Sometimes we need
to be kept on our toes.

Love Jerks is a San Francisco duo who make dream-pop ballads and glam-rock anthems with a flair for the cinematic. Love Jerks is for anyone who’s ever gazed out a train window, starring in their own John Hughes movie in their head. (Maybe there’s a smidge of David Lynch.)

Love Jerks is for people who want to be dancing when the world ends.

The offspring of two lead singers—Bryan Garza of Scissors for Lefty (vocals, guitar) and Rebecca Garza-Bortman of Happy Fangs and My First Earthquake (vocals, bass)—Love Jerks was born when these two jerks, yes, fell in love. They met in a rock club; got married in a rock club; and somewhere in between they discovered a mutual affection for Grimes, The Pretenders, and French pop from the 1960s.

The result feels fated. On Million Movies, Love Jerks’ debut full-length, released November 2018, wry lyricism, playful melodies, and tendency to be tongue-in-cheek belie a deep reverence for the pop song as an art form. The influence of New Wave and art-rock titans like David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Jarvis Cocker, and Cyndi Lauper seeps from every guitar riff and each warm, infectious synth hook. More moody, modern torch-carriers like Tame Impala can be heard in the wistful spaces between vocals, which the singers share in a kind of sonic banter. At live shows, the pair’s video projections (starring a virtual, psychedelic animal drummer) lend each song fresh color and verve.

Love Jerks also represents an experiment, then, a meeting of musical minds: What happens when two born songwriters decide their romance is a sandbox—or a stage?

A San Jose native, Garza had been an established name in Bay Area music for nearly a decade thanks to Scissors For Lefty (who’s toured with Smashing Pumpkins and Arctic Monkeys, among others) when he caught Bortman with Happy Fangs in 2013, at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill.

“She possessed something that lead singers rarely possess,” he remembers. “I thought it would be awesome if we became friends.” He reached out to suggest their bands play a show, or maybe try writing music together. Two years later, that magnetic front-woman said yes (ehrm.. F*-yeah!) to his marriage proposal onstage at the very same club.

Bortman, in turn, proposed that the couple write music for their wedding, and before long they were throwing a full-fledged rock opera. In a 2015 ceremony/party/show covered by GQ and ET Online, the couple literally sang themselves down the aisle at the Chapel, an aptly named San Francisco music hall. With the help of a wedding party made of backup singers and bandmates, they performed eight original songs — including the almost meta “Doing It Our Way” — that form the core of their debut.

Million Movies is seeped in self-awareness, and it looks outward as well. “We fully acknowledge that love is kind of eye-rolly and annoying to others,” says Bortman, a longtime San Franciscan by way of Pennsylvania. “Hence the jerks.” Songs like “Apocalyptic Makeout” dance with more global anxieties, considering what it means to live a big, honest, and emotionally vulnerable life in present-day America.

Still, the central fears and joys that color the record are those of a breathtaking crush finding solid ground — not to mention two lead singers learning to share one song. Every romance has its own particulars and peculiarities; its soft moments and car chases; its sloppy fights and golden-hour kisses. It’s all incredibly unique and specific, and by the time the credits roll, it’s also the oldest story in the world.

Love Jerks knows all this. Here is their soundtrack.