- PHOTO BY DEVON CAHILL AND LANGEN NEUBACHER
- L to R: Langen Neubacher and Suzie Cue are much more than mere open mic hosts.
Langen Neubacher and Suzie Gilb first crossed paths like so many musicians in St. Louis do — mutual friends, shared gigs and the various intersections that occur in the music scene inside this big/small town. Over coffee and cinnamon rolls at Neubacher's Carondelet Park-adjacent home, the pair recalled the genesis of their friendship — a monthly open-mic night that they co-hosted several years ago. That partnership gets revived and reinvigorated this week as both women release solo EPs with a co-billed show at Off Broadway.
"I've been sitting on recordings from my solo EP — I've had them back since January, and I've had the recordings done since way before then," says Neubacher of the songs that comprise her EP, Alone. "So I was kind of needing a kick to actually get everything together and release something and not just sit on this EP. I saw Suzie had already booked her release, and I was like, 'Can I piggyback on that?'"
Likewise, Gilb — who performs under the name Suzie Cue — was feeling the itch to release new material. Her last CD, Eleven Years of Lo-Fi, came out in 2012 and was a largely archival release. "Back then I was starting to play with a back-up band, but I was mostly playing solo at that point. I've put a couple of recordings up here and there on Bandcamp," says Gilb. "This is really only the second formal release that I've got."
While both songwriters have worked in the confines of a band in the past — Neubacher with the country-leaning outfit the Defeated County, and Gilb with her backing band the Terrible Twos — these releases were almost entirely created by the performer herself. Neubacher's Alone stands out for its starkness; with her other, still-active band, her songs are often draped in alt-country finery. Here, with little more than acoustic guitar and her voice, she locks in and refuses to flinch. On the standout "See Me Coming," she paints a dark picture of modern-day mating rituals — but there's little doubt who holds the power, as she intones, "You'll never see me coming til the blood's already running."
For Suzie Cue's So It Goes, Gilb inverts the solitary nature of Neubacher's release by suffusing her songs with multi-tracked instruments and harmony-laden warmth. Opening track "The End" floats in like a blend of folky dream-pop and Beach Boys b-sides, with her layered vocals and glistening organ chords providing a feathery landing for what would otherwise be a sad-sack break-up song. Later, as she channels the depths of her voice for waltzing, lonesome sea shanty "Going Down," she sounds equal parts shipwreck, siren and squall.
While tonally different, these EPs share another thread, as both women are releasing their first sets of songs after romantic break-ups — a matter that was compounded since both of their ex-paramours happened to be bandmates (now former bandmates, in both cases). And though neither Gilb nor Neubacher has any dirt to sling in conversation, both see value in going it alone.
"I definitely felt like this solo EP is one that I had complete control over — just complete control," says Neubacher. "And that was really satisfying that it was just mine. No compromises, no sitting around with six people talking about what needs to be tweaked — just me."
Both women cite being part of Bill Streeter's day-long Lo-Fi Cherokee music-and-video marathon (Gilb and her band in 2016, Neubacher with the Defeated County this year) as pivotal moments for introducing their music to a new audience — or resetting expectations for what their music sounds like. Gilb pitches her voice up an octave to give what she says was a customary reaction: "'Oh, Suzie Cue, she's got a cute little solo song on an acoustic guitar, and it will probably have the word 'fuck' in it!' And I do have that — don't get me wrong." Having proof on film that Suzie Cue is more than an acoustic act (her band often features a horn player or two) was a boon for the broader perceptions of her music.
That's a feeling Neubacher echoes as she reflects on this new EP and what it says about her musical identity.
"I'm sure the break-up factors into it, because break-ups factor into everything, but I've had a really strong urge to prove to people that I am more than just an open-mic host," says Neubacher.
Gilb concurs. "I can actually do something where it's not just guitar and vocals. Yes, I'm a singer-songwriter and yes, I'm a guitar player, but I'm also a multi-instrumentalist. I'm not a one-trick pony, you guys — I can do a bunch of shit."
Langen & Suzie's Double EP Release
8 p.m. Friday, July 21. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue. $10. 314-773-3363.