Ludo returns with a new album and an emboldened sense of confidence

There’s a saying in some parts of the country that goes, “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” of course referring to a bratty and unpredictable climate. In Northern California, given its multitude of microclimates, you could easily replace “wait five minutes” to “drive 20 miles.” None of that really has anything to do with Ludo, an alt-rock band originally hailing from St. Louis, Mo., but the sentiment behind that old adage sort of applies to the band’s latest album, Prepare the Preparations, released Sept. 7, 2010. If you don’t like one song, just skip to the next track.

You may have picked up from the album’s title that Ludo isn’t a band that takes itself too seriously, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Prepare the Preparation is musically restless with its antsy propensity for genre- and style-hopping. Take, for instance, the Danny Elfman-esque carnival bombast of opening track “Too Tired to Wink,” followed by the space-age speed riffs of “Cyborgs vs. Robots” and throw in a sea chantey (“Rotten Town”) and some folk-inspired rock (“Anything for You”) for good measure, and you’ve got what amounts to a pretty wild musical ride. However, what holds steady through Prepare the Preparations is Ludo’s solid musicianship. For all their quirks and perhaps goofiness, it’s impossible to deny the band knows what it’s doing.

“People want to push you a certain way and neglect the fact that you can really play your instruments better than a lot of the serious bands,” Ludo keyboardist Tim Convy told Submerge in a recent interview.

Ludo got its start in the first half of the ‘00s. The band’s previous album, You’re Awful, I Love You, released in 2008, was the first of the band’s multi-album deal with Island Records. Prepare the Preparations found Ludo working once again with co-producer Matt Wallace (with Mark McClusky), who was behind the board for You’re Awful… Prepare the Preparations was even recorded in the same studio, said Convy.

“If we had worked in a different place with different producers, that might have counteracted the confidence, because we were so comfortable with those people and places,” he said. “I think we got something good out of it.”

Confidence was a major key to Prepare the Preparations. With their sophomore effort for Island, Convy said the band was “just a little cockier.” It was this growing confidence that played into Prepare the Preparations’ myriad sounds.

“Before, we may have talked ourselves out of certain decisions because it was our first major label record, but now we were more confident with what Ludo would do,” Convy explained. “I think that’s part of the extreme eclectic sound of the record, because you try to think about it without limitations. I think going into the studio with that mindset is why it came out the way it did.”

A burgeoning sense of Ludo coming into its own wasn’t the only difference this time around. The band members no longer all living in the same general area played into the writing process. Whereas in the past Ludo’s chief songwriter, frontman Andrew Volpe, would come to the band with skeletons of songs for the other members to embellish upon, this time around, he presented the band with fully realized demos. For Convy, it took a bit of getting used to.

“When something’s that done, sometimes it’s hard to jump in, but at the same time, Andrew was open to everything that we brought in,” Convy said. “You didn’t have to wonder where he was going or what he heard in his head.”

Convy said that he believes the new process was “empowering” for Volpe.

“It’s nice to be in on the ground floor of the creative process, but at the same time, there was a lot less confusion, because he might hear chords and lyrics, and I might picture something totally different than he did,” Convy continued. “Whereas with this, we could both be on the same page of what the end product was supposed to be. I just had to learn to adjust the way I had input.”

Empowerment seems to be a recurring theme in Ludo’s career and music. The band’s sense of humor and inherent geekiness (Ludo takes its name from a character in Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth) has had the band taking some flack amongst snootier music connoisseurs. This may have been a cause for concern for Ludo earlier on, but it’s less of a bother now.

“It’s unfortunate,” Convy said. “It’s something that we used to let bother us, but we don’t anymore. People are going to say what they’re going to say, and we’ll just do what we do.”

Songs about robot battles and leprechauns are certainly imaginative, but may cause eyes to roll at many a hipster venue across the country. Nevertheless, Convy knows you can’t please everyone, and Ludo’s not going to bother to try.

“It’s part of what we do, and people are going to take it the wrong way,” he said. “Someone wrote a review and quoted lines from ‘Whipped Cream’ [the band’s tongue-in-cheek first single from Prepare the Preparations] and said, ‘You’re not going to pick up chicks like that.’ And we were like, ‘No fucking kidding. We’re making fun of people.’ We realize now that not everyone gets it, and almost take pride in the fact that not everyone’s going to get it.”

All you need to get is that Ludo makes fun music; and since geek has become chic, rocking out to a band like this is way cooler than gazing at your navel. Radiohead is so last decade anyway.