Greek-born, London-bred singer Livan is a study in contradictions—he has a masters degree in psychology; loves from Clash to Bauhaus and cites Lord Byron as his favorite wordsmith. But Off the Grid, LIVAN’s (pronounced Lie’van) third full length release, is 11 solid tracks of dark yet manically energetic post-punk rock. With captivating songs like “Little White Lies” and the wicked, propulsive “Undead,” Off the Grid, produced by LIVAN, is at once raw, primal and polished, hearkening back to the darker-edged British bands of the mid- 70s to mid-90s.
“I called the release Off the Grid because of the digital recording revolution, so many people are making records in their bedrooms with ProTools,” explains LIVAN. “They lay everything on the ‘grid.’ But it’s soulless. It fails to grab the onstage vibe of musical interaction that’s inherent in a live band.”
LIVAN, together with guitarist Will Crewdson (previously with influential UK rockers Adam Ant, Rachel Stamp, Malcolm McLaren and California Alt-Rock legend Johnette Napolitano) and drummer Damon Wilson (Ray Davies, Joss Stone) tracked Off the Grid old-school style, “We recorded the whole thing with no click, as we play it live,” LIVAN says. “It’s like it used to be, like rolling the tape…so if there are glitches on the record, we’ll live with that; it’s real.”
Off the Grid is LIVAN’s 4th release in three years, and the prolific writer and performer (who composes on bass, guitar and piano) has grown exponentially with each offering. 2008’s political and fraught Democricy led to 2009’s Happy Returns which American radio embraced with the title track hitting 8 on the FMQB radio charts. Rock & Roll Report raved that Happy Returns was “fast and furious, with deep and intelligent lyrics,” praising LIVAN’s range and voice “as sounding somewhere between two Peters: Peter Murphy and Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil.”
The ultimate for LIVAN is playing live, and he very much believes that “a song is interpreted by the listener. If I wrote it initially about the feeling or hurt or joy in a relationship, the listener might listen and feel completely different. If that happens, then I’ve succeeded lyrically as a writer.” One song making the transition from Happy Returns to Off the Grid is “King of the World,” a song one critic called “a charging ride of post punk dance…. darkly funky bass, and raining guitar chords with a heavy dose of brooding.” LIVAN re-recorded it for the new release, and while some lyrics directly reference Prime Minister Gordon Brown, LIVAN notes, “it’s mainly about how we wish we could have the power to do ‘X, Y, Z’ when you’re frustrated with bureaucracy or politicians. So if you could be ‘King of the World’ for a day, you could fix things.”
LIVAN’s compelling; whisper-to-a-scream approach to music is contemporary and cinematic. Off the Grid acknowledges decades of influential London-based bands, but it’s forward-thinking music that also invokes the romantic drama of the afore-mentioned Lord Byron, while the dark, passionate, sometimes agro vibe is tempered by flashes of unexpected, sly humor. It’s a unique combination that resonates with critics and fans alike. “I love when people sing along to songs–verses, not just the chorus. That’s priceless to me,” LIVAN notes, concluding: “My goal is to make people feel. When the hair goes up on the back of your neck, when you strike that primal connection: That’s what I desire out of my music.”