Metro Weekly

Book of Love’s Ted Ottaviano: “As long as you’ve got the right sensibility, gender is thrown out the window”

Book of Love aims to reconnect with its "over the top" D.C. fans

Book of Love — Photo: Courtesy of IMP

On several fronts, electropop band Book of Love has been ahead of its time. Just consider modern “electropop.”

“You don’t even call music ‘electropop’ because all of it is electronic pop,” says co-founder and principal songwriter Ted Ottaviano. “Even the stuff that sounds acoustically live is all basically somehow painted in a studio with a computer.

“But we were using MIDI at that time. And we were making classic, almost ’60s-style pop records with this new ’80s technology.”

Book of Love also helped pioneer a style of dance music that went beyond mere expressions of joy and celebratory party music to explore more challenging, fraught themes, such as disillusion and dysphoria over gender (“Boy”) and AIDS and sex (“Pretty Boys and Pretty Girls”).

“There’s always been this weird juxtaposition of things,” says Ottaviano. “‘Let’s talk about this very important, serious subject and put a go-go bell behind it’…. They used to call it ‘thinking man’s pop.’ It was okay to contemplate and think through the music as well as feel it and physically move to it.”

Book of Love got its start as a live act opening for another band making similar thinking man’s pop: Depeche Mode. “We didn’t realize it was a watershed moment while it was happening,” Ottaviano says about suddenly playing stadium-sized crowds. “There’s nothing like fear and 10,000 people staring at you to help motivate…a group to get their act together.”

Ottaviano is looking forward to returning to D.C. and hoping to rekindle some fond memories from the original 9:30 Club. “Those shows used to be over the top,” he says. The band’s return comes in support of last year’s MMXVI: The 30th Anniversary Collection, featuring remastered hits and two new tracks. One of those, “All Girl Band,” is a nod to the post-punk groups who inspired Book of Love, from the Slits to LiliPUT to the Go-Gos.

“I always saw Book of Love as an all-girl band,” says Ottaviano, who is gay and the group’s only male member. “It’s always been about sensibility. And as long as you’ve got the right sensibility, gender is thrown out the window.”

Book of Love performs Saturday, Feb. 11, after 7 p.m. at U Street Music Hall, 1115A U St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $50. Call 202-588-1880 or visit

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