Give me some McLovins

Gui­tarist Justin Berger, a Devon na­tive, look­ing for­ward to be com­ing home

The Review - - News - By RobNagy For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

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.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

The McLovins will be at Milk­boy on Nov. 22.

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