Faster, Hotter, Funner: Calgary band The Lovebullies update and expand their vintage sound with latest release Somewhere

Calgary’s The Lovebullies have always been fast and hot. Fast, well, maybe they just look that way — heck, check out those mini-skirts; they even had to lengthen them to be family-friendly for their appearance last month on Canada’s hallowed TV series, Heartland. Hot because their gigs sell out like, ahem, hotcakes, and their music sizzles with joy and fun. Thus hot, fast, and now — even faster. 

Faster because it took these Calgary faves over a decade to release their first three albums, from 2008’s When I Get Through With You to 2021’s Friends, their first release after the death of long-time guitarist Kevin Friend Herring, who had already recorded guitar parts for the songs when he passed. And now, less than two years later comes new album Somewhere, to be released March 10 and 11 at the Ironwood. See, they’re getting downright speedy. No doubt hotter is right, cough, behind.

As songwriter, singer and guitarist Chantal Vitalis says, while the band were gutted by the loss of Herring and held him in their minds and hearts while recording Somewhere at National Music Centre’s Studio Bell in August, they also surmounted this unwanted change by stomping forward in their vintage go-go boots: “It’s kind of exciting to see us blossom in a different direction. This is a great representation of us, of how we sound without him.”

Another change for the band was working with producer Graham Lessard. “It’s interesting working with a different producer; he really teased out some stuff for us for sure. So maybe it’s not quite as guitar focused as our previous albums are. We always made room for a solo that Kevin had to play, so we took on a bit of a different direction and rolled the dice and I’m really glad where everything landed,” Vitalis says.

And listeners, too, will be glad, or more likely ecstatic, with where everything landed as lead singer Caroline Connolly’s addictive summer-sky-clear floating vocals – punctuated by occasional periods of smoky-barroom-cloudiness — shine on these 11 songs. Bassist Joni Brent and drummer Paul Jahn round out the lineup while returning Lovebully Andrea Revel is also featured on guitar and vocals. Vitalis has long written shiver-inducing tunes like More Captured Than Released from her 2007 solo album, Today’s Special, and as co-writer in Calgary’s mythical 1980s band Same Difference; their track Cigarette forever induces goosebumps of recognition of shared human experience. 

Together, Connolly and Vitalis dug into their creative garden for Somewhere. For a band billed as ’60s vintage rock and roll, and who hand out psychedelic candy-coloured covers of Nancy Sinatra, Dusty Springfield’s Son of a Preacher Man, and even Shocking Blue’s Venus along with liberal doses of their own songs each show, oddly, these new songs weren’t created by some kumbaya incense and peppermint moments, but, with a Calgary Arts Development grant that forced their hand and their hours to create a spreadsheet, which is not very 1969. 

In fact, having an August deadline to record meant the band had to organize around their lives, spouses, jobs, children and beyond in order to be ready. “We sat down and wrote spreadsheets for all the charts for all the songs and every time a change was made to a lyric, we’d update the spreadsheets. I think artists tend to be ‘I’m not going to write it down; if I don’t remember it, it was probably a shit song.’

“I think I work well under pressure. (In her job as artistic associate at the Calgary Folk Music Festival, Vitalis shines at that.) As dry as a spreadsheet sounds, what it’s really good for is you can see everything and it’s very clear what needs to be done and what has already been done. I think having that kind of pressure and deadline was good for us. It really made us trauma bond, I think,” she says, laughing.

First single London 1969, a co-write Connolly did with local writer, Emily Triggs, is proof the spreadsheet worked. “They were talking about stories from their past, and the first line of the song is ‘You’ll never forget this’ and that’s what Caroline’s dad said to her when she was three years old and the whole family was (in London, Ontario) watching the lunar landing on a TV that the whole family had rented just for that occasion.” The moment was so important the kids were called in from the swimming pool, and the line stuck with Connolly like the scent of chlorine sticks on skin.

Despite that 1969 theme, Vitalis, who tends to either take years or 20 minutes to finish writing a song, broke out of her traditional way of thinking about Lovebullies songs. “When The Lovebullies started, I think we had for so long stuck to that vintage 1960s inspired sound, so there were some songs from my back catalogue that I didn’t think were appropriate for the era of the sound of The Lovebullies. Except with this album, there’s actually a couple of songs that I sort of resurrected, reintroduced them to the band, and for whatever reason, they really worked this time. With some of them I sat down and wrote new bridges or something, and all of a sudden, the songs seemed to make sense and work.

“The number one thing is, for me, is this a fun song? I think of the band as being super fun, so there’s a lot of songs I probably just would not send their way.”

One of those songs, Crush, the third single from the album was about a decade old when Vitalis re-worked it by finding a new bridge. “One thing I’m never really afraid of — I call it experience, some people might call it old age — but, I definitely honour that, especially as writer, when you can take an older piece of work and look at it objectively and say, ‘How can I make this better?’ and you’re doing it 10 years later. I think that’s really powerful. Crush in particular is a nod to my experience that I was able to put a button on it and finish it and deliver it. And the band really executed it just perfectly.”

The Lovebullies’ release Somewhere March 10 and 11 at the Ironwood. For information go to