyrics with a beguiling patina of predatory voluptuousness.
“All that remains is a humming in my brain / It’s you that I crave / That sugar high honey, that keeps me running / A buzzing in my brain that’s driving me insane / Inject into my veins / That sugar high honey that keeps me running to you.”
The video, directed by M.F. Dinan, accentuates the femme fatale feel of the music with pale violet hues of light and washed-out images, flickering and flashing with luminous nuances.
Because of the creamy dreamy wicked sensations engendered by “Sugar High,” I sat down with Shannon Hurley to find out more about Lovers & Poets’ background and influences.
What three things can’t you live without?
Our cats, my running shoes, and my keyboard. We have two beautiful cats; one, T-Bone, who I swear is part feral, because he doesn’t act like any cat I’ve ever known. He is completely wild. But lovable. And the other is Donut, a sweet and charming girl.
Running shoes are a must because I love to run around the Silverlake Reservoir here in LA. It’s a great way to see some wildlife, like ducks, hawks, geese, and the occasional coyote at sunrise.
My keyboard is really the only way I write music. I can’t write away from the piano. I like to be able to have everything at my disposal at all times during a session: the ability to play chords underneath a melody is really important for me to hear.
How did you get started in music? What’s the backstory there?
How I wish I got started: By playing the violin in 4th grade: How I really got started: By playing trombone in 5th grade. My mom didn’t want to hear screeching violin in the house, so she made me wait a year until I could join symphonic band. I wanted to play flute or French horn, but the teacher had us take a listening test, and when I got a perfect score, he asked if I would play trombone, because he needed someone with a good ear to play it. So then my mom had to deal with bombastic trombone in the house for the next seven years. I went on to get a trombone performance degree at the University of Colorado (shout out to my trombone professor Bill Stanley).
Also while at CU, I took a songwriting class taught by Pat Leonard, hit songwriter for Madonna (“Cherish,” “Like A Prayer,” “La Isla Bonita”). It was the one and only semester and the only class he ever taught there. I was so lucky to get in! He taught us his method of creating a song, which is really intuitive, and just sitting at the piano, humming, until the words just fit the melody. I loved that way of working. Then we went to Caribou Ranch (where the Eagles and Elton John recorded) and made a demo of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” for our class final.
The late ’90s were important to me in helping shape my musical taste and future songwriting. I hung around Boulder after graduating, and in the late ’90s, I picked up a job at the Fox Theater, where I was assistant stage manager. I got to see Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Counting Crows, Bonnie Raitt, Morcheeba, and other numerous bands that inspired me to pick up piano and start singing.
I also worked at JC Penney in the late ’90s and the thing that saved me on that job was the music that was played in-store. The Beatles, Steely Dan, Duncan Sheik, Sarah McLachlan, a mix of old and new stuff. I think music is an important way to keep your sanity, especially if you work in retail.
What inspired your new song “Sugar High?”
I came up with the melody, words, and chords for the chorus at the exact same time. I felt like it was kind of cool, so I showed Ben (who is always the arbiter of taste when it comes to deciding which songs we should develop as Lovers & Poets songs). So we tracked it all in logic with the idea that we wanted a mid-90s feeling to it, like Garbage or Elastica or Luscious Jackson.
There’s a nuanced femme fatale sensation to the video for “Sugar High.” Is the risky element deliberate? If so, what assertion are you making?
When we came to our director Matt Dinan with a video proposal, we knew we wanted to give it a Garbage feel, and I knew I wanted a Shirley Manson look. All three of us sat down and watched a bunch of music videos from the ’90s including “Stupid Girl” by Garbage, which we took most inspiration from. I feel like the song has an element of danger and I wanted a really powerful look to elevate the song even more. We went with black and white outfits to echo Blondie on the Parallel Lines album cover.
Your sound is described as “chill pop.” Is your sound evolving in any one direction?
We have a few different styles that seem to continue evolving: lounge or disco with a heavy ’60s and ’70s influence, and also more modern style tropical house like “Nevergonnastop.”
What do you hope your fans/listeners take away with them when they listen to your music?
I hope it paints a picture in their minds, in a cinematic way. It’s meant to be escape music, but the real bass grounds it in reality.
What’s the story behind your name — Lovers & Poets?
I remember the exact moment I thought of the name. I was working as a hostess at Noshville (in Nashville). I was sweeping the floor. I just loved the way it sounded — romantic and hopeful.
Your latest EP was written in Viet Nam. While there, what kind of music were you listening to?
Actually it was our 1st album, Lovers & Poets that was written there. I was hooked on the music video channels there, and it was a mix of K-pop, J-pop, and other international artists. My big discovery abroad was Marina & The Diamonds. “I’m Not A Robot,” which was getting good airplay there, is a perfect song. The video is amazing, too.
Do you have a guilty music and/or entertainment pleasure?
I have an ’80s playlist I specifically made to sing along to in the car. It’s full of the Pointer Sisters, Whitney Houston, Laura Branigan, and every great ’80s song with banging vocals.
Also, I think ABBA deserves so much respect for crafting incredible melodies and putting sparkle into their music. I keep nudging Ben to take a trip with me to Stockholm so we can visit the birthplace of ABBA, and also sing with their holograms at the ABBA museum.
Why make music? I mean what’s the point?
My college music theory teacher always said that all the songs have already been written. I just want to prove him wrong. There’s always a melody or lyric idea that can be explored, and used to create a unique mood.
What’s next for you musically?
We would like to get back to our roots to make some more slinky trip-hop style songs, like on our first album. I’ve got some other ideas that link back to the ’60s and ’70s again (it’s always drawing me back). Also I have been loving the ’80s French band Les Rita Mitsouko, and I am drawn to their adventurous artistry.. so.. you never know.