His Levinhurst band releases ‘House by the Sea’
Lol Tolhurst met Robert Smith at the age of 5 on their first day of school. For moody music fans with a penchant for wearing black, the meeting and subsequent friendship had the same impact as that fateful day when John Lennon met Paul McCartney. Tolhurst and Smith would grow up to form The Cure, the British punk band that would become the standard-bearers for goth rock.
Tolhurst played drums and keyboards on the band’s early work, but like many rock partnerships, his and Smith’s friendship was doomed. During the ’80s, he fell victim to drug and alcohol abuse and was ousted from the band.
Today, The Cure still sell out arenas around the world. But Tolhurst — who is now on speaking terms with Smith — has been keeping himself musically busy as well, partnering up with his wife, Cindy Levinson, to form a new musical project, Levinhurst. The duo released their second album, House by the Sea, this year.
“It’s been great to share something extra between us,” Tolhurst says of working with his wife. “Creation is such a positive thing for any relationship. She also understands the reasons for my working methods as she gets to see the results, too. It’s kind of a win-win situation, I feel.”
The two share a dynamic in the recording studio not much different from what Tolhurst shared years ago with Smith. “The key is friendship,” he says. “I feel that when your relationship is at a good honest level ego defenses naturally fall away and wonderful creation can occur. It’s all about the chemistry — to quote Joe Strummer.”
Their relationship led to a rewarding period of artistic give-and-take during work on the new album. “Recording was a wonderful process. It was really only me and Cindy with help from our good friend Eric Bradley on guitars and our engineer, Meghan Gohil,” Tolhurst says. Such a small group working on the album also allowed the couple to craft a collection of songs exactly as they wanted, a stark contrast to his days in The Cure when many bandmates could contribute to a piece of music. “In a situation like The Cure, there was always so much more to consider and so many more opinions to take in. The making of an album could take a very long time.”
There are some lyrical echoes of The Cure throughout House by the Sea. The songs are haunted by loneliness and despair, fear of loss and the fear of opening one’s life up to someone else. Levinson’s voice is smooth and crisp throughout, showing acceptance of each song’s situation, no matter how dire the lyrics. But there is also a confidence present in her vocals. So when she reassures, “I will still be here with you,” during the album’s final track, you must believe her.
Musically, the album could best be compared to the early synth-rock of Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine — think “Sanctified” and “Something I Can Never Have” more so than “Head like a Hole.” The compositions are stark, centered on Tolhurst’s keyboards with guitars occasionally slithering their way through and some light drumming.
“Personally, making House by the Sea was like a beautiful day at the beach,” Tolhurst says of the experience. “I think the end result shows this. Although there is a thematic element in the album that is sad, it sounds more resolved to me in a positive manner overall, which is what I really wanted to convey. It’s the story of my journey so far from darkness to light. I promise the next album will be positively incandescent.”