Through no fault of his own, Dustin Lovelis could be characterized as an underdog songwriter. The onetime frontman of the Fling in 2015 released a solo album “Dimensions” that, although less overtly revivalist than most, should have made the whole Los Angeles psych-pop gang tingle. Instead of wide acclaim, Lovelis remained ensconced in Long Beach, unflaggingly and obsessively writing and recording new songs, massaging the sounds of decades past and probably wearing a denim jacket.
“Been Hit Before,” arriving Aug. 25 on Friendship Fever and Porch Party Records, is the singer-guitarist’s next step — informed in large part by the realization that many of his heroes are underdogs too. “I came to this realization that most of my favorite songwriters are underdogs and that’s OK,” he says. “There is no need for hanging on to that childhood dream of ‘making it’ or whatever. It’s been a slow process over the years, but completely letting that idea go was so freeing artistically…. I really love that ’70s-’80s golden era of weirdo pop songwriters. Artists like Dukes Of Stratosphear and R. Stevie Moore were making these brilliant records. I feel a real connection with that type of songwriting.”
More than just mining the sonic oeuvre, though, Lovelis has authored an album that addresses struggles both personal and societal. Floating beneath the jangling, twinkling bliss of “Tompkinsville” is a meditation on Eric Garner, who died in that Staten Island neighborhood in 2014 after being restrained by police. “It’s kind of written from the perspective of a witness testifying his case,” Lovelis says. “It’s kind of got a surreal drone throughout the song because that’s how of felt when they released the video. I was just sitting there watching with my jaw open, tearing up. Something about his case really got me. He’s yelling ‘I can’t breathe’ while he is on the ground. It was so fucked up. I never used to mix politics with music, but it’s unavoidable now.”