Premiere: Dustin Lovelis, ‘Pop Music’ (and more on the R. Stevie Moore tribute album, out next week)

Dustin Lovelis
Dustin Lovelis

Who know exactly how much music R. Stevie Moore has released. Some say it’s around 400 albums (which “might seem stretching it a bit,” he has said); there are some 200 releases on his Bandcamp page; and the “official” releases via labels number in the dozens.

No matter how prolific, the lo-fi recording pioneer and DIY hero, now 66 years old, has inspired many (Ariel Pink credits Moore as a mentor), spreading his legend via mail-order cassettes. Next month he will be honored with a tribute album — released by Long Beach’s Porch Party Records via cassette, of course — that features a host of Southern California artists (including Matt Costa, Joel Jerome, Lens Mozer and Greater California) covering Moore’s songs.

It’s the brainchild of Dustin Lovelis, who’s released two solo albums himself (2015’s “Dimensions” and 2017’s “Been Hit Before”) and confesses to having been smitten by Moore’s extensive catalog. When Lovelis had gathered up all the tracks for the tribute album, he sent them to Moore. To Lovelis’ surprise, Moore responded — and even gave a name to the compilation: “Sensual Harassment: Various Artists Outperform the Hits of R. Stevie Moore” (out July 6).

Lovelis, who contributes the track “Pop Music” (premiered below), tells Buzz Bands LA how it happened:

Buzz Bands LA: Tell me about your first encounter with R. Stevie Moore’s music. Why did it resonate with you?

Dustin Lovelis: I heard about R. Stevie years ago through musician friends. I knew he was this sort of obscure weirdo pop genius. I dabbled in his catalog a bit, but never knew where to start digging through his massive catalog. The guy has over 400 albums.

When he released “Make It Be” (a collaboration with power-pop great Jason Falkner) last year, I was listening to it religiously. Shortly after that I saw him perform at SXSW and was hooked. My live bassist Joel (Forest of Tongue) and I would spend hours scouring YouTube and Bandcamp to find these hidden pop gems. I finally decided to cover “Pop Music” just for fun. Seemed like a fairly simple tune, but it ended up being way more complex than it sounded.

The more I dug into his songwriting I realized how complex his chord structures and arrangements can be. Once it clicked, he became this sort of bedroom pop Brian Wilson or something. That’s the kind of songwriting I can really relate to. Take a weird-ass song and dress it up nice. The fact that he was able to do that at home was so impressive.

When did you decide to embark on this project, and how many people told you that you were crazy?

The idea has been around since last summer. I had already recorded “Pop Music” and wanted to do another. I asked a some buds if they wanted to record a song and people seemed interested. Within a month people started asking me if they could be a part of it. The whole thing just started making itself at a certain point.

Once I got all 18 tracks together I sent them to R. Stevie not really expecting to get a response. He emailed me back like two minutes later and was ecstatic! He was super grateful and seemed to genuinely enjoy what we were doing. It was surreal. He fully endorsed the project and even titled it “Sensual Harassment: Various Artists Outperforming the Hits of R. Stevie Moore.”

Some of these songs might be more hi-fi than the originals, right? Discuss …

The sonic quality varies from track to track. The only requirement was that people recorded themselves at home. We wanted to keep the R. Stevie aesthetic but still give people freedom to do their thing. I love the fact that all the recordings are different from each other. Each artist has their own identity within one collective project.

||| Stream: “Pop Music”

||| Live: Dustin Lovelis plays Friday night at the Bootleg Theater, supporting Michel Rault and Levitation Room. Tickets.