By Brian Tucker
Ladyfriend is the name of the album and latest music project from Andrew Zucchino, member of the late 2000s Wilmington band Charlie the Horse. Far afield of that group, Ladyfriend is both eyebrow raising and an enticing collection of new songs.
The four track EP (five if you buy the cassette version) is a mix of dancy vibes and varied singing, from Howe Gelb-like low-voiced restraint to Prince’s high pitch delivery. Zucchino’s raspy vocals remain much as in Charlie the Horse, but here he finds greater strengths and personality by stretching his wings, moving away from the bar band kick of CTH’s “Hey Boy” or the solemnity of that band’s “Fever.”
Vocally he’s all over the map and it doesn’t disappoint, from hernia inducing wails to a battered soul and confessional delivery. Ladyfriend walks hand in hand with different styles without ever being distracting, creating ambiance and showcasing atypical singing with natural ease.
“Lace,” smartly opens the EP and bridges elegance, dance club atmosphere, and subtle sexiness inside the song’s two and a half minutes. Against a throbbing synth backdrop the track is injected with sharp, prickly, lightning guitar strikes, handclaps and sparse piano playing. Zucchino moves back and forth from nasally, low slung vocals that recall English musician Rupert Hine to those in a pleading, higher range.
“The Show” is a come-on, a tempered, seductive track whose subtle, haunting guitar work is under the radar effective. “Amaretto” is fun and bouncy, its sweet vocals married to music drenched in carnival atmosphere. “Prospect” is the bastard cousin on the EP, an epic and massive sounding track that likes to tease with quiet moments only to explode with a heap of 70s keyboard frenzy.
Ladyfriend is an inviting departure from Zucchino’s work with Charlie the Horse. Musically, it couldn’t be more separate but it’s easy the think of CTH’s “Hey Girl” in the vein of Ladyfriend’s palette. Zucchino’s voice is enough to play in multiple genres of music, and compelling enough lend songs a greater amount of warmth.
Q and A with Ladyfriend’s Andrew Zucchino
What was your intention going into this project?
Zucchino: My intention is to have fun and develop deeper relationships with people through that fun. There was a review of our EP from the UK that labeled us as “guys that know how to have deep fun.” Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the concept of deep fun. I’m not exactly sure what it means, perhaps it’s just something British teenagers say, but it reminds me of the inspiring words Ivan Howard of The Rosebuds once told me: “make music with your friends and everything else will work itself out.”
Deep fun is fun you can’t just walk away from, it’s too pure and real, the essence of life. Whatever you’re doing when you feel deep fun is what you need to be working towards. Otherwise, you’re digging a deep hole of regret.
Did you want to challenge yourself with new genres or were inspired by them?
Zucchino: As far as genre goes, I don’t really see genre as a challenge or a particular method of inspiration. I was born into a generation that has unprecedented access to all kinds of music, so you can imagine how eclectic things get. I never think when writing a song, “what would this genre do?” or “what is acceptable?” I’m only thinking about what sounds good or interesting to me.
I’ve come to terms with that fact that this is no method for success in the music industry. You won’t see me in Nashville anytime soon. On the contrary, in twenty years or so, I may be able to fully support myself doing this. It’s a risk, but such is the reality of deep fun. I can’t give it up. My friends and family are my life, and what we make together brings a satisfaction unlike any other earthly feeling.
How did working in Charlie the Horse help create this EP?
Zucchino: Charlie the Horse was my first substantial experience with music. Before that, I knew four chords on guitar and the closest thing I got to singing was screaming out plays as a catcher on my high school baseball team. I learned almost everything I know from Charlie the Horse. Most importantly, though, I began to understand how powerful songwriting is. I typically like to write alone because I meditate so deeply during the process.
When writing for Charlie the Horse I was in the English program at UNCW. I undertook a focus in post colonial literature, which retrospectively really took a toll on my heart. I was reading on average two novels a week, and usually they involved the decimation of entire cultures, rape, slavery, etc. Critical discourse likes to be mostly objective, but some of the readings was so intense I just got slammed with emotion.
My outlet for taking in these images was to channel them through songs, and often times I undertook the voices of the rapists, racists and other people abusing power. It got to a point where I was getting high off that feeling, off that anger and sadness, even though it wasn’t my own. I just wanted to live in their bodies to experience their pain, to justify their evil, to reconcile. That scared me. I had discovered a power inside that I didn’t really want to know was there. I went a little off the deep end.
So, post Charlie the Horse, I’m trying to write more upbeat music and for that I’m a much happier person. Though I still assume the voices of certain characters, what they say are harmless expressions of joy and the occasional heartache.
When you left Wilmington was that when CTH ended?
Zucchino: Charlie the Horse was everything to me, but it was a good thing it ended. I needed to develop as a musician and songwriter. Because of that Justin Lacy was really restricted in his creativity because of my inability to write songs that were intricate enough to meet the extent of his ability. Listen to the (Justin Lacy and the) Swimming Machine for thirty seconds and you’ll realize that.
We called it quits mostly because everyone had some exploring to do. Justin had started his new project and we had lost some members to grad school. I’d love to get back together at some point and play Wilmington again, but there’s a lot of puzzle pieces there. All the songs on the EP were written and demoed in Wilmington, at a space we shared with The Love Language.
It’s not like Ladyfriend began somewhere else. Half the songs on our upcoming LP were also conceived there. Ben (Jamieson, of Sweet Sweet Scum) still lives there. It’s a magical place, really, but we got into some bad habits that I couldn’t really kick. I met someone who turned me around, then Colin and I went cross country and decided to reach out to other parts of the world.
“Prospect” is rather ambitious. Is the EP more of a home recording project than studio project?
Zucchino: The EP was written and recorded in several houses and spaces across North Carolina, but mostly in Wilmington. I don’t think we will ever see Ladyfriend in a studio fleshing out a song. We have too much fun hanging out and that makes it a slow process. We are all pretty good sound engineers. Still, we were very fortunate to have an old friend of ours, Jared Paul, mix the EP in Brooklyn. He was entirely behind forming the sonic aesthetic and we learned so much sitting in a room with him for a week.
I’m curious of why “Prospect” seems ambitious. I will tell you that it was the song we struggled with the most. But Will Fegan, who played drums on some of the songs, swooped in and saved the day. Maybe it’s ambitious because it’s such a different song than the previous three. That’s what we wanted to do with this EP though, show our range. And I think that’s what we’ll continue to do, because that’s what comes naturally to us.