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Love In War
an interview with Kate Flanigan

by Cindy-jo Dietz

THE CAPE CORAL STRIP on a weeknight out of season can be as slow as the day is long. On this particular Tuesday night it had been raining for hours on end and it was still raining when I made my way through the back door of Rackem’ Billiards, the Cape’s latest popular live music venue catering to the eclectic tastes of the tattooed pool-hall junkie. I love it here. There will be music I hate and music I love, but the musicians themselves are known for their originality and rawness.

This is where I first met Kate Flanigan, lead singer, writer, keyboardist and violinist for the electronic rock group Love In War. A Cape Coral native with a seasoned underground vocal approach and style, her band is known for delivering smooth melodies one moment, then belting it out through a wall of thick guitar (provided by guitarist Matt Ruso) and rhythm (provided by bassist Mike Calivano and drummer Adam Canut). Love In War delivers quality music you cannot help but be enthralled by.

The birth of the band starts literally at the beginning. Kate’s early influences come from her family. Her father is the guitar player for A Matter Of Faith, who continue to play here in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area. “My dad really did teach me a lot as a musician. He sat me down in front of synthesizers when I was a kid and was told “This is the future of music. You need to learn how to do this.” At the time, I thought “But I’m gonna play guitar, so...” But I ended up sitting down and learning it and learning how to write. That shaped me. “ True to that rebellious attitude, Kate’s later influences came from a brief time spent in California. “I lived in San Diego for a few years. That had so much to do with forming who I am now as a musician. I got invited to play keyboards for a band out there. I just sucked it up, shoved all my stuff in the car and moved. It was very empowering. To be around the people that I was around out there, the scene out there, everybody was just so encouraging to each other. Everybody invited each other to play shows and enjoyed watching each other’s band. If you weren’t playing, you went out and saw somebody else’s band and if they weren’t playing, they came out and saw yours. It was really cool.”

I asked Kate how she got from there to here?

“That’s a really long story which is actually the backdrop for a lot of my really angry songs.Things blew up with a relationship I was in. I ended up back here because this is where my family is, where my friends are. I was angry, but at the same time I was really resolved to take what I’d gone through, what I’d experienced, the things I had learned how to do – I took all of that and I turned it into what I wanted to do instead of following what somebody else wanted me to do. So it started out as a ‘Forget this’ and it turned into a ‘No, like really, forget this – I’m going to do it my way.’ So that’s where Love In War and all the music kind of came from.

I wondered just how did the group form?

“Well, I’ve been working on this as a studio project for way more years than I’d like to admit. I’m a bit of a studio rat. Finally, a few years ago I selected a producer to work on the record with me. I formed the lineup around the record. Mike is my brother-in-law. We imported Adam from Australia and Matt – Matt I bought on Craigslist! Yeah, I went on miscellaneous stuff for sale and went, “Damn, I’ll take it!

“In January of this year we played our first show, which was at Music Walk in downtown Fort Myers. We played a slot no other band wanted “Because it was freakin’ cold outside. But we were like ‘Sure, we’ll take it.’ So far, we have eight shows coming up over the next two months. I’ve been surprised by the diversity of the people that come out. It’s all different age ranges, everything from angry 15 year olds up to 60 year old women. It’s all good!”

Love In War’s independent release is due out soon, but of course the ‘when’ is still being discussed. “We just got the tracks back from mastering – finally. So, we’re looking at a release soon, but we’re still deciding on when, and how to go about doing that.”

In the meantime, you can check out three of their songs online. Kate explains, “We have ‘Your Gravity’, which is one of the more upbeat, ‘poppier’ songs. There’s ‘Stray Bullets’, which is my personal favorite and the one we end all of our shows with. It’s got this huge epic outro that has all these strings and crazy guitars wailing in it, which is so much fun. And ‘It All Means Nothing’ is up there as well.”

Love In War describes their sound as electronic rock. “It’s kind of like Nine Inch Nails meets Tori Amos meets Hybrid or Radiohead. It’s got some ambient electronic elements to it, but it’s got a lot of big guitars.”

I asked who the band was most influenced by?

“My personal favorite has been Muse. I’ve liked them for several years now. I’m actually not as big of a fan of their new stuff as I was of their older stuff. I like Mute Math, but as influences I’d say I’ve pulled more from Nine Inch Nails and Vast (back when they did their first couple albums). And Portishead.”

As a female songwriter in a predominantly male music scene have you come across any chauvinsim or any difficulties trying to prove yourself in the industry?

Kate laughs, “Oh my God, constantly. When I was 19 I was just so angry. I was like ‘I don’t want to have to prove myself.’ I didn’t want to have to, I’m good at what I do, but... I think, when you’re a female front person people assume that the only thing you do is get up there and shake your ass. People are staring at your boobs and you sing every once in a while. I’m a songwriter, a keyboardist, a musician. I used to feel the need to really shove that in people’s faces. Now I’ve gotten a much better sense of humor about it and can laugh about it. Y’know, if you think I’m an idiot that’s not my problem that’s yours.”

I wondered if Kate ever feels that because she plays a musical instrument it makes her a more powerful singer?

“I think I’ve got more of a connection with the music and less of a connection with, or maybe less of a focus on, the ‘look at me’ aspect of performing. I think I feel a lot more connected to the songs themselves by playing an instrument.”

I wondered if there anybody Love In War is particularly fond of playing with?

“Yeah, we’ve played several shows recently with Cops With Rockets. They’re awesome! They’re the most hilarious guys and we always end up hanging out after shows talking about crazy stuff. They’re a lot of fun. Their music is very well thought out. The lyrics are intelligent which is something, believe it or not, that is really hard to find. It’s witty.”

Fans of the band can check them out at LoveInWar.net. “It’s pretty much a blog, but we’re currently building up a larger website. We also have our ReverbNation page which has all the show information and is probably the most updated. All of our sites pour over to Facebook as well.”

Are you building a good fan base using online resources?

“We’re building more of a fan base through doing good shows than we are via social networking. We don’t want just fans that click ‘like’ and disappear. We want fans that actually get up and out of their houses and drive to where we’re playing and come see us play. Although with that being said, we are still going to be more effectively using social networking in the not so distant future. •

from the November-December 2011 issue

“It’s kind of like Nine Inch
Nails meets Tori Amos
meets Hybrid or Radiohead.
It’s got some ambient
electronic elements to it,
but it’s got a lot of
big guitars.”

photographs by Al Larson