“Sincerity and sugar rush.” That’s how Nashville, TN-based singer-songwriter Audrey Assad describes Strange Fire, the debut release from her brand new electro-pop duo LEVV. Striking a balance between deeply heartfelt lyrics and dynamic synth-based music, Assad and fellow band member Seth Jones are using LEVV to craft electrifying pop music that forgoes the tried-and-true “style over substance” approach to address both elements equally. Birthed amidst a trying touring season of artistic and financial frustration, LEVV was partially inspired by – and subsequently named after – Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (in Russian, the name “Leo” is Lev), after Assad read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and deeply studied the author’s life and his dedication to his work.
While Assad has already built a strong solo career writing introspective, piano-based folk-pop, her creative collaboration with Jones as a duo showcases both of their unique abilities to paint with a different, more experimental sonic palette. For example, the song “Heartbreaker” features 1980s-inspired keyboard tones, dare-you-to-dance drum machine beats, and a guitar solo that edges dangerously close to hair metal power-balladry, all floating over a bubbling synthesizer-fueled undercurrent. Playing a contrasting foil to the song’s upbeat music are lyrics that deal head-on with themes of self-seduction and relational dysfunction. The same fearless mix of openhearted poetics and instrumental inventiveness also shines through in the vintage analog synth-drenched “Darkness” and the cinematic “Arrow,” a song influenced by the provocative divinity-meets-humanity encounter of Bernini’s 17th century sculpture, the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
With a newfound lyrical freedom and an unfettered attitude towards modern pop music, the duo hopes that LEVV will create a unique sonic space for people to encounter themselves and their own experiences. If you just so happen to find yourself dancing along throughout the entire process, well, that’s part of the plan too.