She walks up to me, and for the first time since puberty, my 5-foot-10-inch self feels short. Deanne Iovan, lead singer and bass player for the Come Ons has got to be well over 6 feet tall. Her go-go boots stilt her up another 3 inches … at least. As we sit down for a drink and a chat, her modest disposition and kind eyes are comforting. She is ethereal. She could be a supermodel.
As she talks, there’s no doubt that Iovan is another one of those “music for lifers.” She makes ends meet with a workaday stint in a print shop in downtown Detroit. But her real life can be summed up with one word: musician. No pomp, no circumstance. She is just a girl who needs to write and play songs.
“It’s a life worth living,” says Iovan of the chancy and often disappointing world of music-making. It would be easy to stuff the Come Ons into a hole with the rest of the infamous Long Gone John’s lo-fi-riffic Sympathy for the Record Industry’s stable (of which they are a part). It would be simple to assume that they sound “garagey,” to assume that they are a loud and heady band. But the R&Bed/funked-out sound of the Come Ons leaves listeners struggling between an absolute need to start dancing and a desire to make out. Imagine, if you will, groovy dance music sung by Francoise Hardy … a Viagra and Valium cocktail … a glass of red wine and a smack on the ass. The songs are ostensibly danceable, but the balminess of Iovan’s smoky voice juxtaposed with the funk is really what gives this so-called “garage” band its unique flavor.
“We wanted to do something that no one expected,” says Iovan of the Come Ons’ sound. When asked whether that made things more difficult for the band, she replies, “Occasionally we put restrictions on ourselves … but this is what we’re about.”
Iovan started the Come Ons with then-boyfriend and drummer Patrick Pantano (also of the Dirtbombs).
“I guess I was sort of the girlfriend of a guy in a band for a while,” she says.
Not that anyone can see her that way with her current schedule. “This is my life,” she laughs, “I wake up, I go to work, I go to band practice, I go to bed.”
“Some people say that the last thing they want to do is pick up an instrument when they have a day off,” says Iovan. “I don’t understand that.”
Iovan also beats the skins for the all-girl group, the Sirens (also on Sympathy) and even dabbles in what she refers to as “really bad guitar playing.”
She recently sang backup with the Clone Defects on their new record (Shapes of Venus on In The Red Records), and sang a duet with Christreater on the new Mistreaters record (Playa Hated to the Fullest on Estrus Records).
The Come Ons latest release, Hip Check!, has everything from Farfisa-laden ’60s soul to Holly Golightly-esque, old-timey ditties.
Even though all three members of the group are similarly busy, the Come Ons still manage to keep writing and recording at an impressive clip. In addition to everything else, they recently recorded a version of Gun Club’s “Promise Me” to be included on a tribute record to the French rockers. And another recent project has been the recording of two Serge Gainsbourg singles (“T’aime, Moi Non Plus” and “Sous le Soleil Exactement”) for the French label Larsen Records.
When asked how Iovan will know that all of this hard work and constant music making has paid off, she replies, “I’ll know I have achieved success when I have become a respected songwriter, a good songwriter.”
There’s no question about the good part. The respect of the wider musical world ought to follow.
The Come Ons perform with the Embrooks on Monday, Sept. 15, at the Lager House (1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit). Call 313-961-4668 for more information.Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]