Give me some McLovins
Guitarist Justin Berger, a Devon native, looking forward to be coming home
Emerging from obscurity as college friends that played jam music on the weekends, Hartford, Connecticut’s “McLovins” are rapidly gaining momentum as a band on the rise.
In the two years since the release of their self titled album “McLovins” (2015) the foursome, featuring Jake “The Drummer” Huffman ( lead vocals and drums), Jason Ott ( bass), Justin Berger (guitar) and Atticus Kelly (keyboards), are offering a taste of what fans can expect from their impending EP release in January.
“We’re releasing singles, songs that we’ve honed the past8months,” says Justin Berger, from his home in Bloomfield, Conn. “We’re releasing a song a month every month for the next four months, we’ve already released two in September and October, so we have two more singles to release, one in Novem- ber and one in December. There will be one more song when the EP is released next year. The songs are available to stream for free on Spotify, Apple Music, also available for purchase on iTunes. Once the EP comes out we’re going to have hard copies of the EP.”
“As we all know sometimes it’s a lot to dive into an album of someone’s music especially when it all drops at one time,” adds Berger. “So we had the idea of releasing single songs over time so people could get into the songs and get familiar with each individual song every 30 days or so. It’s not so hard to focus and get to know one song. If you put out twelve songs you gotta sit down and listen, it takes time. Over the last 2 years we’ve honed in on a specific rock sound and I think these songs show that.”
Originally a trio in 2008, Berger, a Devon, Pa. native and graduate of Conestoga High School, joined McLovins in 2012 and the band has never looked back.
“I went to the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford,” recalls Berger. “I did music production with Jason, jammed a couple of times. At the time the original guitar player was leaving. So I jammed with them and it kind of just felt right. Soon after I joined them and the rest is history.”
“It’s funny because the same month I started playing music with Jason I saw McLovins play, adds Berger. “I was like, ‘ Wow, I would love to be in a band like that.’ At the time they were very unknown, they jammed a lot. Very progressive, very fast paced. Ourmusic taste was a little different back then. I was super into jam music back then and that’s what they were doing and I was like, ‘I want to be a part of that or do something like that.’ It was the jam element and the connection they had on stage with each other as musicians. Really just jelling in some way. But it was also the chemistry that those guys have.”
“When we were in college it was something that we did every weekend and it was really fun,” recalls Berger. “Once we graduated school we met Michael Novick, our manager and the producer of our last album — Grammy Award winner Bill Sherman. We shared this collective vision of the future of what we wanted to do with our music and that was writing songs focusing on form, not ten-minute jams. So we all shared this direction that we wanted to go appealing to a wide audience. These songs all meant something to us.”
Combining progressive jazz, jam music and rock and roll, McLovins offer a soulful blend of funky rhythms, edgy guitar riffs, melodic keyboard progressions and hard driving drums accented by lead vocals reminiscent of the Grateful Dead.
“We’re a rock band with pop tendencies,” says Berger. “We like to say if Phish and Kings of Leon had a baby, that would be what we sound like.”
“As a guitar player, I have a lot of inf luences from Wilco, Minus The Bear, Steely Dan and Tom Petty,” adds Berger. “I’d say it’s closest to rock but it’s got this indie vibe to it. Depending on what we’re playing I like to think that I bring a sound that is unique to the guitar, partly because of my tone and what I have going on, my pedal world. I have this pedal called the memory man. My band kind of jokes around - they call me the memory man (laughs). I have this pedal that I have on all the time. I think it adds a dimension to the music. All of the influences I’ve had over the past 10 years have culminated into how I play now. Not just diverse, but there’s such a unique sound that I’ve built. I’ve spent years crafting my tone and I think it shows a lot.”
McLovins reputation for crafting great music has caught the attention of their contemporaries The Gin Blossoms, Buddy Guy and George Porter, Jr. (The Meters), among others, with whom they have shared the concert stage, expanding their exposure to larger audiences on their continued ascent.
Performing as many as 150 concert dates a year McLovins are more determined than ever to win over audiences from coast to coast and beyond.
“We’re very pleased where the band is right now,” says Berger. “We’re still building our fan base around the country. Our plan of attack is to write and release music, but also make our rounds touring. Stuff doesn’t happen overnight. I think we’re all pretty happy with where it’s all headed, where we’re going and the people we are working with. It’s only going up.”
Berger and his band mates are excited to return to the City of Brotherly Love, their second home later this month when they headline Milkboy on Chestnut Street.
“Coming back to Philly for me is really awesome,” says Berger. “I only get to come home several times a year and when I do it’s usually based around a gig. This is the first time we’re playing at Milkboy. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of my parents. I’m really excited to be coming home to see my family, friends and play to fans of Philadelphia.”
The McLovins will be at Milkboy on Nov. 22.