Born in the Middle East to missionary parents, David Levesque was raised on a diet of dusty Disney VHS tapes stored in a vault – as they were the only sources of entertainment for a young boy overseas, they had a big impact.
This deep-rooted infatuation has wormed its way throughout his life, making its mark most notably on his ‘Mickey Mouse’ tribal style, which is ingrained into the tropical electronica of his musical project, Levek.
It wasn’t a completely straightforward entry into the music biz however, as Levesque ended up spending a length of time flitting around the Floridian peninsula, spending time in Orlando and Gainesville doing odd jobs – including having a brief stint as a school bus driver. These nomadic periods of wanderlust culminated in catching Pitchfork’s beady eye with a spate of a cappella tracks and a 7” release. There was talk of him being a one-hit wonder as nothing else surfaced. Time passed, and Levek faded away.
Or so the music blogs thought.
He’d been holed up in St. Augustine, the oldest city in the USA, and had begun the arduous task of writing and recording his debut, Look A Little Closer, with apparently no plan of action. “I wanted to familiarize myself with the process of recording in a studio along with experimenting with combinations of sounds, percussion mostly. As far as the album content I had no clue what I was going to do going into it. But after writing the first two songs I knew where the rest of the album was going to go.”
Things weren’t easy though, even after finding his footing and cementing that instinctive sound. Writing and recording were two very different processes, and although the writing side was well underway, recording his first full-length required a much more thorough approach. “It was a huge learning process figuring out how to record and run the studio with nobody around. Dave from Medusa Studios in Gainesville helped teach along the way, and helped think of ways to record myself without an engineer pressing record. We ended up screen sharing my laptop with his system so I could control the studio wirelessly from wherever I was in the studio. The album process started a little over a year ago in Gainesville at Dave’s studio. The amount of help on the album was ridiculous. You’ll just have to check out the ‘thank-yous’ printed on the album. I’ll round it up to all of Florida.”
The result is a multifaceted record, saturated with genre-flips like the 60s folk-styled ‘Canterbury Bells’ and the funky motown of ‘Can’t Buy This Love’. There’s even bossa nova in ‘Terra Treasures’. Some might say that this is a breakdown in musical identity or that maybe Levesque is unsure of his direction. But he knows exactly where he’s going. “The album structure is supposed to reflect the many ups and downs of being bipolar and the effects it has on relationships. The variety of genres reflect the nature of being bipolar.”
“I felt like I connected most to ‘With A Slow Burn’ when I was writing it, so it has become a personal favourite.” The track again utilises a folksy sound, to weave a back-to-basics tale where the lyrics are king. The music is not foregone though, with ticking percussion and sampled water welded to Latin guitar for an atmospheric backing. Levesque hasn’t been shy about admitting that this is, for the first time, a very personal collection of songs. Though he’s been coy about why, it’s clear in the tenderness that this is an introspective record, laboriously crafted for as much personal gain as pleasure for the listener.
Levesque has grown roots in Florida now, branching out and getting involved with the local scene – “I would say the best thing about Florida is the collective in Gainesville named Milagros. Art creators, musicians, beer craftsmen, pizza makers, veggie-bus mechanics, venue builders… they are all around me. Florida has comforted every stage of music making for me. It’s fairly easy to get alone time and escape, but at the same time the music scene is here for you when you need it to be. The crew I’ve surrounded myself with are all for making Gainesville the place to go for creators of all types” – and this array of creative types has influenced one track in particular: lead single ‘Black Mold Grow’. “It took the longest to write and record only because It was the first attempt of recording in a studio. Right off the bat I wanted to have all of my friends involved so this track has the most. Slowly but surely the amount of other people involved deflated by the end of the album.”
It’s not just friends and family that influences the music of Levek. “Bobby McFerrin has always been a constant, but I loved listening to movie scores and motown. Francois DeRoubaix and Bobby McFerrin have impacted the way I think about music the most over the years.” The filmic aspect is evident in his music. Especially when the Disney influences shine through, the tracks sound like an entranced haze of twee Cinderella magic. Levesque’s influences all seem pretty clear in the sounds he has created – they don’t come across as imitations, but a respect is paid, and he builds on the parts he loves to create a wonderful amalgam of his exotic tropitronica and the classic motown/folk/Disney noises.
The horizon is broad for Levek, and what has always been a solo project may be welcoming more members. “Right now we’re recording as a band for the first time, and we’re super excited to see how the sound develops as a unit.” With the possibility of more creative input (and help in the recording studio) we can expect a marked shift in his sound, but given the credentials that his artsy pals are likely to boast heralding from the Milagros and already having assisted him on the debut, it’s unlikely to be a bad thing that he’s got an extra pair of hands or two.
Look A Little Closer is available now through Lefse.