“It’s good to be home, guys.”
Those were the words of Le Loup frontman Sam Simkoff, spoken Saturday night to the audience during the band’s show at the Black Cat. The crowd roared its appreciation, and the group launched into another song. Le Loup had officially returned to the District.
The show, the last stop on a tour to promote the band’s second album, “Family,” was the first Le Loup has played in D.C. – its home city – in almost a year.
“We missed the crowd,” Simkoff said in an interview Tuesday. “This is the place where we started out, so people are really enthusiastic here. We really feed off the energy.”
That energy might have given the band a second wind; despite playing more than 20 shows over the past month, Le Loup’s hour-long set was still a solid performance. The group played tracks off of “Family” with high-volume fervor. When he wasn’t hunched over a small sound board or enthusiastically strumming an autoharp, Simkoff jerked and weaved around the tiny stage while singing into two microphones. One guitarist frequently jumped up and down during jams, his massive ‘fro bouncing in time to the music, and drummer Robby Sahm played his kit so loud the vibrations knocked a spare guitar off its stand.
“We really enjoy playing this group of songs,” Simkoff said.
“Family,” released in September, was the result of “group collaboration” – a stark contrast to their first CD – “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly,” which was largely concieved by Simkoff and bandmate Christian Ervin.
“There was a lot more improvisation this time to allow for expansion,” Simkoff said. “We tried to come out with very broad ideas, there was a lot of jamming… and Christian and I just tweaked it at the end.”
As a result, the songs on “Family” are at once alien and completely approachable. The group layered its signature bizarre sound effects and monastic vocals with memorable guitar riffs and irresistible drum grooves. On “Go East” – part of Saturday’s show – band members repeatedly intone the song’s title over a deft guitar line and a chugging beat. “Beach Town,” another track, pairs seagull cries with a tribal – and incredibly danceable – line of percussion.
Although Le Loup often draws comparisons to Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear (and not just for the common animal names), Simkoff was quick to deny the other groups’ influence on their music.
“They weren’t fuel for ‘Family,’ ” he said. “We like maintaining a respectful distance from all our personal influences… to forge a new pathway.”
Over the past few years, Le Loup has undergone several lineup changes – various band members have left due to personal matters and career choices. (One, May Tabol, opened for Le Loup on Saturday with her band, Pree.) Although the band is constantly trying to “change and improve” their sound, Simkoff said that they have tried to “retain parts of the live show that exude energy.”
“[The energy] is essential… it works people up into a semi-spiritual froth,” he said.
While Simkoff is now spending time on the West Coast, he and the band enjoy any opportunity to come back to D.C.
“We had a great night,” he said of the gig. “The Black Cat is a great venue.”