The Tough & Lovely
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The Tough & Lovely

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The best kept secret in music


"The New Romantics: The Tough & Lovely's Wooing Power"

Why is modern love generally so unromantic? All that cheating, lying, deceiving, crying—plus the long-distance shit, the dating sudden deaths, the two-timing devils. Where has all the romance gone, when nights out didn't mean midnight booty calls and when suitors wooed their crushes with class? Okay, maybe such a fantasy is just a Grease-induced hallucination. Even as the smitten snuggled up at the sock hop, evil libidos preyed inside undercover playboys and girls. It just all sounded so much simpler in song, though—the ladies of '60s girl groups like the Ronettes, the Shirelles, and the Shangri-Las sending harmonies heavenly and offering an eyelash-batting innocence with racy hints of simmering hormones.

It's tough to capture that '60s essence, that just-so-fierce delivery of a heart pounding through its cage; a female dynamo declaring a lover is hers alone, or begging for an incorrigible stray to come on home.

The Tough & Lovely's guitarist Andrew Robertson proves the romantic rocker is not simply an old apparition. As the main songwriter for the Columbus, Ohio, five-piece, he's penned/cowritten more than a dozen songs that sound straight from some unearthed comp of broken-heart classics. The band's debut, Born of the Stars (Spoonful Records), bathes soaring female vocals in candied organ swirls and booty-shaking garage-rock rhythms. Like his idols, Robertson also gives those sentiments boosts of pop and soul—delivered through the commotion of one Lara Yazvac, a woman who could freeze wandering eyes with her ardent cries for affection. She possesses both a crackling, smoky barroom yowl (perfect for commanding a man to move "what your mamma gave you" on "The Ooh La La") and a melancholy croon that's powerful even in submission (the gorgeous pleas of "Never Let Me Go").

"Groups like the Shangri-Las had a snarly attitude, but with this real innocent teenage bubblegum thing," Robertson explains of his obsession with beehived dames of days gone by. "It's this 'I'm so wild about my man' kind of music—which is silly and melodramatic, but there's something great to it, too. I like the simplicity there, that everyone can relate to, as simple as 'I'm hurt 'cause you left me.'"

Yazvac's dynamic presence first caught Robertson's attention at a karaoke bar, of all places. "I'd seen her around town, but [suddenly] she'd just gotten really good at singing," he explains. "She'd go up and knock people's socks off." He especially remembers Yazvac taking on the Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz." "Everyone was half into the karaoke and then she got up there and totally worked the crowd." For Yazvac, karaoke was a method of perfecting both vocal range and crowd engagement. "It was like practicing an instrument for Lara; she got good at it. She has a 'don't give a fuck' attitude, so she can really put herself out there onstage, whereas other people may be thinking too much about how they sound or feel."

Their singer may have earned her chops belting out other people's material, but unlike the similarly oldies-attuned Detroit Cobras, the Tough & Lovely pride themselves on writing originals so classic-sounding you have to double-check the credits to make sure they're not covers. That special reverence comes via the band members' vinyl obsessions—Robertson is a rabid collector of old 45s. He's even considering bringing a portable record player on the road. "I know people who have been in bands with me have found themselves waiting in front of the record store rolling their eyes like, 'Come on, man,'" he says, laughing, "which I completely understand."

That passion helps Robertson, Yazvac, drummer Christian Pierce, and new members Paul Gault (organ/guitar) and Matthew Million (bass) reinvent the oldest subject matter in the songbook. "It's funny, I had trouble singing love songs in my old band... for some reason it was hard to put my heart on my sleeve—with this band we've written a lot of love and breakup songs. Now I find it hard to write stuff outside of that," Robertson admits. "I'm just a record-nerd kind of guy, but it frustrates me that there's not the same sensitivity in new music. There're love songs out there, but [listen to] a Roy Orbison song or an Everly Brothers song and you just don't get that in most music these days." - Jennifer Maerz, The Stranger/Seattle

"Seven Inch Pop Shots"

Another chix and dix combo who’ve been gigging frequently in these parts is Ohio’s the Tough and Lovely. They, uh, rock hard, with a penchant for burly songcraft (wow, remember that?) that simply bleeds like Interstate 80 road-kill on the eponymous side. Tough and Lovely play the Magic Stick Saturday, May 8.

