Partially inspired by the 1999 Broadcast song in which singer Trish Keenan instructs, "Read the sign above the door/ it's not for everyone," early Stereolab tunes, and, well, the fact that three out of the sometimes six rotating members are librarians, Ann Arbor's poppy-punk outfit Book Lovers is turning the page on the raucous days of heavy-handed self-promotion and scrappy tour life. For Autumn Wetli and the band, it's about keeping it cathartically casual.
"I mean, we're older. Most of us ... are well into our thirties," she says. "It's tough when you don't really want to be a band that's out there promoting yourself when you just want to, like, make the music and play locally. I don't know. I like the stability of my job, I'm older, I'm comfortable. I don't want to be, like, sleeping in a van anymore. I want to play music, I want to release it and put it out there."
Wetli, formerly of Rebel Kind, Bad Indians for a minute, and Fred Thomas' Failed Flowers, formed Book Lovers with drummer Ryan Cady and his partner, Clara Salyer (who spent the better part of 2019 touring as Stef Chura's bassist), when Wetli approached him in need of a new outlet. During the process, Wetli began recruiting friends. There's violinist Naomi Binnie, though Wetli says the violin sometimes gets lost during live shows, and Binnie's husband, Michael Diaz, who plays guitar in no other band but Book Lovers, something Wetli found refreshing considering the usual local logistical conundrum of "trying to share people across different bands." Mariah Cherem was also brought into the fold with her pocket piano and synths.
With just several shows under the band's belt, according to Wetli, who fronts the band, plays guitar, and writes lyrics, Book Lovers has yet to release anything formally, save for a 23-minute set the band performed at U-M's WCBN-FM in December and released to Bandcamp. The music puts Wetli's staccato warble crisply front and center and calls to mind a more subdued Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex if she were to team up with Sonic Youth circa 2004's Sonic Nurse, while Stereolab and Broadcast remain strong influences, even if sonically that's not what Book Lovers end up sounding like.
Wetli says Book Lovers has about seven songs in the barrel right now with plans to record with Thomas next month. She hopes to be a bit more collaborative in terms of structuring the music and songwriting because she says she isn't used to being in a band with as many diverse moving parts as Book Lovers, and when she set out to work on this project, she really wanted to do something different.
"I wanted to play with, like, a ton of people on different instruments," she says. "You know, I wanted to do something very different. And I think also ... I kind of want someone else to sort of be adding to it just because if I wrote everything, it's just going to sound like everything I've always wrote."
While she's been accustomed to writing what she considers "heartbreak songs," that's not the case so much these days. For Wetli, songwriting is more about striking a balance between manageable depression and honest expression.
"I mean, I suffer from depression or whatever," she says. "I feel like the sad parts of life are the most influential on me as far as writing. When I'm the saddest, it actually sort of spurs me more into writing more, but sometimes it'll happen when it happens. I don't think you can have a massive creative output all of the time. So you kind of have to be patient and wait for those moments to come, and I wouldn't want anyone to sabotage themselves. Life's too short to be miserable just to make some art."
So how does Wetli combat misery? Simple: a visit to her home library.
"A book that always makes me happy and always makes me laugh is John Waters' Crackpot," she says. "It'll put you in a good mood."
From the 2020 bands to watch issue.
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