Last December we profiled local jazz vocalist Erin Bode in these pages ["Not Norah," December 8, 2004]. The next week her debut album, Don't Take Your Time, sold out at area Borders, Best Buys and a host of independent record stores around town. Her weekly performances at venues like Cookie's Jazz & More and Chasers Lounge attracted larger crowds. We were proud. She deserves it.
Imagine, then, our delight when earlier this month the Wall Street Journal featured a glowing review of Bode's work, mentioning her name not only alongside influences such as Blossom Dearie and Eva Cassidy, but also in the same breath as Ella Fitzgerald.
Reviewer John Berlau caught an Erin Bode performance during her tour of the East Coast last October, a trip she plans to make again this December. He makes requisite comparisons to Norah Jones and Diana Krall, but not without plenty of paragraphs singling out Bode's unique sound, the classic "girlishness" of her voice and her "very promising debut album."
We caught up with Bode to see if being on the brink of national fame has changed her life. The answer turns out to be...not really.
B-Sides: Bet you never expected to be in the Wall Street Journal, of all places. Did you know the paper did music reviews?
Erin Bode: During our interview, Berlau said he occasionally wrote for the Wall Street Journal, and there was a chance I would be in it. I didn't hold my breath. When my mom told me about it, I was in Italy. I was really happy, and scared. She called and read it to me over the phone the next day. It was exciting! We did twelve concerts in fourteen days in Italy. It was a great tour. Most of the shows were sold out or full, and we sold a lot of CDs. The article made for a nice homecoming.
What did you think of the comment that you have a "girlish" voice?
I felt that his interpretation of my album was very accurate. I didn't mind my voice being called "girlish." I like being a girl.
Are you sorry you didn't get one of those classic drawings of your head next to the review?
A little bit. The guys from my label sent in photos but warned me that [the WSJ] would probably draw me. I was kind of looking forward to it, but I just got a regular picture.
Our article focused on your music, but we couldn't ignore the fact that you're hot. How do you and your husband deal with the sex-symbol status that's building?
Actually, I haven't noticed any sex-symbol stuff. I'm not watching for it, especially now that I'm married. My husband is really laid back, and I make sure he has every reason to be happy.
When will you be recording again?
We're supposed to start recording in May, here in St. Louis. We've got several originals and a few covers that we plan to do. We've been busy writing.
Do you feel like a local celebrity?
Well, the recognition was great. After the RFT story came out, people I didn't know would come up to me and say they saw me in the paper and congratulate me. It was great, because we felt like the article was a nice representation of the time we've spent here.
So you're planning to leave St. Louis?
Not at the moment. I don't know what the future holds, though, so we're keeping our options open. Our goal is to start traveling more, but we'd like to have a home base here. We like it here.
We like her here too, but we'll understand if she has to leave us eventually. After all, it hasn't even been a year since the release of Don't Take Your Time, yet Bode seems the owner of a first-class ticket to bigger and better things. But like every great jazz singer, we know she'll always remember her roots: her first St. Louis appearances at Brandt's Café, her inclusion in KMOX [1120 AM]'s Voices of St. Louis program and, of course, her first major press on these ever-intuitive pages. -- Jess Minnen
Wreck Your Life
When a band gets stoked about hitting No. 1 on an XM Satellite Radio station or jamming with John Popper, you have every right to get the willies. Fronted by two brothers, Willy and Cody Braun, Reckless Kelly doesn't need such lame buzz: The Idaho-born, Oregon-formed, Austin-based quintet may perform under the hopelessly cavernous alt-country tent, but they actually have the chops, swagger and half a dozen songs to hang with (and get kudos from) the Steve Earles and Joe Elys of the faux-western world. Restless Kelly's 2005 Sugar Hill record, Wicked Twisted Road, glories in the unwashed Texas badassery of road/car/whiskey/one-night-stand motifs and ganking the metaled twang of Copperhead Road and devil-to-pay swing of Honky Tonk Masquerade. And if you consider those albums Americana touchstones, you're right -- and you need to hear just how hard a band can rock a casino boat.
B-Sides: You took a rather circuitous route to the center of the Americana universe.
Cody Braun: We moved from Idaho to Oregon because our manager said we could live there for free. After nine months stuff fell apart, and we packed up for Austin. Oregon wasn't the right spot for us. Grunge was on the way out; country rock wasn't popular.
You could have cornered the Oregon market.
There were actually several bands doing that. But the competition was just as tough as Austin, and there were only a few bars.
Do you hate Austin this time of year?
We didn't even apply for a [South by Southwest] showcase this time. We're just doing some private parties. But it's pretty great: We got our record deal from SXSW. It's just good to see new bands, see what the competition is doing. I don't have a wristband, so I'll be stumbling around the free parties.
I don't have a TV, but your video is getting played on CMT [Country Music Television]. But commercial radio won't play you.
Country radio is going to have to come around eventually. It's a tough thing -- so much of it is Clear Channel. Getting into that world is a tough nut to crack.
I have the secret code. I'd have to kill you if I told you.
What? You want to meet in some dark place with a suitcase full of cash?
My people will meet your people. So your first instrument was the fiddle, right? Suzuki method?
Actually, I did the first tapes -- "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" -- but I never made it to side two. I just learned the positions and started playing country music.
Are casino gigs your bread and butter now?
[Laughs] We're doing a couple of shows in Vegas with Dwight Yoakam. We've got this Harrah's thing; it's our first run. I'm sure we'll be too loud, and we'll have to drag our drummer off the slots before we take the stage. But the cocktails are always free. -- Roy Kasten
Beef in hip-hop is as commonplace as leather at an electro-stim party. So when 50 Cent booted protégé the Game out of his G-Unit posse earlier this month -- after which Game's homies allegedly volleyed back with gunplay -- no one was too worried that the situation would escalate into any serious Alexander-Hamilton-v.-Aaron-Burr-type shit. From a public relations standpoint, however, it was effing sage and undoubtedly helped move plenty of both thugs' albums.
Tucker Booth is the 50 Cent of the St. Louis underground hip-hop scene. In his own mind, anyway. So, to drum up support for Friday's Loop Underground show -- at which he's the headliner -- he did what Fiddy would do. He recklessly started dissing everyone in sight, in particular openers the Elements and Mr. I, not to mention bandmate Jonathan Toth from Hoth.
B-Sides was only too happy to referee.
B-Sides: Tucker Booth said that your band, the Elements, will never get signed. "All the industry wants is girl bands," he went on. "Wait, maybe you will get signed." How do you like them manzanas?
Spark1duh?: Aw, man, that dude needs to lay off the acid. He's way too A'd up to be trying to battle us. Tell him to bring his girlfriend; we'll probably have her back in the VIP.
B-Sides: Tucker says that if your band, Mr. I, fucks up at the Pageant, he guarantees you'll never work in this town again, not even at White Castle. You gonna take that?
DJ Innovation: What? Wait, can I call you back? I have to think about this. [Two minutes pass. ] Whatever. The name of his album is Tucker Booth 4 President. Why doesn't he take some of his campaign money and fix his stained, crooked teeth?
B-Sides: Tucker says that you can forget all about time, love and tenderness, that when he said he loved you he lied, and he also wondered how you can be lovers when you can't be friends.
Jonathan Toth from Hoth: Tell Tucker that he's a drama queen, so I had to replace his Ritalin with Dramamine. -- Ben Westhoff