Brad Van, guitarist and vocalist of stoner-rock band Droids Attack, has worked on the Local Love Fest project since 2011.
There's no shortage of love songs around Valentine's Day, but what about odes to local musicians who create those songs? Enter Local Love Fest, a yearly compilation album that features local bands covering other local bands. The fourth edition debuts at a Feb. 7 show at the High Noon Saloon and one on Feb. 8 at the Crystal Corner Bar.
Local Love Fest is not a descendant of Punk Goes Pop or a Glee soundtrack. It's a collection of performances by Madison bands who are passionate about their peers’ music. The latest album features songs by Lorenzo's Music, Control, Dead Apples and more. They're played by bands like I Am Dragon, Venice Gas House Trolley and Old Buffalo Money.
Brad Van, guitarist and vocalist of stoner-rock band Droids Attack, and Detune Audio Productions' Dustin Boyle have collaborated on this project since 2011. Van says their mutual interest in the local music scene keeps them motivated year after year.
"It helps to have a partner to rely on, and to motivate you to get things done," he says. "Aside from that, we just dig our scene and we want to do what we can to keep things positive around here."
Van says the Local Love Fest musicians pour their hearts into the album.
"The bands that get involved genuinely dig the concept, and they all put forth their best efforts," Van says. "As a result, the compilations always turn out great."
Of course, there are plenty of hurdles to jump when working with dozens of musicians with packed calendars. And recording and engineering a record can be a slow, meticulous process.
"This year has been very trying, with tight deadlines and busy schedules, and we're still really psyched about it, so I'm sure we'll keep it going next year, and hopefully for many more," Van says.
Van and Boyle handpick most of the Local Love Fest bands, but they try to be as inclusive as possible.
"I play in a band, and Dustin runs sound at the Frequency, so we're both fairly aware of what bands are actively playing around town. We mostly invite people to participate, but we also get contacted by folks who want to be in on it," Van says, adding that he and Boyle give preference to acts that haven't done Local Love Fest before.
Over the years, there have been a number of memorable songs on Local Love Fest records. Van enjoys how the albums highlight current bands while reviving songs by bands from Madison’s past.
"I remember the first time I heard Warhawks' cover of Freddy Faggot's '#17 Madtown,' which is a song about living in Madison, with plenty of references to people and places around the scene... It's like a theme song that was written especially for the fest," he says.
Past Local Love Fest albums also included recordings of songs Madison bands have only played live.
"I remember Digibot playing an Underculture song that never got released by the band before they broke up, and as far as I know, that comp track is the only studio recording of that song," Van says. "Another one is Marty Finkel covering an American Death track in honor of the late singer-songwriter John Zysk-Buerger, a good friend to many who passed away in a motorcycle accident."
Above all, Local Love Fest is fun. It's fascinating to hear a punk band cover a folk song, or see a solo artist take on a tune written for a six-piece. Plus, it's a great creative challenge for the participants.
"There really are great stories behind every song," Van says, noting that each band gets to pick which song it covers. "We have the bands write a little paragraph about why they chose to do the song they did in the liner notes of every disc."
This year's album includes Droids Attack playing the Masked Intruder pop-punk anthem "Stick 'Em Up"; contemporary rockers Sky Road Fly covering "One Pass Away," a song by Poopshovel, a band from the late '80s and early '90s; and "murderpunk" ensemble Sparklefuck taking on "Clubs and Spades" by PHOX, a whimsical folk-pop band that's earned loads of national attention recently.
Plus, the Local Love Fest concerts are as exciting as the albums themselves. Droids Attack, Warhawks, Real Knives and Old Buffalo Money will perform on Feb. 7, and Government Zero, Kill Junior and Damidol on Feb. 8.