- Brian Smith and Mike Murphy, Metrotimes/Detroit

"Review of "Born of the Stars" Now Wave Magazine, 09/20/04"

. . . A good band becomes a great band when they have a front woman with style and presence, making you stop whatever you are doing and pay attention. The Tough & Lovely have got the goods in Lara Yazvac. She has such force and veracity but also complete control; it was like these songs were written just for her and no one else. The band has chops too. Andrew Roberston (who wrote or co-wrote with Lara the entire album) fires out thick, gut-penetrating rock ’n’ roll riffs like the Stones or the Sonics, but can also lay out some cool blues bars, like so many of those garage bands who had an even more unabashed love of the roots of rock. The rhythm section is tough as nails and (fittingly) pounds out the back beat like a hammer, supplying lots of movement, depth, and (wahoo!) cool backing vocals. These songs kick ass. From the straight-up bullshit-free, in your face opener “Born Of The Stars” to the hip-rattling “The Ooh La La” (which is about a dance called the Ooh La La) which nears the finish, it’s pretty much solid hits top to bottom. Excellent album! Kudos all around! Yes, it’s worth getting excited about. Good albums coming out of nowhere (to me) are rare, great albums rarer still, but great albums that also make you a fan, that get you interested in seeking out more releases and promoting them for the sake of adoration (rather than it being my “job” as a reviewer) are 1 in 8,000*.................. *Yes, I’ve done the math.
- Review by Mark Hughson

"Unsolicited testimony: T&L at The Union in Athens, OH 2/19/05"

So it's midnightish and I've already had a black russian and gin and tonic and some other unnameable drink. The club I'm in has a very pro, very polished 8-piece big band playing very good covers of everything from Stevie Wonder to the BeeGees to Squeeze and Willie Dixon. Think Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Lots of drinking and dancing going on - and I am bored out of my skull. A young friend wants me to accompany her to some dive bar, to help her make this guy jealous, so I comply, whatever. He's there, they are having that conversation where he tells her he wants to be 'just friends', etc. I leave them alone to work it out, while the band comes on to begin their last set of the night.

And they are...simply fabulous.

Now I am someone who has nipped around the periphery of the 'music biz' for 20-odd years, ( and these days find myself in academia. It's a living. But the old passions never die, and I am writing to tell you that this band is KILLER.

There were maybe 50 to 75 people in the place by the end of the night, and they are cheering. I am yelling exhortations. It sounded like the shrieks of Beatlemania at one point, (at least 75 people's-worth of Beatlemania). The band and the audience were feeding off each other in the way that only happens in a club this size when the audience knows they are seeing something special and letting the band know - both caught in a continuous feedback loop of joy . l have not seen energy like this on a stage since the B-52s at the Hot Club in Philadelphia in 1979 or the Clash at the Tower Theatre in 1980 or Lene Lovich at Ripley's in 1981... or... In short, completely opposite to the earlier band. What T&L lack in polish and 'technical proficiency' they totally make up in pure raw energy and fun. The Tough & Lovely are the first band that have impressed me like this for a long, long time.

I LOVE this group! They are wonderful. Non-affected, non-posing, have and show roots but are completely original. Wow.

Thank you all for a great night. I Have Seen the Future of Rock and Roll and it is both Tough and Lovely.

Michael T.

- Email from a witness...

"Review of"

...Tough and Lovely, the Columbus band that’s made a name for itself mixing vintage sounds while eschewing off-the-wrack attitude for high-voltage energy. Led by singer Lara Yazvac and guitarist/songwriter Andy Robertson (formerly of Them Wranch), the band’s cultivated a regional following on the basis of its blowout live performances...

...Indeed, while built on a foundation of ’60s R&B and rock sounds, track-by-track the record traverses a dynamic range, going from slow burners (“Never Let Me Go”) to raucous romps (“Tough and Lovely”) and places in between...

...Yazvac’s vocals are the front and center to each of the album’s dozen tracks. At once both sweet and forceful (or to put it another way, tough and lovely), her voice is steeped with the same kind of soul possessed by the band’s influences...

