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The Love Hangover offers songs for the sad and the swooning

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The Love Hangover is a local custom suited for both the lovelorn and the lovebirds.

Now in its 14th year, the Hangover has traditionally chased the maudlin tide of Valentine's Day by teaming male and female voices on songs that span all points of the love rollercoaster—hormones and hate, flirtation and frustration, innocence and endings.

The singers are sometimes simpatico. Three years ago, for instance, Matt Douglas and Caitlin Cary's one-off performance at the Hangover led to the formation of their band, The Small Ponds. Some of the best collaborations, however, have come when their divergent backgrounds have created the friction and sparks so often suited to Valentine's Day.

This year's Hangover features the event's first same-sex pairing—Des Ark's Aimée Argote and Midtown Dickens' Catherine Edgerton. They'll be in good company, including the intriguing alt-country superduo of Lynn Blakey (Tres Chicas, Glory Fountain) and The Backsliders' Chip Robinson. Real-life couple and Schooner bandmates Maria Albani and Reid Johnson bring their intimacy to the stage, while series co-creator Caroline Mamoulides teams with Patty Hurst Shifter's J. Chris Smith. Two rock 'n' roll veterans—Erik Sugg, once of The Cherry Valence and now of Demon Eye, and Back Stabbath belter Rose Higgins—provide the night's boisterous counterpoint.

We spoke with members of each tandem about their approach to the show of duos and broken hearts.


REID JOHNSON

The song we're most excited about is "Do You Love Me Now?" by The Breeders. We've both been influenced by the aesthetic of the Pixies crew and, of course, love this record. As time has passed since we first heard the song, I think that both of us have experienced a very real sense of longing and desperation that the song conveys—stuff that used to seem kinda trite in our earlier years. It's fun to sing this together, like we're combining youthful exuberance about music with the understanding that experience brings.

LYNN BLAKEY

For me, The Love Hangover is more of a chance to step into other people's love stories: I've been happily married for six years, and I have heartache amnesia.

CAROLINE MAMOULIDES

Of the songs Chris and I are performing at The Love Hangover, "Embraceable You" by George and Ira Gershwin holds the most significance to me. I grew up in a household that did not often have music playing, so I quickly learned to entertain myself by singing a cappella any song I could hold onto and make my own. I adored all the powerful jazz divas like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan, and would do my best to recall the music and nuances of each vocal performance. These classic songs are pure and timeless to me.

ERIK SUGG

[Rose] made the interesting observation that our choices are more celebratory love songs rather than ones that deal with heartbreak and sorrow. We both have happy marriages. Funny enough, we will both be celebrating 10-year anniversaries with our significant others next year, even down to the same month—we both got married in May of 2004.

Because I tend to be more of a listener of straight up rock 'n' roll, I found myself leaning toward songs that had upbeat tempos—just simple one-four-five rockers with fun melodies and classic pop hooks. When love is the subject of a song, you can choose to sit down and ponder the lyrics and how they relate to you, or you can get up and dance along to one that fills you with good sensation.


The trouble with Townes

Listening to Des Ark and Midtown Dickens is an act of vocal imprinting: In Des Ark, Aimée Argote's resilient quiver doles out hypersensitive tales with a core that seems cast of solid steel. In Midtown Dickens, Catherine Edgerton has served similarly as the vulnerable foil to her longtime bandmate Kym Register's more assured hollers. They are two of the most distinctive—and, at times, devastating—voices in the Triangle.

We spoke with Argote and Edgerton about the fitting songs they selected for The Love Hangover.

AIMÉE ARGOTE: My brain just doesn't work in gender, so it never even occurred to me that [my partner] should be a dude. I just thought about the voices of people that I love. She was just the most obvious person in my brain that understands how to perform heartbreak. When I think about love, I think about heartbreak, because that's more of an interesting topic. It's not how I think about it in my life necessarily, but in terms of performing.

CATHERINE EDGERTON: It's The Love Hangover, right? It's not The Love Celebration. I think that heartbreak is the subject of everything to do with love, eventually. Everything changes.

AA: We're going for the saddest shit we can find.

CE: We were like, "Let's do all these cool punk rock songs," and then we ended up deciding to do all Townes Van Zandt songs. If you want to have a hangover, that's the guy to listen to.

AA: We're there to say that we're all feeling this and we're not alone.

CE: That vulnerability is what brings us together and creates collective courage and strength.

AA: It's the real Hallmark card. ... We tried to pick all the saddest songs we could find, and they were all Townes Van Zandt songs. We had a list of a bunch of songs and sat around a table to narrow it down to the best ones—the saddest ones. They were all Townes songs. We were trying to play The Breeders, but we decided to play "Waiting 'Round to Die" instead. That happened six times in a row.


Correction: Rose Higgins sings in Back Stabbath (not Poonhounds); see comments below.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Love is whatever."

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