Kool Kat of the Week: Beth Kargel, AKA Kittens Aplenti, Gets Shaken (Not Stirred) at The Highlander with Her Covert Cohorts, Band. James Band. as They Raise a Ruckus in Celebration of the Newest Bond Film, SPECTRE

Posted on: Nov 3rd, 2015 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Band. James Band, Atlanta’s own rockin’ masterminds and a riotous tribute to a “not-so-secret agent” dish out a night of nostalgia ‘n’ espionage this Friday, Nov. 6 at The Highlander, along with The Shut-Ups, purveyors of new wave power pop, and a whole lotta down ‘n’ dirty noise pop with Map of the Moon! Grab your friends andyour foes, and boogie on down to the slickest free shindig in town while knocking back a couple martinis in celebration of the release of the 24th highly-anticipated Bond flick, SPECTRE, (dir. Sam Mendes) out in theatres that same night. Exploits begin at 9 pm sharp!

Band. James Band. [James Band (guitar/vocals); Kittens Aplenti (keyboard/vocals); Grillz (bass) and Huge Drag (drums)], began their rockin’ covert operation in 2012 and obviously is heavily influenced by the musical masterminds behind the Bond franchise (John Barry, Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, et al.) as well as other ‘60s party bands and tunes. However, they’ve also been known to sling a good ‘80s tune and promise a tantalizing taste of their own “Cold-War Paranoia-Pop” this Friday night! Diamonds may be forever, but this shaken’ (not stirred) shindig is a one-time deal! (This message will self-destruct!)

L-R: Grillz, Huge Drag, James Band and Kittens Aplenti; Photo by HOOPIX

L-R: Grillz, Huge Drag, James Band and Kittens Aplenti – Photo by HOOPIX

ATLRetro caught up with Kittens Aplenti for a quick interview about her cronies in Band. James Band.; their favorite not-so-secret spy; and the band’s mission to make sure you die another day so you can spy it up this Friday! And while you uncover our little Q&A with Kool Kat of the Week Miss Aplenti, get an earful of Band. James Band’s take on “Secret Agent Man” during their 2012 East Atlanta Strut performance, here!

ATLRetro: Band. James Band; such an ingenious name for a tribute to a not-so-secret agent! Can you thrill our readers with tales of how you and your own agents got together as a band?

Kittens Aplenti: “Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun. And the first one said to the second one there, ‘I hope you’re having fun.”‘ – Oh, wait, those are the lyrics to “Band On the Run.” Beg your pardon, we don’t usually dwell much on our past. After all, you only live twice. Though it has been rumored that an origin story would be revealed this week, hasn’t it? OK, suffice it to say that Kittens Aplenti once had the opportunity to sing “You’re So Vain” – a song that was probably about James.  Then she wanted to perform the theme to “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and she banded together friends and foes to do so – though nobody does it better than Carly Simon.

James Band - Photo by Jenifer Carter

James Band – Photo by Jenifer Carter

We see that you’ve overtaken the criminal masterminds with an arsenal of ‘60s party music and film theme songs. Which film’s theme is your favorite and why?

We’re quite fond of the theme from ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE. The constantly descending chromatic lines reflect the movie’s downhill skiing sequences, a testament to the genius of John Barry. The minions in the band like it because it’s abbreviated in the set list as OHMSS; when chanted aloud, it creates the focus and clarity needed for carrying out codas and counterintelligence.

Your top influences are listed as the musical geniuses behind the James Bond franchise; John Barry, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, et. al. Can you tell our readers what drew you to the infamous and slickest spy around, as well as his musical cohorts? And why you want to share the love of the genre with your fans?

These melodies and memories are shared experiences across audiences. They guarantee a good time and much more than a quantum of solace. In addition to theme songs and ‘60s spy favorites, readers should be alerted to Cold-War Paranoia-Pop as well. We are likely to deploy a number of ‘80s favorites for those who are as fond of the Reagan era as we are. For your ears only!

Any adventurous tales of when you began to get interested in playing music?

Our leading man began playing piano like a dutiful lad before picking up an axe. The world is not enough for his talent. He axes while other men just balk. “He looks at this world and wants it all. So he strikes, like Thunderball.”

Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography; L-R: Grillz, Kittens Aplenti

L-R: Grillz, Kittens Aplenti – Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography

As purveyors of kitschy tongue-in-cheek underground shenanigans, can you tell our readers who are some of your favorite local bands? And why you love the Atlanta music scene?

A-ha! It would be hard to identify favorites. The camaraderie and formidable talent in the Atlanta scene knock the living daylights out of us.  Millionaire developer Mack Zoloft has approached the minions in the band with a scheme. By tearing down all of the local rehearsal spaces to build condos, we can prevent all the other bands from practicing. We’ll dominate!

If you could put together a dream line-up of bands to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?

We’d love to perform with our local friends Smithsonian and Clashinista. These are both British-inspired send ups as well.

Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ and not stirred shindig, probing The Highlander on Nov. 6?

The Shut-Ups and Map of the Moon have been licensed to thrill, so you all simply must plan to die another day so

Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography; Huge Drag

Huge Drag – Photo by O-Jen Ishii Photography

that you can join us. The Man With the Golden Drum is going to shake things up and bang out an electric, nay explosive, addition to the set inspired by a few beloved bonnie Scotsmen.

What’s next for Band. James Band?

Let’s just say our relationships don’t seem to last. There’s always the possibility that we might reboot with a new cast of characters!

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

We could tell you but then we’d have to kill you…This policy does make it a little difficult to promote our shows.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

Q: Do you expect me to talk?   A: No, we expect you to listen!

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Dark and Dangerous: Revisiting the Dalton Duet as The Plaza Theatre’s 50 Years of Bond Celebration Continues!

Posted on: Jul 14th, 2013 By:

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987); Dir. John Glen; Starring Timothy Dalton, Maryam D’Abo, John Rhys-Davies and Joe Don Baker; Monday, July 15 @ 7:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

LICENSE TO KILL (1989); Dir. John Glen; Starring Timothy Dalton, Carey Lowell, Robert Davi and Joe Don Baker; Tuesday, July 16 @ 7:30 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Tickets here; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

The celebration of James Bond’s 50th anniversary at the Plaza Theatre continues throughout the month of July, and as we hit the middle of the month, we find ourselves at another crossroads in the Bond series. So once again I’d like to draw your attention to a couple of movies you may have overlooked in favor of the higher-profile Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig entries.

Unexpected developments in casting the Bond series always lead to interesting results. Prior to 1969’s ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (OHMSS; see our Retro Review here), Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Harry Saltzman’s Eon Productions had unsuccessfully wooed Roger Moore to take over the role of James Bond. Instead, they cast George Lazenby as a more grounded and serious protagonist compared to the increasingly gadget-reliant Sean Connery Bond.

The eventual Roger Moore entries, likewise, became increasingly criticized as the 1970s progressed and the series entered the 1980s. The Bond films had seemingly embraced the decade’s love of camp, and also appeared over-reliant on current cinematic trends. By the time of 1985’s A VIEW TO A KILL, the nearly 60-year-old Moore had already been upstaged by the unofficial return of Connery in the non-Eon NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (1983)—a film that at least addressed Bond’s increasing age (and Connery was three years Moore’s junior!). Eon then turned its bullet-sights on Pierce Brosnan, who was then starring in the about-to-be-cancelled TV series REMINGTON STEELE. With the Bond interest raising Brosnan’s cache, however, NBC renewed the program and put a kibosh on Eon’s efforts.

In a move as unexpected as Eon’s offer of the role to George Lazenby, the part was extended to relatively little-known film and TV actor Timothy Dalton. Dalton—most recognized for his roles in 1978’s mini-series CENTENNIAL and 1980’s FLASH GORDON—may have been more of a known quantity than Lazenby in his day, but was untested in comparison to the more-established Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan prior to their castings.

In a parallel with Eon’s desires to take the character back to basics after Connery’s departure, Dalton’s Bond was an attempt to return to the early Connery days and to bring back realism to the series. And with 1987’s THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS, the series delivered the darkest Bond to date: a tense tale of espionage between MI6 and the KGB in the waning days of the Cold War and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Timothy Dalton and Maryam D'Abo in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS.

