It’s not every day that you get a call asking you to move to Tulsa, Oklahoma to join one of the most ambitious, adventurous musical acts nobody has ever heard of, but that’s what happened to Tim Convy in 2003. Almost five years later, the St. Louis native’s band, Ludo - named after a giant puppet from the movie Labyrinth - is about to release their major-label debut, You’re Awful, I Love You.
In case you’re wondering, they’re still one of the most ambitious, adventurous musical acts nobody has ever heard of.
Consider their last release a rock opera on par with My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade and much of Coheed and Cambria’s work and crammed into an EP called Broken Bride. It told the epic story of a man obsessed with preventing the death of his wife in a car accident. The hero eventually travels back in time, but something goes awry and his adventure winds up spanning everything from the dawn of time to the end of it. Broken Bride was not only absurdly profound, chock full of complicated, impossibly cool lyrics like, “I crashed before the birth of Christ, pterodactyls swarming/you died in 1989, I want to get back to that morning in May,” but it was also the sonic equivalent of Tarzan beating his chest. In other words, Convy and the rest of Ludo, which had previously released an entertaining, eponymous power-pop debut in 2003, were announcing their definitive arrival to the world.
Too bad nobody listened.
Time for take two. You’re Awful, I Love You, released on Island Records on February 26th, might not possess Bride’s monstrous concept, but frontman Andrew Volpe’s intricately detailed turns of the tongue are even more intricate. Their second single, “Love Me Dead,” features some of his best lyrics yet, including the beautiful, “She moves through moon beams slowly/She knows just how to hold me,” and the brutal, “You’re a parasitic psycho filthy creature fingerbanging my heart…you’re hideous and sexy.” With any luck, America pays attention this time around. God knows it needs a few more acts to breathe originality into tired pop genres like they seem to be willing to.
“I think we’re all realizing we’re not sleeping, and probably won’t until this thing comes out,” Convy says over the phone from his home in the Gateway City. “Then again, we probably won’t be sleeping afterwards,” he adds, chuckling.
To be fair, sleep has never really been part of Ludo’s existence. The band was formed initially as a duo in desperate need of a rhythm section, comprised of Volpe and lead guitarist Tim Ferrell, but after relentless acoustic touring resulting from a policy that they play a show every night, they decided it was time to start recruiting others to join them in, of all places, Tulsa. Why Tulsa? It’s a long story that involves a business partner finding Jesus and bailing on Ferrell, but it’s primarily because Tulsa is in the middle of nowhere, which makes it a perfect setting for devoting 100 percent of your time to something like, say, a band called Ludo. Convy was the first one to get the call.
After playing guitar for various bands since high school, the recent college grad felt defeated after one too many experiences as the most driven member of defunct bands, which is why he agreed to join Ludo. Problem was, they already had two guitarists. “I never really messed with keyboards or synthesizers, or anything like that,” he says. “But Andrew started pushing me into it, telling me I could do it. Andrew has a way of talking people into things. At first, I did it to humor him, but then, before I knew it, we were dropping $3,000 on a Moog, which was everything we had in credit-card limits.”
Convy packed up, mailed off his change of address forms, and drove to Tulsa (these days, the constantly touring band regards St. Louis as its home base). “When I first moved in, Andrew’s ferrets – `Randall and Skeletor` – had a room, and I slept on a futon.” That changed soon enough, especially after bassist Marshall Fanciullo and drummer Matt Palermo arrived. “We were jammed in there, but we were just so excited to be doing what we were doing, even if the place was disgusting. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. Every night we went to be exhausted, but couldn’t wait to get up and do it all again.”
It took three more years to make the labels pay attention, despite the comparatively huge numbers Ludo was drawing from coast to coast, but a SXSW showcase finally helped them make the leap. It had become necessary anyways; logistically, they were no longer capable of overseeing every aspect of their bloated enterprise. Island Records won their collective hearts and dropped them into the studio with producer Matt Wallace (Maroon 5). Under his guidance, Ludo’s acumen for theatricality, especially in Volpe’s performances - which tend to sound like Roger from Rent doing Freddie Mercury - took over, but the band also helped marry the power-pop they started out performing to their more operatic tastes.
“We like to say there’s stuff that would fit on the first record, stuff that would fit on Broken Bride, and stuff we’ve never done before,” Convy says. What they could also say, however, is, “It’s probably going to turn out to be one of the best albums of 2008, but we’d sound like total cocks for saying that.” That would probably be the case, but the cocks wouldn’t be lying. •
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