Aaron, Ben and Leah ... three shy blond kids who, in 2008, barely of legal drinking age, turned lots of local heads when their group, Lightning Love, self-released its first album amid a whirlwind of shows, charming many with sweet 'n' sour, yet hook-heavy, pop romps.
The trio soon regularly headlined, earning a reputation for their onstage (and offstage) antics, while their minimalist tunes, led by fetching singer-keyboardist Leah Diehl, rattled off as instant classics.
The album, November Birthday, full of wonderfully poignant tales of college age debauchery, sustained their live shows all through 2010.
Only now do we get our long-awaited response with last week's "Girls Who Look Like Me" EP and the forthcoming The Blonde Album (both on Quite Scientific Records), which drops in April.
Whole years passed without a follow-up release. What took so long?
"Shit just goes wrong in every way for our band," Diehl says, rolling her eyes, chuckling. "But, that's every band, whether it's one drive to a show or putting out a record. It's never easy."
Brief history: A lifelong musician, (in fact, each member has a classical background, nurtured by musically inclined parents), Diehl's stint on the scene began in '06 with Ann Arbor indie-pop collective Minor Planets, where she first met Ben Collins, Lightning Love's guitarist. She recruited Collins a year later to round out a fledgling project (with her little brother Aaron on drums) that started on a dare — resulting in a sloppy live debut at the Elbow Room — but was, it turns out, inspired by her own songbook. Thus, Lightning Love.
Also, part of what slowed them was Collins' consistent 2009 touring with Jason Stollsteimer's Hounds Below. "We kinda put things on hold during that time," Diehl admits, calling Collins irreplaceable.
They made the best of the downtime, recording sporadically and mixing in their parents' basement while also finishing school and slogging through day jobs. The newer songs didn't get properly recorded until later in 2010, with another year's gap before the vocals and guitars.
"[Collins] is my closest guy-friend, outside of my boyfriend or brother, the singer says. "Our relationship is bizarre, how we just met randomly, started a band and I ended up living with him for a time. He's a very talented musician; we share a sense of humor and a common goal. And my brother and I communicate musically in ways a lot of people don't ..."
Another thing, November's success messed with her head a bit. "[That] messes with anybody's head; not that we were famous, but people were listening to it, having their own thoughts, so I had trouble writing for a few years. I had to remember that people liked the first songs because I wasn't thinking about anyone else..."
But that was then. These days Diehl's proud of herself. For one, she has sustained a relationship for more than two years, and now she "doesn't have to be heartbroken or really pissed off to write a song. ("Wow, I have no one to be mad about when I write this.")
She'll also call these the best years of her life. How does one know that? When you consider the touring, headlining big local shows, recording and making "all of my best friends" within that timeframe, and then working on creating a sound and band that has a future and is growing ... "I've become my own person," she says. "If I wanna have a family or anything, can I keep pursuing this dream if I'm not making any money? I have a couple years in me at least, of all this. But, I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it."
Friday, Feb. 10, at Arbor Vitae Loft, 336 1/2 State St., Ann Arbor, located above Wazoo Records. With Charlie Slick, Johnny Headband and Timothy Monger; doors at 8 p.m.; $5.
The band also plays Blowout on Thursday, March 1, at the Painted Lady, 2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck; metrotimes.com/blowout.
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