Kenny Feinstein is a folk-lover’s love if you’re Portlandian. While he’s more commonly known in the US as the frontman for Oregon band Water Tower, he’s recently signed to Fluff & Gravy Records for his cover project, and this month will see the release of a lot of hard work reinterpreting an alt classic of the last 20 years.
Solo album Loveless: Hurts To Love is a tribute album and at its heart, a fan’s homage. Beautifully arranged with strings and bluegrass guitars, it includes all 11 tracks from the original My Bloody Valentine album as well as completely re-creating the cult ‘Swallow’ from MBV’s 1991 Tremolo EP.
Mandolins, dobros, fiddles, dulcimers, keyboards, dreamy vocal lines and guitars – all pretty much played by Kenny himself – swaddle what is ultimately both a bittersweet album, reflecting all the sunburn and wistful stares into the horizon one imagines must fuel most My Bloody Valentine records before Creation Records went off in a huff…
Kenny’s first listen of the album, however, was slightly more complex and less loving than his own album might now suggest. “I forced myself to listen to Loveless over and over because I did not understand it. I was confused by the sounds coming from it. Finally, when listening to ‘Loomer’ while driving around a mall in Fort Lauderdale I had an epiphany during the chorus. I could not tell if the sound was being made by a human, a synth, a guitar, a bass or anything, but I did not care, all I could gather was that it was the most blissful sound I had ever heard.”
According to Wikipedia, the original Loveless was fraught with tension when it came to that godawful business side of music… Professor Wiki says:
“Loveless is the second studio album by alternative rock band My Bloody Valentine. Released on November 4, 1991, Loveless was recorded over a two-year period between 1989 and 1991 in nineteen recording studios. Lead vocalist and guitarist Kevin Shields dominated the recording process; he sought to achieve a particular sound for the record, making use of various techniques such as guitars strummed with a tremolo bar, sampled drum loops, and obscured vocals. A large number of engineers were hired and fired during the process, although the band finally gave credit on the album sleeve to anyone who was present during the recordings, “even if all they did was make tea,” according to Shields. The recording of Loveless is rumored to have cost £250,000, a figure that came close to bankrupting the band’s record label, Creation Records.
My Bloody Valentine’s relationship with Creation Records deteriorated during the album’s recording, and the band was removed from the label after the record’s release due to the difficulty and expense of working with Shields. While Loveless did not achieve great commercial success, the album was well received by critics. Widely regarded as a landmark work of the shoegazing genre, the record has been cited as an influence to several artists, and by critics as one of the best albums of the 1990s.”
“This record is not just a Loveless cover, it is a different planet in the same galaxy,” said Kenny, discussing the record he spent two years making in California with record producer Jeff Kazor and engineer/co-producer Bruce Kaphan.
Kenny enlisted the help of Kaphan and Kazor, and, it was through Kazor that Kenny was finally able to meet his personal idol, singer-songwriter Richard Buckner. They got on so famously that Mr Buckner ended up lending a voice and a flutter of his ukelele to the record. And it’s rather lovely. It’s easy to hear the equal influence all four musicians have brought to the table: it’s never quite all Water Tower, and never quite all flowery-folk. Good job really. It’s quite daunting to remake something that’s already in the canon and still make it unique. Challenge!
“Because we were able to spend so much time on the record, we were able to gain perspective in between recording sessions and really find what it was we were looking for in the album. I approached a dear friend of mine, an amazing record producer/band leader Jeff Kazor to help me produce this record, as I knew he understood and lived through the shoegaze era,” said Kenny.
“I was too young to understand the shoegaze movement when it was happening. Jeff introduced me to the engineer/co-producer of this record, Bruce Kaphan. The three of us became a team who met once a month for about two years in Bruce’s studio in Niles, CA.”
“The goal was to play along on acoustic guitar with the record and have whatever part I created work perfectly with the original album. I then realized I needed to share this with the world to help everyone understand this album,” he says of his motivation behind the project.
“The mystery was intriguing and painful. That started the year of Loveless for me. I listened to it every day for a year, sometimes a few times a day, sometimes all day. I had a feeling of not being able to get close enough to the album. This hurt me. I tried to get closer and closer, and play it louder and louder, but I could never get as close as I wanted to. So I decided to learn each song as accurately as possible.”
In between touring with Water Tower and at last learning the songs on acoustic guitar, he knew he had to record it and release it to the world. This album is a truly unique listen to old MBV fans and those who’ve never heard it before and quite simply: it’s a homage that’s been done incredibly, incredibly well.