Kool Kat of the Week: SEX BBQ’s Kate Jan Gets Scandalous Turning Up the Heat With a Debut Album, SEX NOIR CITY, and a Saucy Shindig at the Drunken Unicorn

Posted on: Apr 1st, 2015 By:
sbbq live 003

Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Kate Jan, New York transplant and guitar slingin’ skateboarding badass punk rocker chick and her beloved debaucherous band and partners in crime, SEX BBQ [current lineup: Kate Jan (vocals/guitar); Steve LaBate (guitar); Rob Bellury (bass); Steve Brown (drums); and Steve Albertson (everything else)] will be shakin’ a tail feather this Saturday, April 4, at the Drunken Unicorn, with Young Rapids and MammaBear to boot! So, come on down and have a smut slingin’ hell-raisin’ ruckus with SEX BBQ at the Drunken Unicorn this Saturday at 9pm!

Kate, not your typical psych-punk space cowgirl, has been slingin’ her guitar and writing music since childhood, major influences including Riot Grrrl punk rockers, Bikini Kill, as well as the Breeders, ‘90s skate thrash punk and even Chuck Berry. In 2012, Kate voyaged to the southern underground to continue her Neuropsychology education and decided to add a little rockin’ debauchery to the mix! SEX BBQ formed shortly thereafter and have shared bills with Hospitality, Single Mothers, Beach Day, Little Tybee, Concord America, Belle & Sebastian and Warehouse, just to name a few. They’ve also been featured in several national music outlets [PunkNews.org; Under the Gun Review; Speakers in Code; and Magnet Magazine]. SEX BBQ’s first single “Locus of Control” b/w “Wake Up” was recorded by Ed Rawls and Justin McNeight (The Black Lips; The Coathangers; Those Darlins) in the summer of 2012, with both tracks appearing on their new album, SEX NOIR CITY, debuting this spring. The album’s nine new tracks, recorded by Damon Moon [Rrest; Iron Jayne] in East Atlanta, are chock full of surf riffs and garage punk elements, destined to satisfy the retro rockers in us all!

ATLRetro caught up with Kate for a quick interview about SEX BBQ’s debut album, SEX NOIR CITY; her New York City underground roots; and her take on the band being described as “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness!” And while you’re checking at our little Q&A with Kate, get an earful of SEX BBQ’s vintage, noir rock ‘n’ roll sound, here!

SEX BBQ  murder by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

ATLRetro: What a cool name for a band! Sex BBQ! Can you fill our readers in on the funky story behind the name and how you got together?

Kate Jan: Thanks! Steve L. and I started playing songs together in my apartment in Atl – we just started writing, playing and having fun. We gradually found Steve #2 (drums), Steve #3 (keys and percussion), Laura Palmer (vocals and organ) and Everett (bass) through friends. The extremely talented and creative Laura Palmer introduced the name SEX BBQ to our vernacular from a satirical guide to decoding your teen’s text lingo (SBBQ). After briefly entertaining and then ignoring the possibility that we’d be set aside as a joke band or a frat-rock dad-rock sextet, we embraced it as the best combination of all words ever. And so SEX BBQ was birthed.

As a skateboarding, guitar-slingin’ neuropsychologist and rockin’ New Yorker chick to boot, what brought you to The Dirty Dirty?

I came for a Neuropsychology Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Emory after getting my PhD, and stayed for the medium bowl at the Old 4th Ward Skatepark.

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Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

The band’s sound has been described as having a “garage, surf, psych, prog, metal, dream pop, indie rock, Tom Waits-style junkyard blues, B-52s-esque, Spaghetti Western weirdness,” which of course sounds like a helluva good time! How would you describe your sound and your live show?

That pretty much nails our sound. Thankfully we’ve got tapes and records now! Our live show is a party all around. We don’t mess around with stage banter but we play, dance and mingle while we sling those axes and sing our hearts out.

We see that you picked up a guitar pretty early on. Can you tell our readers a story about how you got started playing music?

