Love Tractor, one of Athens’ founding rock & roll bands, was formed in 1980 after three University of Georgia art students realized there was no music scene in Athens and wanted to create “music they could dance to.” It’s instrumental, alternative style created a foundation for the music scene in Athens and is still referenced today as one of the city’s classic bands.
Forty years later, Love Tractor will re-release its first album, "Love Tractor," after remixing and reimagining different aspects to bring a sense of nostalgia for their long-time fans and introduce themselves to younger audiences. The official release date is Nov. 6.
The Red & Black spoke with Mark Cline, one of the guitarists for Love Tractor, about the band’s history and what to expect with the re-release.
The Red & Black: Love Tractor is often called the “founders of rock & roll” in Athens. What does this title mean to you today and how do you see yourself carrying on this legacy with time?
Mark Cline: I mean, the title is just pretty much true because it was just us. At first, Athens was a ghost town. It was just the university, which was us and 35,000 students from nowheresville, and then there was the art school which was a really great art school at the time and still is. There were no clubs or anything for us to participate in, so we created our own, and the art school itself was just like our home life. There were no bands. If there were bands they were old hippie or cover bands. So we made our own fun, which meant starting our own bands. And so we would have parties that would always be crazy. It was out of necessity to entertain ourselves by writing this music and creating these bands. So, it just so happened that it was all the right people in the right place at the right time who started making all this music, and it was us and two or three other bands. And so that's sort of our legacy that we carry on today.
R&B: What can your fans expect from a “reimagined” re-release of your first album? What will be different about it?
MC: The reimagining of the artwork has definitely improved. One of the things that are different was the mixed tapes—we used to record on what is called two-inch masters and that's where like all the tracks, go down on 16 or 24 track masters, and then from that, you mix down onto a tape. They're supposed to send it back, but there was something missing. And so, we have the option of improving this by trying to use what's called a safety, which is a super high-quality copy. There were also times where we'd have to remix the missing songs, which was about five, so I said, “no, I’m just gonna remix the entire thing so that we could keep the fidelity.” Fans should be happy because it sounds the same just better.
R&B: Your earliest material was mostly instrumental. How did this style set you apart from other alternative bands in Athens during the ‘80s, and what made you choose it?
MC: There really weren’t any other Athens bands at the time. We were all the same group of friends and we all went to the same parties, but one of the most important things was making sure we made music you could dance to. Everyone took that in different directions. We all created something like an artistic analogy—the B-52’s made something like pop art, R.E.M. were portrait painters and Pylon was minimalist art. Everyone tried to be distinct from each other even though we were all sharing recording studios, equipment and even members.
R&B: Clearly you’ve seen the music business go through many different stages throughout time, especially in Athens. What advice would you give to aspiring musicians today who are facing an unknown future during a pandemic and in general?
MC: Well, first of all, the pandemic will end. Also, no matter what, people will always find ways to write music and the greatest artists are the ones who write music for themselves just because they’re into it. Look at Billie Eilish—she and her brother are sensations just for writing music in their bedrooms at home. They’re writing whole albums and recording them at home with their computers as instruments. Music will always find a way. For artists today, play as many gigs as possible. Join as many bands as you can to learn from other musicians and always write. It’s all about being creative and finding the right creative process for yourself.