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The View From The Merch Table: Spanish Love Songs

Wednesday, 26 June 2024 Written by Emma Wilkes

Photo: Hannah Hall

If you love music, your wardrobe is likely stuffed full of band shirts. You might have a bunch of hoodies or a cap or two as well, or maybe something even more eclectic than that — a keychain or a bottle opener or a coffee mug. All this stuff is a conversation starter with fellow fans, a way of announcing that you belong to a certain scene, and a way of shouting about bands you love. On top of that, it’s also a vital way of putting money in artists’ pockets at a time where making enough to survive and keep creating is harder than ever. Put simply, it’s the lifeblood of music.

In the View From the Merch Table, a new monthly series, we dig into all things merch with an artist ahead of an upcoming run of shows. First up are Spanish Love Songs, an anthemic emo-leaning punk rock band out of Los Angeles. They are back in the UK next month for 2000trees, a slot opening for The Gaslight Anthem, and two very special London headliners at Lafayette where they’ll be performing their 2020 album ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ in full.

We spoke to frontman Dylan Slocum about steering away from "punk rock" designs, the shirt that survived 10 years of workouts, and why album-in-full shows should never be played with the songs out of order… 

What was the first bit of merch you remember buying?

I think it must have been, judging from the shows I would have gone to on my own for the first time, probably either a shirt by The Ataris, or Rufio because I saw them together at a show at one of my favourite venues, or perhaps the opener from that show, this band called The Go Reflex. One of those three, I think that would have had to have been it unless I bought something from a mail order. But that doesn't count! 

What was your most treasured item of merch?

In 2014 or 2015, I bought an Into It. Over It. Olympic-themed shirt. It’s still to this day my gym shirt and it’s holding up 10 years later. I'm a tall, large man who wears through clothes quickly, I don't understand why. I think that has to be it by default, because that's maybe the only shirt from that era that I still have. I still wear it weekly and I wash it constantly. I think the secret is that it’s heather grey and there’s not a lot of print on it.

What was the most recent thing you got hold of?

We do a lot of trades on tour. Also, what we like to do on tour is if a show feels like it's not going to be the best of the tour, or if we're out of laundry, we do try to buy shirts from these bands. The last time I was at a show and bought a piece of merch, it was the band Early Humans when they were in Nashville. I bought a hat — they’re great, they last longer than shirts and they’re usually about the same price. I know a lot of friends of ours who have really focused on [functional merch] because if you’re around this type of music long enough, you end up buying hundreds of shirts. It’s really not good for the world. It’s nice to buy something that has a little more use – bags, hats, keychains.

What’s been your favourite Spanish Love Songs design?

We did one forever ago that didn't sell well because it was on white, but it was a bullfighter baring his chest to the bull to get gored. That was a fun one. We had another one that I think we did in UK first — it was like a satanic thing and it said ‘No reason to believe’. I really liked that. It looked very cultish. The stuff we've been doing recently has been really fun, too. We always really try to focus on not having, quote unquote, punk rock designs, because that's very tiring to us if like everybody has the same sort of black T-shirt with certain things on We’ve done like a lot of floral stuff recently and there’s been a lot of ghost stuff recently with the album because of Haunted, which has been fun.

What difference does it make for you as a band for people to buy your merch and give you another income stream?

That's our entire livelihood. We always joke about how we're basically T-shirt salesmen. But it's true — we don't make money from the streaming of music, or the general consumption of music. Merch is the one thing that the band has creative control of and when a venue isn’t being a monster and taking a merch cut, it’s something that we get to then put into our pockets to then reinvest into the band. But merch is kind of fundamentally broken right now just with the cost of goods and bands trying not to raise their merch prices as much as possible. I feel bad being like, ‘I need you to buy stuff for me so I can keep doing my job.’ We feel so incredibly privileged that people choose to spend your money to come out to a show and then buy something of that. We wish it didn't have to be that way and we appreciate it.

You’re back in the UK for 2000trees and a couple of live shows with an interesting concept – you’re doing ‘Brave Faces Everyone’ in full. How did that idea come about?  

With the new album [2023’s ‘No Joy’], we hit the UK right after it came out. We did the Electric Ballroom in London in January and we didn’t just want to repeat that setlist. We thought ‘Let’s do the album that we didn’t get to do here much that people have been asking for’ [as it came out just before lockdown]. We got to tour it a lot more in the States, even during Covid, playing shows here and there. It felt like a special thing to do to celebrate a missed opportunity.

How are you going to go about it? 

We’re going to play for 20 minutes or so to warm up for the album — we’re going to have our cake and eat it because we’re probably going to play a third of ‘No Joy’ before we get onto ‘Brave Faces…’. Ending with the title track is kind of a prerequisite for this because of how that song ends and so we had to work backwards from there. 

Will you play it from front-to-back or mix the songs up?

There are some people who do album shows where they mix up the order of the album and I think I would be so pissed if I went [to one] and it was out of sequence. I'm a big album person. So if it was bouncing around, I'd be like, ‘What the hell's wrong with you?’”

Spanish Love Songs Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon July 08 2024 - LONDON Lafayette
Tue July 09 2024 - LONDON Lafayette

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