I got two stories. My mother was a huge Joni Mitchell fan and played acoustic guitar. She played and sang for me. My Dad played piano and actually now plays church organ, which is kind of weird because we are Jewish. But, you know, when music calls it calls. When I was 6, I picked up a guitar and wrote her a song for Mother’s Day. It went something like “I Love You. You’re My Mom.”

I took a few lessons when I was 12 or so, and learned the basics, you know – songs by The Muffs, Seven Year Bitch and most of THE CROW (1994) soundtrack. After that, lying on my floor devouring mid-90s punk and – after Kurt Cobain died – listening to Nirvana day & night went hand in hand with writing my own songs.

Album cover by Steve AlbertsonYour top retro influences are listed as the B-52s, Bikini Kill, the Pixies, Pink Floyd, and even film composer, Morricone, famous for so much, including his Spaghetti Western film scores. What influenced you the most with regards to such a wide-variety of music makers?

It’s a collective list from our variety of band members. I don’t even know who Morricone is, and I always liked the Breeders WAY better than the Pixies. I cried when they broke up way back when. Like bawled.  My major influences are Bikini Kill, Blake Babies and all of 1990s’ skate and thrash punk and NY Hardcore. Recently, I’ve been heavily influenced by The Delmonas, Chuck Berry (at least I hope) and Grace Slick.

As a musician coming from New York, the metropolis of underground music, how would you rate Atlanta and its rockin’ underground music scene? And who are some of your favorite local bands?

My favorite Athens band is straight-up grit-dirty garage party rock trio Free Associates. They rock my world. In Atlanta I really dig Concord America, Todaythemoon, Tomorrowthesun and Jungol. I spent my teenage years going to CBGB, ABC No Rio and Tramps seeing bands like The Skabs, L.E.S. Stitches, Agnostic Front, Bouncing Souls and my friends’ bands. It was just way easier then – there was still punk and hardcore. I think all those clubs are closed now.  While living in Queens in the 2000s, I honestly couldn’t afford to go out. To be verrrrry honest, I spent lots of time writing electronic music on Reason in my tiny apartment. I was dating a hip-hop producer for awhile – shout out to Beatnik & K-Salaam – and got to go to shows and meet people like Talib Kweli, M1 from Dead Prez, Pharaoh Monch and Wordsworth. I almost bowled with Talib Kweli when Brooklyn Bowl first opened. I also hung out with a metal engineering crew and got to see and chill with Lamb of God and my favorite indulgence, nu metal stylies Killswitch Engage. If I had lived in Brooklyn it would have been different in terms of exploring underground/indie music, but holy rent!!

SEX BBQ sacrifice by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

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

Free Associates, Gun Party, Blake Babies, The Delmonas, Jefferson Airplane, Sick of it All, H2O and The Black Lips. Because they all have unique ways of playing energetic shows and they’re all really great. And the Descendents.

You’re touring in support of your debut album, SEX NOIR CITY. Can you tell our readers a little about it?

We haven’t released tour dates for this spring and summer. We are playing April 4th at the Drunken Unicorn and that’s all I can reveal now. Tehee!

Anything scandalous planned for your shakin’ shindig happening this Saturday at the Drunken Unicorn?

I could tell you, but then I’d have to involve you in our Master Plan and you might get in deep, deep shit. Seriously though, once, during a Drunken Unicorn show we created our own micro-economy by distributing SEX Bar-B-Bucks. It was the genesis of the sharing economy and our gateway to taking over the world. It was Everett and Laura Palmer’s idea. In sum, expect wizardry.

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Photo courtesy of SEX BBQ

What’s next for Kate Jan and Sex BBQ?

We are SO STOKED for our release of SEX NOIR CITY, and we will have tapes and a limited run of white vinyls with hand-painted jackets for sale. I think we are even more excited about the new music that we’ve been writing in the meantime. I have a jam space and recording studio in my basement so I think we’re going to record an LP there soon in a collaboration with Jones Maintenance Revue.

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

Music and medicine are both great, but growing flowers and raising a puppy rock too.

