New York quartet LVL UP channeled the best bits of '90s lo-fi and indie rock to create an authentically grungy, melodic racket. The band was formed in 2011 at SUNY (State University of New York) in Purchase, New York, where its members were students. Guitarist/vocalists Mike Caridi and Dave Benton and drummer Ben Smith originally intended their debut cassette to be a split release with bassist Nick Corbo, who had his own solo project, but after much collaboration, Corbo joined the band and the resulting album, Space Brothers, was released solely under the LVL UP name on Evil Weevil Records. Recorded sporadically and with songs by all three members except Smith, all writing in different styles, the album had a somewhat disjointed feel and later came to be viewed by the band more as a compilation or mixtape. Its sound caught the attention of the indie press, however. Their second album, 2014's critically acclaimed Hoodwink'd, released on their own Double Double Whammy label, bore the pronounced influence of '90s lo-fi legends Sebadoh and Guided by Voices. Just before its release, Smith left the band, to be replaced by Greg Rutkin. The critical praise for and modest commercial success of Hoodwink'd led to increased exposure, and two years later, the band signed to Sub Pop for the release of its third album, 2016's Return to Love. Produced by long-time collaborator Mike Ditrio, the album had a sound reminiscent of bands like Eric's Trip, Pavement, and Built To Spill, making it a natural fit with their new label. ~ John D. Buchanan
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