Interview: LVL UP on touring larger venues, DIY in NYC, and music’s never-ending so-called ‘revival’

An up-and-coming act that’s on the rise like many others in Exploding In Sound network, Brooklyn guitar-rock quartet LVL UP bring a unique combo of pop sensibilities and rigid riffs to the forefront. Following the success of 2014 LP Hoodwink’d, released via Double Double Whammy and the aforementioned Boston/Brooklyn label, they last month released their Three Songs EP (Double Double Whammy/Run For Cover Records) and this Sunday, August 16, take on Royale in Boston with Basement, Pittsburgh’s Adventures, and recent Boston transplants Palehound.

Recently we had a chat with LVL UP guitarist Mike Caridi, bassist Nick Corbo, and drummer Greg Rutkin about their current tour, the ever-changing landscape of their home base in Brooklyn, using the word “revival” to describe today’s current state of music, and what the future holds.

Rob Duguay: Since starting your current tour at The Mr. Roboto Project in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, how has this current run of shows been for you guys?

Greg Rutkin: We’ve had three different legs so far on this tour, we started out with our friends in a band called Big Ups from New York from the first week until we got to Chicago. All those shows were pretty cool but they were a little smaller, then we did four dates with Upset on the West Coast which were awesome shows and they’re our new best friends. Now we’ve started this other leg with Basement which are bigger shows and we’re sort of getting used to that a little bit. It’s weird to break it up in three different sections but it’s been a really interesting experiment.

It definitely seems intriguing from the way it’s structured, you have three different mini tours going on in one big tour. What has been the most memorable part of the tour so far when it comes to people at shows or interactions with the venues?

Nick Corbo: We played two shows in L.A., which was pretty cool and weird. It’s like what we were talking about with mini tours, our tour with Upset was ending and the start of our tour with Basement was beginning that night so there was an overlap. We played a big show at The Mayan which was goofy as hell and then we went out to Pomona and played at this place called VLHS which was really, really awesome, one of the coolest places I’ve ever played. The kids were all really nice and it was really good, shoutout to Lewis and Tristan for giving us some beers. That was a really good show and at least my personal favorite moment so far.

LVL Up is based out of Brooklyn, a part of New York City where everything is always changing and the rents are always high. What do you think of venues like Death By Audio and Glasslands closing down and how much of a struggle is it to sustain yourself as an artist in NYC?

Mike Caridi: There’s a lot of cool DIY spots in Brooklyn. Shea Stadium is where we play a lot, The Silent Barn is another place where we play a lot and couple of us also have a little residency there. There are also a few other smaller spots like David Blaine’s The Steakhouse where a couple of our members live. It was a bummer when Death By Audio got shut down because that was another really big one as was Glasslands, which I guess wasn’t a real DIY spot but also got shutdown because of the stuff with Vice.

That was a bummer to see it go but there are a whole bunch of other spots and there are new spots always popping up so there’s no shortage of places to play. As far as making it work financially for us because of high rents and stuff like you said, we’re lucky because we pretty much make our money from being involved in other musical things. Greg and Nick play in a couple of other bands, Dave [Benton] and I run a record label, we all work part-time at venues so all of our income is music based and we’re pretty lucky for that. We’re definitely always broke as hell.

Today nearly everyone is broke. What do you think of this current rock revival in independent music where you have a lot of bands playing garage rock, vintage-style punk, and some are even harking back with a sound reminiscent of ’80s alternative rock acts like Husker Du, Sonic Youth and The Replacements? What’s your take on all of this from a personal aspect? Do you like it? Are you skeptical of it? Do you have a fear of it becoming homogenized?

Corbo: The only thing I ever really feel about that is confusion over why it’s ever called a revival at all ever. Music happens naturally and influences happen naturally so any music being made is obviously going to come from now of before. You’re definitely going to find inspiration from things that happened in the past, but I hear “revival” so many times. It feels weird and I have no idea where that comes from necessarily, I don’t think anybody is ever intending to revive a musical genre. Sometimes you’re inspired by this one thing, sometimes you’re inspired by another thing, sometimes it’s a tangible genre related thing that’s happening, sometimes it’s just one band or something. I don’t really think about that stuff that much.

Any idea of what’s next for LVL UP after this tour? Will you guys be heading straight back to the studio or will you be taking some time off and just playing shows for a while?

Rutkin: We actually are planning on starting to record a new full length next month, so we’re going to be pretty much releasing something as soon as possible. We’re not going to rush recording or anything like that, we know that we want to make a full length and we already have a lot of the songs written. We’re just trying to work on that fairly immediately and take a couple of months off so we can finish that up.

LVL UP + Basement + Adventures + Palehound :: Sunday, August 16 at Royale, 279 Tremont St. in Boston, MA :: 6:30 p.m., all-ages, $16 in advance and $18 day of show :: Advance tickets :: Bowery event page