- Stephen Slaybaugh, Columbus Alive

"Lager House Press Release"

Tough and Lovely: CD/LP Release Party for this Ohio band
who Detroit (and the Lager) has gladly adopted as
their own. They’re hotter every time they play,
especially now with the addition of an organ player
and their sound is that much fuller. And what a sound
it is! Garage soul of the highest caliber, with more
and more elements of trashed out 70’s rock finding
their way into the mix as well. Can’t wait to hear
the album!
- Lager House/Detroit


"Born of the Stars" Review:
Lara Yazvac’s blue-eyed howl betrays hints of Janis and Mavis, while guitarist Andrew Robertson blazes through lick after lick of ‘60s garage pop. Every song on the Born of the Stars is an original, making the Columbus, Ohio, band’s themes of loving and squeezing all the more electrifying. - MAGNET no. 66 Jan/Feb 2005

"7 Days in Detroit"

The two most essential characteristics you need in life are to be tough and lovely. If you’re lovely enough to seduce an unsuspecting rich suitor, yet tough enough to punch him in the face and steal his money, then you’re on the right track. That characteristic transfers over quite nicely ( or not so nicely) to the sounds conjured up by Columbus’ Tough and Lovely. Combining the rough and tumble sounds of garage with a more romantic, soulful side the band will celebrate the release of their new LP, Born of the Stars, right here in their adopted hometown of Detroit. The Detroit City Council and the Dollfaces open the show. - by Jeff Milosevich, Real Detroit

"Tough and Lovely"

Columbus Garage rock outfit the Tough and Lovely have to be one of the most aptly named bands in years, maybe ever. The Tough: the sharp hooks of guitarist Andy Robertson and the rock solid rhythm section of Christian Pierce’s drums and Carol Schumaker’s bass. The Lovely: the swirling organ of Mark Sims and the heart wrenching love songs written by Robertson and vocalist Lara Yazvac. Yazvac herself is found on both sides of the coin- she can be sweet and soft and remind you of Carol King one minute and in the next be hard as nails, making you swear Janis Joplin must’ve gone on a nine month bender, had a kid and forgot.

The tough and Lovely have brought their high energy stage show to the Northside Tavern several times already and this time bring it downtown to LAVA to celebrate the release of their new album, Born of the Stars (Spoonful Records). The disc is an impressive debut with hometown connections- three of the tracks were recorded with Cincinnati’s own John Curly at Ultrasuede Studios, while three more were done with Pearlene’s Rueben Glaser (Schumaker also called Cincinnati her home for a few years in the 90’s). The record is full of hard hitting Rock & Roll with a strong tinge of Blues.

Their influences are apparent, as everything from ‘60s rockers like the Shocking Blue to blue-eyed Soul acts like the Everly Brothers and edgier ‘60s girl groups like the Shangri-La’s show up in the mix. They don’t necessarily reinvent the wheel on this record, but they don’t need to – this wheel is good, and it’s set to roll the band to wide success.
- by Erica McIntyre, CityBeat/Cincinnati


(2003/Spoonful Records)

(2004/Spoonful Records)


Feeling a bit camera shy


Born of an endless stack of old rock and soul records, most likely; born of the stars, most definitely…

Usually “falling stars” burn up before they make it through the atmosphere, but once in a great while something from the heavens finds its way to earth and hits with such force it leaves its mark for years to come. The Tough and Lovely are one of those rare and lucky stars that made the trip, and their debut album is one hell of an explosion. “Born of the Stars” is twelve well-crafted originals solidly stacked from top to bottom. But it didn’t just fall from the sky. You see, long before this super nova was ever cut to LP and burned to CD it was just a faint glimmer in a sky packed with so many much brighter luminaries, and it was those nearest to the T&L that the band emulated. Shooting stars like the Shocking Blue, the Shangri-Las, the Everly Brothers, The Zombies, Chris Clark and Irma Thomas all left great tail winds from which the band could build their own momentum.
The Tough and Lovely, which was first set into motion by guitarist and primary songwriter Andrew Robertson back in early 2002, was soon shining bright with the stellar vocals of lead singer Lara Yazvac, and it’s impact was certain with the inextinguishable charge of organist/guitarist Mark Sims, bassist Carol Schumacher, and drummer Christian Pierce all solidly pounding out straight-up, infectious rock and roll. Amidst a crossfire of warm guitars and swirling organ, the band began building quite a following in rock clubs throughout the Midwest, Mid-south, and Eastern United States. During the two years that followed, from the band’s inception to the release of their debut album, only those fortunate enough to hear the T&L’s first single or witness their live shows knew what was about to go down: “Born of the Stars” …a “Big Bang” if there ever was one!