Amoree Lovell
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Amoree Lovell

Band Alternative Cabaret


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The best kept secret in music


"Joie de vivre"

If she had been alive during the 1920s and ‘30s, singer, songwriter and electric pianist Amoree Lovell would’ve been the perfect American expatriate musician. It’s easy to imagine her paying in a dingy Parisian bar, clad in black and with a cigarette dangling from her lips as she sings her mordantly joyful cabaret-style pop tunes. Lovell is heartening sing onstage in any era, and if you happen to catch her act, it’s well worth a few bucks to buy her demo CD, which holds four of the catchiest tunes you may hear for many a moon.
- The Oregonian A&E: Stan Hall (March 8, 2002)

"Up & Coming"

A name like “Amoree Lovell” makes me picture a girl in a pink baby doll dress singing sweet songs, or playing violin. Amoree Lovell, however, is the opposite, wearing all-black and smoking cigarettes while playing piano – quite a talent – in manic, sultry cabaret style. - The Portland Mercury: Katie Shimer (March 7, 2002)


In a town full-to-bursting with talented adherents of forgotten music, Amoree Lovell manages that rarest trick--sounding like absolutely no one else. Through piano-led melodies and sweeping, soaring vocals—equally capable of note-perfect jazz inflection and the affected twang--Lovell updates a Kurt Weill/Lotte Lenya framework to a post-ironic modernity. Wielding a pointed wit ("Lament of the Designated Driver," for example) without sacrificing more decadent flourishes, Lovell embraces a distinct genre-twisting sound.
- The Willamette Week: Jay Horton (March 6, 2002)

"Amoree's Menageries (A Portland singer keeps many creepy things at her command.)"

Dilemmas, dilemmas. Amoree Lovell is dealing with one.
"I'm trying to decide," says Lovell, who sings and plays electric piano with cheeky Gothic élan. "Do you go with degree of weirdness, or number of kills?" Lovell's working on an alphabet song about serial killers--so she needs 26 of them, obviously. She envisions the song as a highlight of her current work-in-progress, "Six Sadistic Songs for Children."
Touchy business.
"They have to fit together," she says, native Nebraska twang all over her voice. "Like, Bela Kiss rhymes with Albert Fish. But I was using Ed Gein for 'G' because I thought his name was pronounced gine instead of geen, and I wanted to rhyme it with 'vagina.' So now, do I replace Ed Gein? And I've still got to figure 'R' and 'S'."
Lovell has other self-imposed rules slowing her down: no killer nurses, no black widows, because "that's lame." When she's finished, though, her lighthearted survey of human evil will no doubt become another black-tipped Cupid's arrow in Lovell's quiver. Not all her songs are about murderers; some deal with subjects as quotidian as designated drivers, crushes, divorce and roommate troubles. But Amoree's everyday is viewed through a glass darkly, and if the "Six Sadistic Songs" project suggests an off-center sensibility to you--well, you could be on to something.
Lovell's mordant cabaret-style repertoire triangulates Nick Cave, Kurt Weill, some more blackhearted '80s New Wave and Danny Elfman, her personal hero. ("My influence? It's him. I rip off Danny Elfman every chance I get.") She cuts a unique figure on Portland's club scene, taking stages usually decked with rock bands, alone at the keys, wreathed in eternal cigarette smoke. She may be the only musician in a niche-happy town equally at home at punk dive Billy Ray's, indie-rock haven Blackbird, and Mock Crest Tavern, North Portland's blues stronghold. She's definitely the only one whose single favorite gig is playing the Hollywood Theatre lobby during the annual H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, as she did last weekend. And, cool as it is, you sort of hope no one else ever rewrote their childhood piano-lesson book into a cycle of love songs about Godzilla.
A striking figure, all right, cutting a profile all the more impressive for her self-avowed shyness.
"Promoting myself seems really foreign and alien," she says. "I'm not Muhammad Ali--even though I love Muhammad Ali. When he does it, it's beautiful. If I were to do that, I would feel horrible about myself. I find it much easier to talk about my piano. Yes, I can praise this amazing piece of engineering. It's easier to deflect a compliment onto the machine. But to actually take a compliment myself is very hard."
I have no idea what Lovell's house looks like. (We met at the new Vat & Tonsure, appropriate in its own way, opera blaring as dusk played out on the parking garage across the street.) But I know what I imagine: a pell-mell Victorian, going to seed and exhaling ghosts into some mossy Portland side street, protected by wrought-iron gates and feral blackberry bushes. Call it romantic, or call it Romantic. In any case, it's probably a complete misconception. But Lovell's music, so rough on her 76-key electric piano's bass end, makes it sound like a fun, though slightly freaky, place to visit.
She's been building this creaky manse since she moved to Portland in 1999, "driving across four states with four screaming cats." (Yes, a cat person--surprised?) Now, she has recording plans for January, to follow-up a debut EP with which she has a "love-hate relationship." Then, time, money and logistics permitting, she'll tour in April. And even as those plots coalesce, she's contemplating her next artistic move.
"I've established that I can play and smoke a cigarette at the same time. Now I'm trying to figure out what comes next. At one time, thinking about that would have made me crazy and made me cry, but I'm at a point where it's OK to think about those things. I actually enjoy it."
Once she picks her killers, she'll be well on her way. - The Willamette Week: Zach Dundas (October 16, 2002)

"ACROSS A KEYBOARD DARKLY (Amoree Lovell's Smoky Piano)"

