A new fab five?
For local clubgoers, new group Seventy contains a few familiar faces, with a surprising new sound
Back in the day, in the 1990s, there was a band called the Tattooed Love Dogs.
The popular quartet pumped out a mix of sweaty rock ’n’ roll and twanging, country-inflected tunes from local stages night after night. The Love Dogs were courted by record labels, and there was plenty of speculation, at the time, that they would make the jump from regional favorite to national touring act.
Then the band disappeared. Its two singing and guitar-playing frontmen, Vinnie Montoya and Mike Blanchard, had seemed to be moving in different directions—Montoya’s heart is in pop and rock, and Blanchard’s roots remain in folk and country.
When bassist Peter Gandesbery’s parents were killed in the January 2000 crash of Alaska Airlines flight 261 off Point Mugu in Southern California, and Gandesbery (understandably) stopped playing, the Love Dogs went on hiatus. Longtime local music figure Harley White (of Papa’s Culture, Blackalicious and Original Heads) stepped in on bass to join Montoya, Blanchard and drummer Larry Schiavone, but the new arrangement never quite jelled, and a post-Love Dogs incarnation called Prairie Combo didn’t, either.
Cut to the present. Montoya, White and Schiavone surfaced recently in a new quintet, with Scotty George on lead guitar and Dave Van Dusen on keyboards. (Blanchard, meanwhile, has been playing old country songs with his wife, Laurieanne, in a combination called the Neighbors.)
What’s most striking about Seventy, as the new group is called, is, first, how unlike the Tattooed Love Dogs it sounds and, second, how much its music evokes one of rock’s most beloved foursomes.
That wasn’t by overt design. What happened was that White was going through the dissolution of a relationship and had been writing like a demon—“he definitely had the hot hand,” as Montoya put it—and the group began recording some demos in the Midtown home studio of Tesla bassist Brian Wheat, whose gruff blues-rock exterior hides a McCartney-like inner nature.
“It was kind of like Harley’s inner Beatle met Brian’s inner Beatle,” Montoya recalled. He added, “We were learning those songs as we were recording them.”
The group already has enough songs written for a second album.
Of the songs on its debut, Seventy cut “Eyes on You,” “Love” and “Waiting” at Wheat’s studio, but it couldn’t afford to cut a whole album there, so it moved to a home-computer Pro Tools setup, with White engineering.
“Vinnie kind of has a Lennon thing,” White said of Montoya. “So, that’s where I started: I said, ‘What’s the common ground between me and them?’ And it’s the Beatles. The first three or four songs, John and Paul were really on my mind when I wrote them.”
For example, take “Waiting.” “It’s kind of a sad song,” Montoya said. “Harley wrote that right after 9/11. All these country artists were writing songs about, you know, hatin’ this guy and bombin’ that guy back. He was like, ‘I don’t want to tell anyone what that song is about.’ It’s just that he saw one of those pieces on a woman who had watched the [World Trade Center towers] come down, and she sat there the whole night—ended up waiting a week for her husband, who never came home.”
It’s a poignant song, although the lyrics seem generic when divorced from any tragic context. “I can see that love is all around you,” Montoya sings in the song’s bridge. “As for me, I’ve never ever been so blue / Every little thought is you.” Then, as the band downshifts, Montoya launches into the chorus: “All through the night / I just sit there, waiting.”
Like the other songs on the record, “Waiting” walks that balance between deeply personal and universal, with an added, haunting, Beatlesque quality. It sounds like something that may catch fire. And the band knows it.
“We’re absolutely in love with what we’re doing,” Montoya said. “And that’s why we do it.”