By Michael Lello
It would be easy to write off Sweatheart as a novelty act. Crazy costumes, wild videos and songs like “Finger Bangin’” don’t exactly scream seriousness. But just because the Philadelphia group is having fun doesn’t mean it isn’t putting in work.
In fact, Sweatheart founding member Thom Lessner shares that “Sittin’ Pretty,” the band’s new album released today, was the result of a “long and grueling process,” with trips to Lessner’s home state, Ohio, to record and glossy ’80s-style production, which made it a difficult record to mix.
But he says it was worth the difficulty.
“It’s a great fuckin’ record,” Lessner says. “I’m so proud of the record. I’m not bummed about the way we did it.”
“Sittin’ Pretty” is available via Sweatheart’s Bandcamp page, and can also be ordered as a cassette.
The album is the first to feature Scranton native Brian Langan (Langor, The Sw!ms, KOCK 107, Needle Points) on guitar, joining a lineup already featuring Lessner, Rose Lusardo, Dave Pap and Amanda Blank.
Lessner remembers first meeting the newest Sweatheart member when Langan showed up at Johnny Brenda’s with a full desktop computer for a recording job – “it was really funny.” The two then connected on MySpace, and Langan sent Lessner a KOCK 107 recording.
“I was like blown away,” Lessner says. “(I thought,) ‘Let’s be best friends.’ So I would go up to Scranton to just hang out with him and Pat Finnerty and work on songs.”
“He’s a great showman,” says Lessner. “He controls the stage. He’s not the main dude, but he draws so much attention.”
“The fun thing when we play, is every person up front is like a total ham and a frontman,” Langan says. “It’s fun to watch. And I get to work on guitar antics, because I’m not singing.”
The costumes were another attractive aspect of the band to Langan.
“I feel if you’re going to entertain, dress like an entertainer,” he says.
In the run-up to the album release, the band recently put out a video for “Crummy Summer.”
Sweatheart has collaborated with a host of other performers, including Santigold, Diplo, The Spinto Band and Spank Rock, but one of their most notable connections is with British pop metal revivalists The Darkness. Lessner met Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins at South By Southwest, while The Darkness was broken up. Lessner, also a visual artist, did some work for Hawkins’ Hot Leg project, before The Darkness reunited. Since then, Sweatheart has frequently opened shows for The Darkness.
“Playing with The Darkness was great, because they’re the same kind of folks as us,” Langan says. “They love putting on a show. They’re hams. It’s always fun hanging out and acting like goofballs.”
Lessner says he can understand why some people would think Sweatheart is an ironic put-on, but he pointed out that it wouldn’t make sense to put so much time and effort into something and not take it seriously. He legitimately likes ’80s r&b and pop metal, and it shows in the band’s songs and shows.
“With this band, all of us, especially me, we like fun, cool, weird shit that just might be stuff people have outgrown now,” Lessner surmises. “And I guess generally a lot of people just don’t like that shit. There are parody bands, but for us, we also like fun parties and jokes. Is that not taking ourselves seriously?”