Le Loup (and Darth Vader) in its tour van outside KEXP.
If I had to decide my year-end list of favorite in-studio sessions right now, this performance by the D.C.-area collective Le Loup would certainly make the cut. The band began as a solo project for songwriter Sam Simkoff — who, in true modern style, found his supporting cast through MySpace and Craigslist. Currently at seven members, Le Loup has taken Simkoff's personal sounds and opened them up to the public. The music is as accessible as it is affecting.
Now that I think about it, Le Loup itself embodies these dynamics. The songs build and swell from quiet gestures. A simple banjo line will be layered by multiple guitars, percussion, and French horn until it's nearly lost in the cacophony. Form gives way to chaos, but chaos returns again to form. At times, a melody will cause your attention to drift, but soon another will pull it back. And the band's vocals are astounding: Simkoff will call out and the whole group will respond. Everyone in the band sings live. After the opening set, I had been moved to tears, but they were tears of joy.
While Simkoff is clearly the band's leader, he's more like a conductor than a composer. The individual members take ownership of their various parts, but a lowered hand from Simkoff can hush one instrument while a raised fist can signal a full-on orchestral blast. Occasionally, an overexcited Simkoff might count off a transition too hastily, but the others only smile and continue their parts. Most amazingly, this group, which some would consider quite large, interacts like intimate friends, and that's where all the harmony of Le Loup really comes from.
Originally recorded April 1, 2008, by Kevin Suggs.
Listen to the previous Favorite Session, or see our full archive.