Loverboy back with new album
TORONTO – OK, so the tight leather pants are now just plain too tight and the bandana headband would only serve to hide a receding hairline.
But that cheeseball grin is spread wide across Mike Reno’s face and it’s obvious that this Loverboy still loves a good party, and even relishes the ’80s shmaltz that has come to define him.
The iconic performer, whose bombastic delivery with rock band Loverboy dominated the charts for a good chunk of that decade, is ready with the zingers when asked if he still has the red leather pants he was once known for.
“Absolutely, I have them on right now,” Reno quips while seated at a downtown lounge, suggesting they are under the faded jeans he’s wearing with a black cowboy shirt, half open to reveal a black wife-beater.
“They’re actually red leather cut-offs.”
It’s been a quarter century since such attire actually induced screams of approval, but Loverboy’s hefty catalogue of ’80s anthems have kept the Canadian band on a steady tour circuit of casinos and state fairs on both sides of the border.
Hits such as “Turn Me Loose,” “The Kid Is Hot Tonite,” “Working for the Weekend,” “Lovin’ Every Minute of It” and “Heaven in Your Eyes” continue to pop up in movie soundtracks and TV shows, making sure a new generation of beer-swilling college kids learn how to do the rock ‘n’ roll swagger right, complete with crumpled-rock-singer-face.
Today, Reno says he’s excited to be talking about new material for a change – Loverboy’s first new album in a decade.
“Which is a long time,” he admits. “I think we were ready for it because we had some things to say and we needed to get it out.
“There’s a lot of water under the bridge, we lost a couple guys along the way, a few wives have come and gone between the bunch of us. A lot of things happened but we’ve settled into a nice place. We feel good.”
The 10-track “Just Getting Started” covers familiar territory for the straight-ahead rock group, also made up of guitarist Paul Dean, keyboardist Doug Johnson, drummer Matt Frenette and bassist Ken (Spider) Sinnaeve.
Reno says they were conscious of maintaining Loverboy’s distinctive sound while seeking a fresh edge.
At the same time, he admits it’s been tough for the band to survive in the face of changing tastes and rocky times.
They enjoyed a quick ride to the top when they formed in Calgary in 1980, unleashing a steady stream of hit albums that kept them soaring through most of the decade.
But then radio dropped the rock ‘n’ roll classic format and the band was forced into a “break” in the early ’90s, Reno says. Things hit bottom with 1997’s failed album “Six” – a mistake in many ways, Reno admits.
“We did a record that we didn’t really believe in and the timing was kind of all wrong,” he says. “It was almost like it was a forced issue and we really didn’t put a lot of effort into it, not enough effort for it to be a substantial hit.”
Reno gripes that the record company they used – now defunct – was more interested in adding Loverboy to its roster than supporting any kind of lasting work.
“We were kind of tired and it showed. Sometimes when you get exhausted you don’t even know you’re exhausted, you just go, ‘OK, let’s do it and get it over with.’ ”
Tensions in the band were also making things difficult. Several attempts to make an album over the past decade failed.
“It never really worked. Everybody’s patience wore out and everybody had little temper tantrums and it just didn’t happen. Somebody didn’t like that and somebody didn’t like that and by the end of the day you just went, ‘Well this isn’t really working because you don’t like his songs and he doesn’t like your songs.’ And I said it’s like going to kindergarten, almost. But we’re grown men having squabbles over whose songs are better and I said, ‘You know what? I don’t like doing this anymore.’ So I ended up starting working with other people.”
As a result, most of the new songs are Reno’s collaboration with other songwriters, producing tracks that were later brought to the rest of the band.
The first song they tackled was “Stranded,” an ode to Loverboy’s late bassist Scott Smith, who was lost at sea in a 2000 sailing accident off the coast of California.
“That was real hard to come back from because it’s such a tragic loss,” Reno says. “I still think of him as being on an island, you know, with a coconut guitar made out of bamboo and coconut. … That was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in a long time.”
Loverboy’s new disc comes out Tuesday.
Loverboy back with new album