Looking at the film today, Dalton brings a grim seriousness to his Bond, obviously still haunted by the death of his wife Tracy and channeling his violent energy into the work. His self-performed stunt work is also excellent. The direction by veteran Bond helmsman John Glen is tight, yet still preserves the gloss and slickness long associated with the franchise. It’s a solid effort all around, with a screenplay that rises to the demand of re-establishing Bond in the contemporary world nearly as successfully as OHMSS. While some critics went after the film’s lack of humor, I feel that it’s one of the most underrated Bonds: a hard-hitting take on the character with a keen intensity not generally seen in the series. The only downside to the film is its dated score (the last by John Barry, incorporating glaringly ‘80s sequenced rhythm tracks) and a truly unfortunate title song by A-Ha.

Sadly, a confluence of events derailed what looked to be a developing good thing and cast a shadow on the fortunes of 1989’s LICENSE TO KILL. The fall of the Soviet empire ended the Cold War and suddenly made traditional Bondian international espionage seem dated: the very fate that Ian Fleming worried would impact the series in the mid-’60s. In response, the film focused on an international cocaine-smuggling ring, a storyline which made the film seem to be jumping on the bandwagon of nearly every other successful action-adventure franchise of the time. In addition, a writers’ strike led to difficulties in scripting the film as long-time Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum was largely removed from its creation. If that weren’t enough, budget problems resulted in this being the first Bond not to feature locations filmed in the U.K. Instead, the movie was shot largely in Florida and Mexico. The success of LIVING DAYLIGHTS’ darker take on Bond led to this film offering an even darker and more violent look at the character, but instead of extending what worked about Dalton’s performance, it further removed Bond from his previous depictions and rendered him almost unrecognizable.

Critically speaking, LICENSE TO KILL self-consciously takes things too far, resulting in a James Bond movie that doesn’t really feel anything like a James Bond movie. Dalton succeeds much as he did in the previous film, but his good efforts are in service to a compromised vision and merely echo the previous, better film. In an ill-advised attempt to recall an OHMSS plot point (and perhaps to justify the lack of London locations and keep official MI6 spy work out of the picture), Bond unsuccessfully attempts to resign from MI6. (In OHMSS, Bond is instead given leave, and in LICENSE Bond is temporarily suspended and his license to kill revoked.) It may have been an attempt to link this depiction of the character to his source, but it simply shows how much better this plot turn was handled in the 1969 entry. Even as a general action film, LICENSE falls flat in comparison to other contemporary efforts such as 1987’s LETHAL WEAPON or 1988’s DIE HARD. Is it a horrible film? Not hardly. Even the worst films of the Bond series are still entertaining. But it’s definitely a disheartening effort when compared to the entry that immediately preceded it.

Unfortunately, Dalton was never able to star in another Bond film. Legal problems put a hiatus on the series, and it would be six years before another Bond film would be made. During the break and with the future of the franchise in doubt, Dalton decided to hang up his hat and move on to other projects. Because of his limited run, Dalton’s films have been largely overlooked (another echo of Lazenby’s turn), but they deserve a closer inspection. His approach to Bond lays the seeds for Daniel Craig’s eventual more gritty portrayal, and beyond the pleasures that both films offer (though admittedly harder to come by in the second), it’s interesting to view them now in light of the recent Bond films.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Everything He Touches Turns To Excitement! Conductor Michael Krajewski on ASO’s BOND AND BEYOND Concert

Posted on: Mar 14th, 2012 By:

By Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

This Friday and Saturday the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra enters the shadowy world of spies and secret agents with the BOND AND BEYOND concert, celebrating the music of composer John Barry and the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film, DR. NO. Principal Pops Conductor Michael Krajewski will lead the Orchestra in a variety of James Bond movie themes, including “From Russia with Love,” “You Only Live Twice,” and “Goldfinger.” The program will also include other spy and action movie favorites, such as “Sooner or Later” from DICK TRACY, the “Inspector Clouseau Theme” from THE PINK PANTHER, and “Soul Bossa Nova” from the AUSTIN POWERS films. Broadway vocalist and Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte will join the Orchestra for many of the evening’s musical selections.