Theatrics are far too rare in music these days. Not over-the-top rock theatrics, or densely choreographed, Britney-scale Musical Productions for Stadiums and Arenas--there are actually too many of those. But the kind of subtle drama that's found in well-written murder mysteries or dark and choppy silent films--really, far too rare. Amoree Lovell, a local pianist/vocalist, smokes a cigarette while she plays her shadowy ragtime cabaret. She stays on the low end of the keyboard a good amount of the time, her hands skulking across the notes. Often clothed in a long, black dress, her voice can creep up on you like a vine or an opalescent phantom. The air around her seems to crumple quietly, and yes, subtly. It bows to her. You want to be watching her play in grainy black and white, like an early film queen--Theda Bara, maybe. "I wish I were one of these cool types, but I'm not," says Lovell. "I'm a little drama queen, as much as I don't want to be." In actuality, however, much of the drama surrounding her performances works precisely because it's not premeditated. "When I'm playing, I'm trying really hard to concentrate on what I am doing," she says. "It's that chase for perfection, I guess. I'm really just actively trying to think of the notes and the way it needs to be delivered and the pitches. When I'm playing, I'm not relaxed." (Continued on back…)Lovell began playing piano by ear when she was three years old, but composition-wise, didn't really come into her own until a revelation, courtesy Rodney Dangerfield. "I remember very vividly one summer I was working on a Christmas song in this certain rhythm. I was going along in 4/4 time, with one measure of 2/4, and then back into 4/4. And I thought it sounded so neat, but no one on the radio was doing that. Taylor Dayne wasn't doing it; Bobby Brown wasn't doing it; Night Ranger wasn't doing it. And that summer, Rodney Dangerfield's Back to School was re-running on HBO and--do you remember the party scene in the movie? Oingo Boingo was playing in the background, and they were playing 'Dead Man's Party,' which goes along in 4/4, then 2/4, then 4/4. And it was just like angels came down from heaven and started singing to me," she says. "I am a huge Danny Elfman fan. He is the big influence," she says. With a cutesy sinister cross-influence of gothic, new wave, and more traditional music like Kurt Weill (who wrote "Mack the Knife"), Lovell's music is unmistakably in the vein of Elfman. Despite her music's all-encompassing, quirkily dark ambiance, however, her range is wide, from creepy lullabies to glamorous ballads to covers of '80s club hits? "[Peter Schilling's] 'Major Tom'* was something I'd always wanted to cover. I know it sounds really impressive, but it's nothing but scales and arpeggios. It's like using a wah-wah pedal to sound funky. It's a great song; so dramatic. Nobody writes great dramatic songs like that anymore," says Lovell. As for the cigarette, Lovell says, "I think the cigarette adds intensity. It was never like, 'Oh, I'm going to smoke a cigarette and be dramatic.' It comes from smoking like a fiend. I was playing a show and something felt wrong. I put a cigarette in my mouth and thought, 'My god, that's what was missing the whole time!'" - The Portland Mercury: Julianne Shepherd (March 10, 2002)


Amorèe Lovell: Six Sadistic Songs for Children
Amorèe Lovell: The Burning Bush
(see for audio samples)


Feeling a bit camera shy


(Review by Bob Gaulke - The Rocket)
Recently, while waiting for one of those obligatory haven't-seen-your friends'-band-play-in-a-long-time shows to start, I saw a shy looking young woman walk onstage with a standing art-deco ashtray, trailed by two black-clad gentlemen carrying an elephant-sized electric piano coffin. She mumbled something like 'hallouw' into the mike then ripped at the electric elephant carcass like a jackal left stranded on standby in the Heartland. Hands were flying, cigarettes were burning, and a voice like Patsy Cline was working; steam rose, then, the piano seemed to melt: she cooked the beast! Joining a musical Diaspora from Nebraska, ("I grew up in South Sioux City, Nebraska and went to college in Lincoln, Nebraska - "The Place Where Dreams Stay That Way"), Amorèe Lovell has come out to Portland to duke it with indigenous basement boys for an opportunity to please and amaze the Portland, Oregon natives. Easily done, as she can play, sing, and write, very well. When asked about some of the inspirations behind songs she opined, "I'm a weird person. I like difficult relationships." On her self-released Cd Ep, The Burning Bush, Lovell takes us for a short walk into several creepy scenes of a real and imagined life. Through near death experiences ("Inch"), psychosexual insanity ("Beauty"), teen-aged angst ("Boobs"), and the struggle of an introverted character against the threats of the great hippie-stoner unwashed, ("Lament of The Designated Driver"), her music swoons. You'll have to pry a copy of the cd from her hands though; she's pretty shy about its availability.
Lovell learned to play piano by ear at the age of 4. ("My older brothers were taking lessons at the time. I worshipped them and copied them.") Her first attempts at songwriting consisted of rewriting the lyrics to her piano lessons. ("They all became love songs about Godzilla. I think my mom still has them somewhere.") She studied music theory and composition at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE but dropped the program with one semester left. ("It took me that long to realize the progam was geared towards teaching, which would have been fine, but I wanted to be the next Danny Elfman.") She started performing her original solo work in 1994. With a musical vocabulary that runs from tin-pan alley ("Those old Reader's Digest Anthologies of Song piano songbooks), to the pop of twenty years past ("New Order's 'Blue Monday' was pretty influential. Nick Cave's 'Red Right Hand' and 'Loverman' hit me hard." She recalls), her sound is decidedly out of touch with the crap of the month. Years of piano lessons, boring surroundings, and a touch Burton/Elfman have helped baste a romantic outlook in the dark imaginings of flatland decay…gris-gris sans swamp.