Categories: Arts Music Pop

LVL UP takes a victory lap

LVL UP, beloved indie rockers who produced three nearly-perfect albums of cathartic tunes this decade, announced earlier this year that they’d be calling it quits after a seven-year run.

While the decision came as a surprising bit of sad news to many, the breakup was tempered by the announcement that the band would embark on one last tour — a final chance for the four-piece group to perform their songs live and soak up the great feelings associated with a triumphant goodbye jaunt. (The show stops at Cafe du Nord on Saturday.)

“This tour has this victory lap feel to it,” says bassist Nick Corbo, one of the group’s three primary songwriters. “I’m going to be super sad when it’s finished, but everything so far has been so positive. These shows have been a celebration of sorts. We are kind of basking in that right now.”

LVL UP formed in 2011, when founding members Mike Caridi and Dave Benton started playing with Corbo at the State University of New York-Purchase. The group blended an obvious appreciation of ‘90s indie rock stalwarts like Neutral Milk Hotel and Built to Spill with distinctive characteristics, making for a sonic template both timely and timeless.

In addition to being world-class musicians, the group’s affable and down-to-earth demeanor earned them an endearing cult following in the indie rock community and a close connection with industry peers.

A high point came in 2016 with the release of their third album, “Return to Love,” an ambitious offering on venerable indie label Sub Pop that featured the strongest contributions yet from the songwriting triumvirate of Caridi, Benton and Corbo (drummer Greg Rutkin rounds out the group.)

The album, a collection of distorted indie pop nuggets, post-punk tunes and anthemic singalongs, garnered the praise of numerous critics.

Corbo says while it’s hard for the band members to turn their backs now, when things are starting to pick up steam, they each are involved in other artistic projects, and those endeavors mark the next logical step in everyone’s artistic growth. Benton and Rutkin are playing together in Trace Mountains, Corbo is leading Spirit Was and Caridi is performing in a group called The Glow.

Corbo stressed that the band members — who have known each other for nearly a decade — remain close.

“We are all still friends — nothing gnarly happened, nothing gross happened — we will still continue to make music, and often times we will be making music together,” says Corbo.

On Saturday, LVL UP is playing in The City with local dreampop group Pllush and Oregon indie rockers Strange Ranger (formerly known as Sioux Falls.) Corbo says he has great memories of playing in San Francisco and is looking forward to an emotional sendoff.

He also wants to remind folks that this won’t be the last time you see him and the other members of LVL UP.

“I don’t want anybody to shed tears for me, cause I have had an exceptional time,” says Corbo. “This is my passion and my calling and what I’m good at and I don’t know what I would do if I stopped. I’d probably drown.”

IF YOU GO
LVL UP, Pllush, Strange Ranger
Where: Café du Nord, 2174 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 8
Tickets: $13 to $15
Contact: (415) 471-2969, https://www.swedishamericanhall.com/event/lvl-up

Will Reisman
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Will Reisman

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