Tucson-based Weekend Lovers make desert-tinged dream-pop, conjuring visions of Fleetwood Mac wandering the badlands. On their sophomore effort I Love U In Real Life, bright guitars waver like a mirage, while singer and bassist Marta DeLeon’s melancholy lilt floats over a rhythm section that gently throbs, an endless highway stretching toward the horizon. DeLeon is a veteran of several scenes, including Seattle and New York. Her latest project finds her back in Tucson, her hometown.
“All three of the environments are so dynamic and extreme,” DeLeon said. “I moved to Seattle almost out of high school. It was Indie Rock 101 to me with its cheap shows and all sorts of touring bands like Blonde Redhead, Built to Spill, and the Shins coming through almost monthly. New York in the 80s seemed so romantic with its art and urban decay, I knew I’d end up there at some point in my life. I miss walking a lot there and riding the subway late at night and finishing lyrics or coming up with big emotional ideas for song themes.”
DeLeon may not be in the Big Apple anymore, but she’s still working with big emotions. Her heartfelt lyrics are discernible even through layers of reverb. “It was important that the lyrics be heard on this album because they go out to people… A lot of grief influenced by my mom’s sickness and passing and the volcanic family dynamics that surround that, you are never prepared for… along with losing other close people by moving back to Arizona, and of course good old romantic heartbreaks. I’ve moved away from the buried lyric aesthetic of My Bloody Valentine to trying for a more confessional ‘pop’ Fleetwood Mac one,” DeLeon said.
That doesn’t mean lyrics always come first in composition, however. “The music always dictates the lyrics emotionally,” DeLeon said. “Some I’m 50-75 percent done with by the time the song is ready to play out. Then I’m hair pulling and making myself type them on a Word document once they have to be recorded.” In addition to a change of scene, DeLeon is also working with a new lineup.
“Gabriela Lisk (percussion/drums/backup vox) and Danny Perez (guitar) bring in such a force of energy and heart but with all the right restraint. Brandon Douglas (keys/guitar/backup vox) joined recently right before Covid—we’ve had some great live streams with him. But the chemistry between all of us is something I’ve never experienced. It’s really daunting to me and they keep me in check and alerted to what’s possible for the music next.” According to DeLeon, her new bandmates bring eclectic influences with them, including tejano, power pop, synthpop, and punk.
The songs on I Love U In Real Life range from upbeat to meandering, and include bass-driven tracks like “Big As The Dark” and guitar-forward songs, such as “Lost In Face” and “Me,” which, unlike some shoegaze-tinged bands, features a couple of guitar solos. Two highlights of the album are “Larvae Love,” with its western jangle, bouncing along as if summer never ended, and “The Moon On Mars,” a closing track so sparkling and open that it feels like sleeping under a big sky.
There’s even a fun cover of George Michael’s “Father Figure.” “[It was] one of the sexiest songs I heard when I was at my friend’s slumber party as a kid,” DeLeon told us. “And still was when I tuned into it on the radio years later. I was trying to write a song similar to it at the time, simple two parts but then started just playing it alone. I always love when the opposite sex covers a song.” In addition to the core lineup, numerous personnel assisted on the tracks, including producer/engineer Matt Rendon of Midtown Island Studio, who DeLeon calls “a local hero” in the Tucson scene. “The harmonies are all Matt’s stamp. Most bands he records walk away with that on their records.”
Of course, promoting a record in 2020 is a new experience. Weekend Lovers have tried to compensate for a lack of in-person gigs with an online presence, including Bandcamp and live streams. “Releasing singles off the album was my way of saving face for not being able to play live or have a release party because of the pandemic,” DeLeon said. “In simple terms, I figured people don’t always chew on an album in one sitting these days. …we’ve done some fun live streams that still exist on Youtube forever, too. It’s just such a different dynamic from the ceremony of venues. But Tucson, being already a very supportive scene and audience heavy, has birthed some great production companies like No Audience and Arizona Arts Live, who’ve aided bands creatively and professionally to record live streams.”
And are Weekend Lovers looking forward to the return of live music? “Small outdoor shows are starting to happen in little patios at restaurants here, but it would be great if we could take advantage of the mild winter and open spaces we have here in the desert and do some drive up or larger scale ones. We want to get on the road sooner than later but we just have to wait and see.” While fans of Weekend Lovers are waiting, they can check out the band’s Bandcamp or Soundcloud, or tune into live streams, like their recent cover of “Pretty Woman” on Habitat Realty Tucson.
I Love U In Real Life is out now on Totally Real Records.
Chantal-Marie Wright is a New York-based musician and writer currently playing bass with Fisty as well as living out her teenage dreams in various cover bands.
Band photo by Sean Loui Dumas and live photos by Christopher Riggs and Sophie Gibson-Rush.