The story of the Submarines has all the makings of an indie rock rom-com: Boy meets girl, they fall in love, move to L.A., break up, then realize they’ve been writing songs about each other, so they form a band, fall in love all over again, and get married. But that was several years ago. Their new album, “Love Notes/Letter Bombs” finds singers and instrumentalists Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti exploring what happens after happily ever after. The songs are jumpy and fun with plinking and blooping instrumentation, but beneath the sunny surface lurks that slighty antagonistic chemistry that can keep a relationship vital.
The opening line of the song “Tigers” is “The piano makes the sound you play so quietly/these love notes, letter bombs/you send them back to me.” That feels like it’s describing both your songwriting process and domestic life.
Dragonetti: It definitely is.
Hazard: God, that’s really funny. I hadn’t thought about that. They are sort of like love notes and letter bombs we throw at each other in songs.
You really hadn’t thought of that? I thought it was just autobiographical.
Hazard: Well it is, but with “Tigers,” I had a vision of this rambling old mansion in this Wes Anderson-esque setting, where this couple is sort of running around and I was imagining tying a love note around a brick and throwing it through a window. this kind of sinister cuteness or something. I was kind of imagining more of that. I guess I didn’t see it as a metaphor for what we were doing.
You’ve been married for a few years now, but this album is still rife with the joys of new love as well as the sorrow of broken hearts.
Dragonetti: Yeah well, you know, it’s not very black and white, obviously. It’s been — without getting into it too much — it’s been up and down. Even in a relationship or marriage, you still have your struggles. Even stuff that happened long ago still feels present sometimes. We’re trying to figure it out. It gives us stuff to write about
Hazard: Yeah, I don’t think there’s quite a way for writing about things without pulling any punches.
Dragonetti: It has been a struggle at times, but we do our best.
In your liner notes you thank “all of the diplomats, referees and collaborators who helped make this record possible.” Do you really need referees when you’re working together?
Hazard: [laughs] Yes.
So are the members of your touring band all given whistles and shirts with black and white horizontal stripes?
Hazard: With all four of us touring, there are more referees, more people to keep us on our better behavior.
If you’re not familiar with the
Submarines by name, you do know their songs “Submarine Symphonika” and
“You, Me and the Bourgeoise” from their appearances in ubiquitous Apple
ads. But the Submarines are truly subversive, as Hazard says the latter
track is “a totally anti-consumerist song.”
“Licensing has definitely kept us going, kept us able to keep
making records and make a living,” she says. “But one hopes to sell
records and have a real career as a touring band. That’s what we’re
trying to do.”