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Condoms, masturbation, and misguided dirty talk: Love Sequence’s path to ‘Sexual Enlightenment’

Love Sequence

Love Sequence Donatella Pompeo

It’s hard to write a sex song.

Do so poorly and you’ll join cringey attempts by bands like Color Me Badd (“I Wanna Sex You Up”) or Boyz II Men (“I’ll Make Love To You”). Those cautionary tales didn’t deter electric-pop-funk foursome Love Sequence from making an entire EP centered on all things libidinous.

Sexual Enlightenment is a blunt and dance-happy meditation on desire, with all its preparations (candles, condoms) and perils (dirty talk that sounded better in your head). If you can handle lyrics about underwear, masturbation, and, ahem, swallowing, this EP just might be your new sexy-time jam.

We spoke to frontman Bobby Rethwish about the audacious album ahead of the band’s release show on Monday.

City Pages: Did you set out to make an EP about sexuality or did you write the songs and later realize sex was a common thread?

Bobby Rethwish: We wrote the song “Sexual Enlightenment” about a year and a half ago. That was the first time I’d lyrically written about sexuality. Before that, I was scared [to write about sexuality]. It is very vulnerable. And it’s very easy to do it poorly and when you do it poorly, it’s hilarious and embarrassing. But then we did it and that song became a favorite at our shows, so we realized, “OK. Maybe we can do this.” Once that door was open, we kind of realized this EP was going to be about sexuality. And then we kind of wrote it from top-down. At that point in my life, it made a lot sense to write about that because it was all very new to me. This is when I was like 18. It’s kind of a coming-of-age thing.

CP: Were there any moments where you thought you went too far, or did you feel comfortable writing about sexuality?

BR: It’s extremely uncomfortable and I still feel like I went too far. And I think other people will think that, too, and it will turn a lot of people away. But I really wanted to not beat around the bush. When you hear pop stars singing about sex, all it is is beating around the bush. They’re not getting to the heart of what’s going on. They’re just avoiding it. I feel like it’s important that we have music that talks about sexuality in a way that’s not super glossy and clean and inaccessible-sounding. I wanted to do it in a way where there’s a lot of insecurity about it and a lot of hang-ups and the things that are real and nobody talks about in music.

CP: Do you believe sex is a vehicle for enlightenment?

BR: Obviously no one thing is going to get you enlightened—not sex, not drugs, not anything. The way the EP flows is: The first half is about how sex can bring you to God, whatever that means. It can tune you into that energy, that feeling. But then you get addicted to that. It becomes a trap.

CP: It’s refreshing to hear you considered the downside of sex—that it’s not all fun and games. It can be dangerous, too.

BR: Yeah. It can be very complicated.

CP: There are some religious metaphors in your songs. Where did those come from?

BR: I was a huge atheist for a long time and then I dated this girl who was a really big Christian. This isn’t who the EP is about. This is like four years ago. But it caused a lot of problems for us, all caused by me, like my inability to understand it. When that ended, I felt really bad and wanted to understand what it’s all about. In the process of doing so, I found an admiration for spiritual things—not necessarily organized religion, ’cause I don’t really affiliate with that—but things that don’t concern everyday life. It got me obsessed with looking higher, looking for meaning in the mundane.

CP: You mentioned that this album is not about that ex. But is there someone else who inspired these songs?

BR: Ultimately, they’re all kind of about me. It’s about my reaction to a person, the way I interpret and react to what they do and say and these emotions.

CP: Is it awkward to write about someone when you’re in a relationship with them, or even after the relationship ends?

BR: When I’m in a relationship and I’m completely satisfied, I don’t have that deep, deep urge to have the catharsis of songwriting. I feel like that may kind of offend people I’m dating, because it’s like, “Why aren’t you writing songs about me?” Well, if I’m in love, then, what am I really going to say? Being in love is great, but everybody knows that. We need complicated love songs.

When you break up and they hear those songs, it’s weird. The girl who most of the EP is about, we had this live recording of “Underwear” that was on YouTube and she heard it. She called me and left a voice message and was pretty upset about it. It’s kind of a jealous, angry song. I called her back and apologized to her and told her, “That’s how I was in that moment, when I wrote that song. And it is from the heart, but it’s a temporary feeling. That’s the only way I could get it out.” Ultimately, I can’t be afraid of making people uncomfortable with how I write lyrics. If you really want to make great art, I feel you can’t protect anyone, not even yourself. You’ve got to put yourself completely out there and sometimes other people, without it being a complete invasion of privacy. You can’t really hide the truth if you’re making great art.

CP: It’s an interesting conflict, to write about an emotion knowing the song is going to endure long after the emotion has passed.

BR: Yeah, exactly. That’s why it’s important to capture it right when it happens.

CP: You guys are known for an engaging live show. What makes it that way? How do you rile up the audience?

BR: We’re influenced by a lot of bands that put on huge shows. We’re really into Michael Jackson and Prince and these big spectacles. We’re playing in little clubs. Our goal is to make you feel like you’re in a stadium without any pyrotechnics or lights or screens. It’s hard to do. But the limitation has pushed us to be a lot better playing live. A lot of it is out of rebellion. We kind of hate when we see bands and it feels like they’re just hanging out with the audience. It’s very casual. That’s very popular right now ’cause everybody’s so self-aware. We want it to feel like, “This is not casual. We’ve got something to do here and we’re going to do it. And it’s going to be an assault on the senses. You’re either with us or you’re not.” It’s got to feel urgent. And I dance a lot. I guess that is something people don’t do that often anymore.

Love Sequence
With: Why Not and the Clean Tramps
When: 7 p.m. Monday, July 23
Where: 7th St. Entry
Tickets: $10; more info here