After the hopes and dreams of many musicians were crushed by the pandemic’s cruel arrival in 2020, Alex Moore and Spencer Livingston took a creative leap of faith this year as co-founders of Los Angeles-based indie alternative rock-pop band Livingmore. Preparing to release their second full-length album in less than nine months, the band’s two full-time partners who never knew each other while growing up in the San Fernando Valley have developed into overachievers that can do more with less.
Music lovers keeping an eye out for Livingmore’s next project will clearly see what this dual relationship — personal and professional — in a four-member group is capable of producing when follow-up album Look gets its close-up in February. With 11 new, gleaming songs written and played solely by Moore and Livingston, the record is a sure-fire sign that things keep looking up for this band.
In a battle to remain one of the most ambitious rock outfits in La La Land’s youthful, competitive market, Livingmore’s leaders have found a way to thrive at a time when others struggle to survive. Less than seven months after presenting “Got Me Feelin’ Like”, their first music video for PopMatters, they’re back today (11 November) with another exclusive premiere, an animated look at the new single “Turn Away”. Moore’s lyrics and Livingston’s music take a dark and eerie turn in the hands of artist Kenneth Rodriguez, who grew up in Bakersfield, California, then moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to attend Cal State-Northridge.
In a joint email interview with Moore for this article, Livingston heaps praise on Rodriguez, saying as a longtime fan he’s “always in awe” of the work the “brilliant artist” often shares on Instagram. Helping them connect was Los Angeles abstract artist Colby Marshall, Rodriguez’s girlfriend who’s been Livingston’s pal since childhood.
“The music video is really Kenneth’s interpretation over our song, and I think he really nailed it,” Livingston exclaims. “There is a lot of symbolism in [the video] and I definitely think it needs to be left open to interpretation for the listener/watcher.”
Moore, whose brother Dillon made Livingmore’s first animated music video for the song “Really Mean It” from 2018’s OK to Land, their full-length album debut, fully agrees. “There is a lot going on and I think it’s important to let people interpret it for themselves,” she states. “I’d hate to tell anyone how they should interpret such a beautiful piece of art. All I can ask is that you watch and listen with an open mind.”
Though Livingmore remain a solid core of four (including Mike Schadel on drums/keys and bassist Rodrigo Moreno) who released the stunningly impressive sophomore full-length album Take Me on 21 May, Moore and Livingston wasted little time in getting back to work. The couple handled the primary duties all by themselves while growing artistically together in the Sherman Oaks, California, apartment where they’ve lived since 2018.
“[We] just started experimenting with some new recording equipment and made a little home studio of our own,” offers Moore, who provides almost all the alluring lead vocals on the album while sharing songwriting credits and acoustic guitar playing with Livingston. “Some of these songs we thought might be demos at first, but It was fun to see what we could do in our home studio with less resources. We ended up growing attached to the songs just as they are.”
So stop, look and listen to “Turn Away” now, then read on to learn more about the music video, the song, the new album, and the innovative ways Moore and Livingston worked to turn their home life into a special music-making experience.
Combining Their Efforts for a Song
The give-and-take relationship that developed between Moore and Livingston after they first met following one of his solo shows in 2013 has worked efficiently since Livingmore officially introduced themselves with a self-titled EP in 2015.
For example, the song “Turn Away” initially included music and “some honestly terrible lyrics written,” claims Livingston, owning up to them. Able to turn to his 24/7 partner, he shares, “I played it for Alex, and she came up with something vocally that was a million times cooler than what I originally had, so we scrapped my original lyrics and melody and went with hers.”
Moore makes her role in a sometimes-difficult process seem so simple. “Lyrically and vocally, I just went with the music Spencer had shown me and really just closed my eyes and went where I felt the song wanted to go,” she explains. “We write in many different ways but on songs where I top-line, I sort of just channel the vibe of the music, but my surroundings always work their way into anything I write, so it’s both character and reality.
“I don’t think we can ‘turn away’ from anything anymore. Life has made that clear. It wasn’t super-easy at first carving out the song lyrically, but I loved it and knew something would ignite eventually.”
Once written, the track was sent to Rodriguez to gauge his level of interest for a possible animated video. “Luckily, he was into it and he made something that I think is one of the most beautiful things we’ve ever had the privilege of putting out,” Livingston proclaims. “We’ll definitely be working together again.”
