Lovely Socialite have embraced a few different kinds of maximalism since forming in Madison in 2009. The instrumental band’s initial name was Lovely Socialite Mrs. Thomas W. Phipps, eventually truncated to what people always call them anyway. All six members contribute to the band’s compositions, drawing on backgrounds and musical tastes that span jazz, rock, classical music, electronic music, hip-hop, and the avant-garde. Their first two albums, 2012’s Registers Her Delight and 2015’s Toxic Consonance, are made up of pieces that, while usually not longer than four or five minutes, manage to feel dense, packed with lots of twisting composed passages and leaving a healthy amount of room for improvisation. The instrumentation includes drums, bass (alternating between stand-up and electric), vibraphone, trombone (with a guitar-like chain of effects pedals), cellos, pipa (a Chinese stringed instrument), and occasionally a four-stringed electric guitar. The mix of personalities at work in the band’s music creates a wide array of moods, from the lumbering playfulness of “Brachiosaurus Boogie (For Kids!)” to the heady and volatile sprawl of “Humus.”
So it’s strange to think of Lovely Socialite paring things down, or even really wanting to—isn’t a certain crazy abundance the whole point here? The forthcoming EP DoubleShark, which the band will celebrate with a July 15 show at Art In, derives partially from efforts to make the band’s live setup more compact, to focus largely on one band member’s compositions (trombone/keyboard player Corey Murphy), and lean harder on the band’s rock impulses.
Of course, we’re speaking in relative terms here. Tracks like “They Came Adverse 1” and “Greg’s Unexplainable Dream” may feel strikingly concise and urgent for Lovely Socialite, but there’s still a lot going on. “Melania Sketches” starts with a hard-charging, horn-driven melody, but eventually gives way to a chaotic well of distorted bass. “Fire Walk With Me” grows out of the band’s explorations of the music of Twin Peaks in their side project Leo Johnson And The New Shoes. But it all sounds a bit more raw and lean than previous Lovely Socialite releases, and that’s deliberate. The band tracked the EP at Milwaukee’s Howl Street studios with engineer Shane Hochstetler (also known for his powerful drumming in bands including Call Me Lightning and Zebras), playing live takes together in the same room rather than using isolation booths or overdubs.
Lovely Socialite have also stayed remarkably productive considering the members have been geographically split up for most of their time playing together. Vibraphone player Abe Sorber, drummer Mike Koszewski, and multi-instrumentalist Brian Grimm live in Madison. Bassist Ben Willis lives in Detroit. Murphy and multi-instrumentalist Pat Reinholz live in Milwaukee. If anything, the way the band members compose and play together has become more distinctive over the years they’ve been scattered about, and DoubleShark is another stage in that development, showing how the group can work within self-imposed limitations while also maintaining a sense of whimsy and possibility.
In addition to July’s show at Art In (which also celebrates a new album from fellow Madison oddball-jazz outfit Left Field Quartet), Lovely Socialite will be playing September 20 at the Shitty Barn in Spring Green, opening for Dosh. Ahead of the EP’s release, we talked with Sorber, Willis, and Murphy about what brought the band to this sharp, tense recording.