David Levesque, the artist behind Gainesville-based act Levek, is unabashed about his love for the crackling, cinematic sounds of yesteryear. When other twentysomething solo acts zigged and took the easy route into laptop electronic music, Levesque zagged, turning instead to obscure ’60s soundtracks and folk LPs for inspiration.
Inspired by that mid-century orchestral sound, from the beginning Levesque approached his studio creations exactingly. Tracks stacked up on top of each other, with gentle brass, plucked acoustic guitar, and flute rising in and out, Levesque’s gentle croon dovetailing in and out of harmonies over it all.
With the bloggy hype rising, though, and a full-length album, Look a Little Closer, due out next week, Levesque has expanded his approach. Levek — pronounced Le-VEK, by the way — is now a proper band, with five additional players culled from around the fertile Gainesville scene to bring the songs to life. The group plays this Saturday as part of Subculture’s By Way of Wes Anderson party at Green Room, an event sponsored in part by Salty Eggs. In advance of his performance, we caught up with Levesque by phone to chat about his inspiration and the new album. Here’s what he had to say.
Levek, with Saskatchewan, at the By Way of Wes Anderson event, 10 p.m. Saturday, September 22 at Green Room, 109 SW 2nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is $5; age 21 and up. Call 954-449-1030, or visit greenroomlive.com
Salty Eggs: First thing’s first — where exactly are you based now? Your bio talks about you being from all over Florida.
David Levesque: Yeah, the St. Augustine thing got thrown in there so now everyone’s confused. But I’m based out of Gainesville, primarily. I was raised, for the most part, in Orlando. Then I moved to Gainesville, went to St. Augustine for like five months, and then came back to Gainesville.
After college, I just decided to move around a lot. I went to Santa Fe Community College for a hot minute, but then I decided to just take a semester off and try music and see how it went. That was probably a year and a half ago.
I just haven’t gone back, because I’ve been really busy outside of work with the music stuff. I’m working a lot doing studio engineering; I’ve been able to intern at a studio here in town called Medusa Studios. I’m learning a lot — there’s a huge learning curve, and I’m learning way more than I felt like I was learning in school.
So since you left school, you’ve been able to make a go of music?
Well I’ve been working a lot with my day job. I’m not some musician who has a fantasy of making a lot of money. I work in child care and I enjoy that a lot. It’s nice.
Did you write most of the full-length in St. Augustine, then, or has that been completely gotten mixed up in all the stories about you?
I think it’s gotten mixed up. St. Augustine was totally after the album was made. It was more like a place to decompress from making the album, and to just hang out and work some more.
In regards to the full-length, are these songs you’d been sitting on for a while, or did you write them all with the idea of a proper album in mind?
The album itself took a long time to make, just because I was writing each section of each song as I was going along in the studio. It was also while I was trying to figure out the studio, because I had never used a studio before. So that’s how the album came along — I was finding my way, and it took forever.
It seems like you might be the kind of artist who’s a stickler about making sure everything sounds right.
Yeah, I’m a stickler. I’m pretty particular. If you make sure that every sound sounds the way you want it to, it’s easy to make a good song, you know? Obviously there are lyrics and other elements, but that’s kind of the way my brain works.
Did you play everything on the record?
On this upcoming one, no, I did not. I tried to make this album more collaborative with locals and people around me, like my friends who are musicians, trying to bring Floridian musicians to the album. I wanted to make something that represented the Florida I knew. I definitely did most of it, though.
What was the biggest challenge for you in moving from working on stuff solo to a more collaborative approach?
It expanded things a little bit. I can’t play flute, you know, or french horn like a pro. But I have buddies who can play those instruments really well, so it just kind of made sense to bring those people. If you work with confident musicians, everybody understands that they’re here to help you out with the bigger cause.
Now with the full band, in total there are six of us. The biggest thing is we won’t be playing my earliest material. We might in the future. The group is fairly new, so we’re just trying to get the album down to tour it and stuff. But this particular group has now transformed Levek into a group.
Sorry if things are going to get loud — I have to drive this bus back. I don’t have any kids on it though, don’t worry. I’ve been doing this for years. I wasn’t for a while, but now I’m back on the wagon, so to speak.
Are you able to still tour while holding that job? When do you want to take the leap and make music your full-time thing?
When I know I can do it. I haven’t made a penny from music, and bus driving, somehow I make money! Once I know I can live and eat and meet basic needs, I am so down to stop working and just do music. I’m just waiting for the moment.
Musically, you have a really particular sound, this kind of ’60s/’70s AM kind of thing. Are there other acts who are similar to that in Gainesville, or are you pretty much on your own?
There’s a band called Jane Jane Pollock, which isn’t based exactly out of Gainesville. They’re kind of all over the place at the moment. They kind of have a throwback, haunted mansion sound. I don’t know, we try to just be ourselves.
You just used the word “throwback” yourself. Were you consciously trying to go for a vintage sound with your latest material?
I just love old music. I don’t really listen to a lot of new music; I’m really particular, because there’s so much of it. But I always know my favorite older albums that I can go back to and listen to, and there are more old albums I can enjoy. Everyone in the group is like that, so that’s where a lot of that inspiration comes from.
I think some of the albums I go back to most are the soundtrack for Fantastic Planet, a French film, and some old British folk like the Soft Bulletin. A newer artist I like is Broadcast. Things like that I’ve been really, really drawn to. I feel pretty confident that everyone in the band would be influenced by those people.
What’s it like for a musician based in Gainesville? What are the advantages? Obviously it’s a completely different experience from South Florida.
Honestly I love being a musician in Gainesville. The community here is fantastic. I wouldn’t be able to find the people I’ve found to play in Levek anywhere else. There’s lots of exciting things in the works right now in Gainesville, which our collective Levek band has put its time into. We’re trying to represent Florida the best we can.