After hitting the acoustic circuit in the clubs of Brooklyn, she decided it was time to find a band and began her search on the Internet for a drummer and guitars to fill out her vision for a hard-hitting, soulful rock and roll band.
Guitarist Alex Sherba, drummer Jonathan Vergara and bassist Jonah Durning joined Sheehan on stage, and now The LoveHowl have been together a little over two years.
After releasing their debut EP The Chase last November, they have been vigilantly playing bars and concert halls throughout the city, mostly in the neighborhoods of north Park Slope and the East Village.
I met up with Sheehan last week at One Girl Cookies in DUMBO to discuss her new band and her experience with finding camaraderie within the Brooklyn music scene.
How did you first get into playing music?
Well, I played piano growing up, but I just sort of stopped at a certain point. But I grew up with music. My dad was a guitar player and he was in bands my entire life, but I never really thought I’d end up playing guitar. It was just in college that I asked him to show me a few chords and when I went back I started teaching myself on my own.
What was the transition like from piano to guitar?
With piano everything makes sense because it’s like the foundation for me. But with guitar, now I’m learning what all the chords are and how it relates back. Before when I was learning guitar I was memorizing as opposed to understanding, like this is a major and this is a 7th chord.
But I started playing piano when I was seven. And then I stopped for about eight years and did other stuff in the meantime – like I did dance and other things too. I wish I had kept it up, but now we are slowly incorporating synth and keys into our music. When I was doing solo stuff, I was doing both piano and guitar songwriting.
How has your songwriting changed over the years?
When I first started it was more like just self-satisfying poetry. It was just about what I was feeling at the moment and didn’t necessarily make much sense. Some of it had a story but it was more about what was going on in my head at the moment. Maybe it was from being an actor, but it was always whatever came out.
Now, it’s much more of a collaborative process. Sometimes I’ll come up with the idea, the foundation of the song, but 50 percent of the time Alex will come up with a riff, and then I’ll start to jam off of that and just find a vocal hook. Half the time it’s him writing something on guitar and me finding what I can do with it, but then the other half is me finding the idea. Then we just bring it out to the other two guys.
How did you know this guy you found on Craigslist was your next music partner?
Well, I had never been in a band before – and he was actually the first guitar player that I met with after putting out the ad – but his intuition was what I gravitate towards. I felt like it was what I grew up listening to – my dad grew up with a blues background – but we played with another band for a while that was more of supporting me as a solo act still and then I reconnected with Alex again – because it kind of fell apart.
Then I actually put out another ad and found Jonathan, our new drummer. Two and a half years ago we put out another ad and found Jonah, our newest bass player who is from Massachusetts but was playing down in the Delta before he came to New York. But instantly we just hit it off. He brought his violin and he plays guitar so he came in as just this crazy multi-instrumentalist.
What made you decide you wanted to change up from your acting career?
I kind of knew before in high school – my mom’s a dance teacher and dad’s a musician, and then I started doing acting and auditioning for schools for acting – I always knew I wanted to go into performance art.
I always was into music and I knew that being a kid I wanted to be that kind of performer, but I’m still not done with acting. I think once you’re an actor you’re always an actor. I kept up with it and after graduation I was going on auditions and submitting to things I didn’t want to be in – they weren’t exciting to me. A few friends and I put together a theater company right after graduation called The Attic, and they’re still going with that.
But I just would go to commercial auditions and stuff, but in terms of theater and film, at least that was what I was getting exposed to, it was very rare that it was something that I was excited about. I guess that I just started songwriting because it was another thing that I had creative control over. I could write this song, and then perform – people can have a theater company and I’m into that stuff too – but I think it’s a little more immediate.
What was your philosophy behind creating a new band?
I had this rough image and I am starting to think that now it is going in the path that I was sort of envisioning in my brain. That was just an eclectic bunch of people that had a foundation of soul, rock and something that was cathartic and something that’s impactful. I really have an all over the board taste in music, so it was something that had to be like a rock band with a soul element to it.
I feel like if you look at us you’ll see that we’re just a total mixed bag of characters. We all have a different taste in music, but what we’re doing is something that I would hope we’re all into.
How often do you guys practice?
We practice at least once a week. If we’re prepping for recording or a big show we try to get an extra one in. We all have very different schedules. Jonah’s in grad school right now at Columbia, Jonathan is a freelance sound engineer and producer, Alex walks dogs for his day job and I’m a designer.
Do you find camaraderie among other Brooklyn bands?
I book a lot with friends and you kind of have to, I feel like. It helps us get a good night because you get a better crowd. Plus when you book that way through the venues it’s less work for them. We try to book friends and they have friends and we stay for their show.
I think most of our audience right now are our friends that are artists and musicians. There’s this band courtesy because we’re all doing it and we know how crazy it is to do on your own. We try to be as supportive as we can for them and going to their shows as well. We’re trying to just be ourselves.
We have some friends that aren’t necessarily “gi-normously” famous, but they’ve reached that level and we’re happy for them because they’re great people and they’re really talented. And we’re still young, we’ve only been together for two and a half years, but we want to be like that, and approachable and someone to root for.
Check out The LoveHowl’s debut EP The Chase and catch them live on March 15 with the The Morrow at Bar Nine, located at 807 9th Ave. in Manhattan.