A cultural icon of the 20th century, superspy James Bond is a plucky survivor that remains a favorite with today’s film audiences – the 23rd Bond film, SKYFALL, is currently in production at Pinewood Studios with Daniel Craig returning to the role, and is due for release in November.

The music from the films is no less iconic. Setting the tone with DR. NO in 1962, composer John Barry would go on to score twelve of the films as well as create the unforgettable James Bond theme. Though credited to Monty Norman, the arrangement by Barry is what has become synonymous with the character and musical shorthand for suave, retro cool. Later films feature music by David Arnold, Marvin Hamlisch, Sir Paul McCartney and even Sir George Martin, the “fifth Beatle.”

Micheal, Debbie and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will be giving all for Queen and country to thrill spies and femme fatales in attendance. ATLRetro recently interrogated Michael about the program and his connections to Bond… James Bond.

ATLRetro: The music of Bond is essentially the music of John Barry; what is Barry’s (who passed away in January 2011) ultimate impact on the landscape of film music, and how did his work influence you personally?

MK: John Barry seemed to have a knack for writing music that captured the grandeur and overall atmosphere of the film. The best examples are his work on DANCES WITH WOLVES, BORN FREE and OUT OF AFRICA. The Bond films are set in exotic locations and feature beautiful women and a suave, handsome hero. Barry’s sweeping descriptive music effectively supports the glamorous settings and characters.

Bond and Beyond features themes from other adventure films as well. Why not an all Bond program, and how did you decide what other pieces to include?

For the sake of an entertaining concert I chose to add some variety by including some well-known music influenced by the Bond movies, such as “Secret Agent Man,” “Soul Bossa Nova (the Austin Powers theme song) and the theme from MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

Also, are there any Marvin Hamlisch pieces from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, or any of Sir George Martin’s work from LIVE AND LET DIE included?

The concert will include Marvin Hamlisch’s “Nobody Does It Better” and Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.”

“Goldfinger” is arguably the most well-known movie theme song of all time, and an enormous hit for Dame Shirley Bassey. What makes Debbie Gravitte the right vocalist to interpret it and the other theme songs included in BOND AND BEYOND?

Debbie Gravitte has a strong and compelling stage presence as well as a bold and commanding vocal style. She has a lot of dramatic experience due to her many years on Broadway, plus she has experience performing in concert with symphony orchestras. This made her the perfect choice for this program.

David Arnold composed the music for the last five Bond films, and was recommended for the job by John Barry. How do you feel his music compares to Barry’s work, and what differences do you find in performing it?

Just as the action and chase sequences seemed to intensify in the later films, so too did the music, courtesy of David Arnold.

Does BOND AND BEYOND feature deeper cuts from the films – for instance, the Little Nelly theme from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE – or possibly medleys that include a sampling of music from the films?

The concert includes a medley of action sequences from CASINO ROYALE and QUANTUM OF SOLACE.

The spy film craze ended around 1968. What makes James Bond such an unforgettable character, and how is he (and the music from the classic films) relevant to today’s audiences?

I think the James Bond movies have always provided the audience with a wonderful escape. The characters are larger than life and the settings and music are beautiful and exotic. The desire to escape to the world of James Bond for a few hours has probably gotten stronger as our lives have become noisier and more complicated.

If you could have any gadget from the films, which one would it be and why?

Michael Krajewski. Photo credit: Michael Tammaro.

I’d like the invisible car that Bond had in DIE ANOTHER DAY. I don’t think I need to explain the advantages of an invisible car!

BOND AND BEYOND takes place at Atlanta Symphony Hall, Memorial Arts Building, Woodruff Arts Center Friday, March 16, 2012, 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 17, 2012, 8 p.m.  All single tickets for the 2011–2012 season are available online at www.atlantasymphony.org, by calling (404) 733-5000 or at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office, at 15th and Peachtree Streets. Black tie and vodka martini (shaken, not stirred) are optional. 

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