Reflection and Introspection
With the emergence of “Turn Away” following the 1 October release of the first Look single “Mysterious Love”, Moore and Livingston plan to put out at least two more tracks — and maybe another video — before the album drops in February.
While Look softens the edge of harder rock sounds Livingmore displayed on Take Me, there are signs of maturation and sophistication that blend well with luscious production values and Moore’s dreamy, Blondie-like vocals on songs like “Casual” and “Don’t Be Alarmed”. Livingston, whose snappy guitar riffs capture the ‘60s surfin’ spirit on “Turn Away”, even gets a turn as a subtle, sensitive lead vocalist on “Everyone Gets It Right”. Maybe managing to deal with life under extraordinary circumstances helped to slightly change their tune in a positive way. Now they’re making delicious ear candy that feeds the soul, too.
“Take Me was something we were very proud to accomplish all together. Take Me was a much bigger project to take on with the four of us involved, though,” Moore asserts, noting that under normal conditions they probably would have waited another year before thinking about their next album.
“The pandemic made everyone’s world a lot smaller and it definitely placed us in a more introspective zone,” she later adds. “If anything, this album feels like it really just makes sense with what was going on at the time. Usually, we wouldn’t really release two albums so close together, but the songs were there, and we had to get them out of our system. … There weren’t any expectations for these batches of tunes except for the fact that it was something we enjoyed doing by ourselves in our room at a time when making our usual band plans were impossible.”
Livingston, who produced and recorded the album while playing every instrument (acoustic and electric guitars, drums, percussion, bass, piano, synths, glockenspiel), believes, “Overall, I think Look has a totally different vibe than Take Me. It just has a different flow. There are definitely rock elements but it’s not going to give it all to the listener right away like Take Me does. There is a bit of a different pace in regard to the sequencing.
“We experimented a little bit more with soundscapes, space and time more than we ever have. … This whole project was really important for both Alex and myself to really stretch out creatively and try some things that we wouldn’t normally have tried.”
Full Beat Mode
Following his efforts at mixing and mastering Take Me after Livingmore completed tracking during the height of the pandemic, Josiah Mazzaschi was the only other person involved in the production of Look (his “touches on these recordings are subtle but crucial,” Livingston notes). Now, though, the band is back in full beat mode with the return of Schadel and Moreno.
“We are currently working on more songs with Mike and Rodrigo. I think we got a lot of things out of our system with Look and are really excited about collaborating with our band again,” reports Livingston. Yet he contends “working on your own is just as exciting as collaborating with a group,” and guarantees another dual project with Moore will eventually happen.
“We have kind of a ridiculous amount of unrecorded songs floating around in the Livingmore world right now and it’s all just a matter of sorting through everything and figuring out what fits,” Livingston adds. “We have a lot of arranging to do. … Mike also has a bunch of cool stuff that we’re excited about jamming on.”
They’re also slowly working their way back into live performances, with the Take Me album release show on 19 September at Los Angeles’ Moroccan Lounge followed by a supporting gig for Phantom Planet on 15 October at the Glass House in Pomona, California.
“Playing live shows again is a great feeling! Performing live is why we do all this,” professes Moore, pointing out that photographer/artist Joseph Cultice is helping with stage design and Livingmore will soon start weaving Look songs into their setlist. “It meant a lot to see people stick with us after a two-year live show pause. … Next year we are planning on doing some shows in the UK and Europe. I don’t want to say too much more about it because I don’t want to jinx anything but it’s something that we are really looking forward to.”
While maintaining busy schedules heading into 2022, Moore and Livingston still are able to reflect on the recent challenges Livingmore has faced and how they’ve benefited from an education in adaptability as a result.
“I think we’ve learned we can endure a lot and still stick together as well as continue to function in a self-sufficient way even more so than we thought,” Moore declares. “The whole Livingmore experience has been quite the journey. There have definitely been moments of feeling super-depressed and hopeless, and immersing ourselves in our music has helped us keep our sanity.”
Expanding on Moore’s comments, Livingston sums up what others should be feeling as a reeling world slowly returns to normalcy: “Patience has been one of the biggest lessons during this time. Compassion, empathy, and acceptance are lessons that I hope everyone has been learning during this time.”
Putting their heads together as the promise of next year is already taking shape, it appears Moore and Livingston are living proof that Livingmore can become survivors of the fittest.