Where nobody knows their name Music: Folks across the country and abroad have taken a liking to the pop band Love Nut, but here at home, fans are hard to find.

June 29, 1996|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Usually, when a band is considered some city's "best-kept secret," it means that, apart from the locals, nobody really knows how great the group is. Love Nut, though, has the opposite problem: This Baltimore-based quartet is a bigger draw in the Midwest than it is at home.

"We do really well in St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee," says Love Nut leader Andy Bopp. "Des Moines, Iowa, we do well. Omaha, Neb. And Houston, Texas. Jacksonville, Fla., is really cool.

"We actually draw more people in those towns than we do in Baltimore."

Love Nut's national profile will doubtless keep on growing, too. Since signing to Interscope Records last summer, the band has toured the United States six times, and the United Kingdom twice. Moreover, that hard work has paid off. Not only has the band built a following in several cities, but its debut album, "Bastards of Melody," made it to No. 25 on the college radio charts of the trade magazine CMJ.

"No. 25 out of 200 for a pseudo-pop record is pretty good, I think," Bopp says. "Because they have all that weird stuff on there. College radio charts are so bizarre."

Love Nut, on the other hand, is anything but bizarre. With a sound that's firmly in the tradition of Big Star, Cheap Trick and the dB's, Love Nut is a classic guitar-pop act, all soaring guitars and clean, catchy melodies. Between engaging, ebullient originals like "Star" or "Touch" and the group's energetic remake of "Green Tambourine," the band seems tailor-made for the current guitar-pop revival, fitting easily alongside the likes of Veruca Salt or Velvet Crush.

So why is Love Nut a popband without honor in its hometown? Bopp just laughs. "It's a funny town," he says, diplomatically. "I love it, but it's a funny town."

He ought to know. Love Nut -- which features Bopp and Max Mueller on guitars, Tom Sabia on drums and David Vespoint on bass -- had been kicking around for the local scene for six years before getting its big break. And frankly, the band would probably still be local and unknown if it weren't for an unexpected lucky break.

"Oddly enough, we were signed because the Interscope people happened to show up at a function in Washington, D.C., last June," Bopp says. "They were there to see another band, actually. They saw us, liked us, and I think we were signed a week later. With the music industry, it's 99 percent timing and having the right people see you."

Interscope not only got the band, but two finished albums. "Bastards of Melody" had already been released through the Baltimore independent label Merkin Records, and Bopp already had a second, 18-song album in the can.

"We only did the record for $600," says Bopp. "It was really cheap. Drew Mazurek did it in his basement, and he just charged us $100 a day. We did it in about four days, so I gave him a little bit extra."

Nor did Interscope think that the album's cost compromised its quality, for the company released the album as is. "They put their Interscope 'I' on the back of the cover, and that was it," says Bopp. "So that was kind of cool."

So far, Love Nut has spent most of 1996 on the road, and there's more roadwork on the way. But that, says Bopp, is all part of the plan. "Unlike other majors, Interscope gives a record 12 to 18 months to break," he says. "Like the Toadies, who they pushed for almost two years, and now their album is gold. So you probably won't see our second album until the end of '97, something like that."

Pub Date: 6/29/96

Love Nuts

When: 9: 30 tonight

Where: Fletcher's, 701 S. Bond St., Fells Point

Tickets: $6

PD Call: (410) 481-7328 for tickets, (410) 880-8124 for information

To hear excerpts from Love Nut's latest release, "Bastards of Melody," call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6119. For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

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