No matter how you slice it, Milwaukee instrumental rock and roll quartet Lovanova is a Brew City supergroup.
The band, led by Hammond B-3 organist Paul Kneevers – who was a member of The Probers, among many others, and is a respected producer and engineer, too – also includes drummer Dave Schoepke, guitarist Sean Williamson and bassist Joey Carini.
Rooted around the legendary B3, you'd expect Lovanova – which releases its third CD, "Cabinova," this week – to be an organ soul jazz group or maybe an ELP-style prog band. Is it? Yes and yes, plus more.
Pop in "Cabinova," with its eight jet-propelled tune and you'll hear those influences and more. Every time you think you've got Lovanova pegged, the next tune – or a middle eight – arrives and blows the theory out of the water.
As Lovanova – whose debut disc, "Day 4 of Nine," came out in 2010 and "We're All In It Together" followed in 2011 – readies for its CD release at The Tonic Tavern in Bay View on Friday, Dec. 21, we asked Kneevers about "Cabinova" and running a band whose members are all in numerous other groups, too.
OnMilwaukee.com: Tell us a bit about the significance of the title, "Cabinova."
Paul Kneevers: I wanted to get us all out of town to record, so that we could really get a chance to focus. The songs were in really rough form; in several cases we hadn't even played them as a full band. Some songs we composed together right on the spot. Most of the songs on the album are the original tracks we performed live, together at one time in one room.
We recorded on much less gear than we normally use in the studio, but the room at the cabin had great acoustics. Two songs were re-recorded for arrangement purposes a bit later after we were into overdubs and mixing because we knew we could play them better as a group.
In Lovanova we try to track all of our parts live, there are some overdubs of solos sometimes, but quite a lot was tracked old school, four guys in a room. The fact that it rained the whole time we were up north helped, because we couldn't be distracted by other pleasures the Northwoods have to offer.
OMC: I love how each song seems to contain an improbable variety of styles. Does that genre-hopping come naturally or do you guys work hard to make those musical leaps?
PK: The musical talents and diversity of the players is just so broad. The guys all play in a wide variety of other bands, in almost any style, so there's always a lot of differing influences. Because every member has so many different influences, we try a lot of things until a song feels right to all of us. Some songs, though, we compose more rigidly and melodies and parts are planned out at the start.
So we write in a bunch of different ways, with no one way taking precedence. It's all about doing what seems right for the song to all of us.
The band is really driving the arrangements in different ways each time we play them.
OMC: For you as a Hammond player, from whom do you draw inspiration?
PK: I grew up stealing licks from Jimmy Smith, Booker T (Jones), Larry Young, Keith Emerson, T. Lavitz, Jon Lord, Jimmy McGriff. There are so many good Hammond players out there. It's a fun, organic instrument that never stops providing opportunities and obstacles for the player. Especially making the old gear work right! (Laughs)
OMC: As an instrumental band do you get folks who come up and ask when the singing starts or do people get it right away?
PK: People get it. They dance and groove with us. Shows have been lots of fun to play the last year.
OMC: Have you considered doing some songs with lyrics?
PK: We have and in the future we may. It's nice to say something musically that can be interpreted by the perspective of the listener. Lyrics sometimes say too much. Instrumentals are more in the eye, or ear of the beholder.
OMC: It's pretty safe to call Lovanova a local supergroup. Is it hard to keep it all together sometimes having four guys that play in a number of bands? How do you make that work?
PK: We do 64 group text messages per practice scheduled. Seriously.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.