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

Q: What does your wisest and oldest mentor say about SEX BBQ?
A:  My grandfather is 94, fought in the Royal Air Force as a pilot after escaping Poland, is wildly into classical music, and recently discovered the genius of Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones:  “Keep enjoying, Katie, the world of music, which adds a disproportionally large percentage to human happiness on this earth.”

SEX BBQ playing cards by T.O. Lawrence

Photo Credit: T.O. Lawrence

 

All photos courtesy of SEX BBQ and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Sweden’s Sofia Talvik On Drivin’, Dreaming and Playing the Drunken Unicorn Sat. Jan. 21

Posted on: Jan 18th, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Sofia Talvik.

Singer/songwriter Sofia Talvik may hail from Sweden but she’s no stranger to America, with five full-length albums and nine EPs, having blown away audiences at Austin’s SXSW and holding the distinction of being the first Swedish artist to play Lollapalooza. In fact, she’s likely more popular here than in her native Scandinavia. Her current two-year American tour rolls into the Drunken Unicorn this sat. Jan. 21 where she’ll be opening at the release party for Divine Isis‘s new EP SCREAM, with Pocket the Moon also on the night’s bill.

The comparisons Sofia has drawn to Joni Mitchell, Aimee Mann and The Cranberries caught our attention, and listening to her music, an otherworldly edge, surprising twists and powerful, haunting vocals make her much more than just another pretty folk-pop-acoustic performer. In other words, in Scandinavian music terms that Americans can understand, she’s no ABBA retread and not quite the enigmatic eccentric of Bjork, but carving her own unique and welcome niche in the music world. Sofia’s roots also are pure indie and the 21st century of vagabond on the Internet, being a self-taught musician who started building a following by giving away her songs online. And well, we have a sweet spot for anyone driving cross-country from gig to gig in an old RV.

All of which adds up to being a Kool Kat, so we decided to ask Sofia to tell us a little bit more about her roots, her music, her tour and her plans for this Saturday’s gig.

ATLRetro: How did you get started in music and decide you wanted to be a professional singer/songwriter?

Sofia Talvik: I had played the piano since I was about eight years old, mostly playing classical music. So turned I was 18, I wished for a guitar for my birthday but  had no idea how to play so I started writing songs to learn. I never had any dreams or ideas that I would become a pop star or anything like that. I just did my songs that I played for my friends now and then. After a while I recorded a demo and sent it to a radio show for unsigned music who picked up my song, “Ghosts.” All of the sudden people started to email wanting to hear more, so I put up a Website where I just uploaded my songs and started playing live. Then it just kind of went from there.

Photo courtesy of Sofia Talvik.

You’ve been compared to Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Belle and Sebastion, The Cranberries and Aimee Mann, but who do you consider your influences—especially more classic Retro performers (i.e. ‘60s, ‘70s or before)?

It’s hard to pin down influences I think. All the things you listen to and experience become your influence. I did listen to a lot of ’60s music when I was a teenager and I love Janis Joplin, but I don’t think anyone will hear her as an influence in my music. I actually started listening to Nick Drake – who by the way is one of the big 60’s artists – after being compared to him and I love his music, but he was way better at playing the guitar than I’ll ever be (laughs).

You’ve said you’ve had a stronger response to your music in America than in Sweden. What’s the music scene like in Sweden and how do you fit into it? And how does it compare with what you’ve experienced here?

I think mainly because Sweden is so much smaller than the US, there’s not enough people to keep the diversity going. If say five percent of the Swedish population listens to my music, compared to if five percent of the American population does, that’s a huge difference. That’s the difference that will make you being able to live off your music or not. I also think Sweden is more of a trend-sensitive country, so when something is in trend all the radio stations will play it, and if it goes out of trend, no one will care all of a sudden. Here in the US, everything goes on at once. You have radio stations that just play folk or just play pop here. There’s always an audience here for your music, you just have to find it, and that’s what I’m doing with this tour.

How does a Swedish artist come to write a song about “Florida”?

Well, in 2009, my husband was on an exchange program on his job and we stayed in Orlando,FL for three months. As Sweden is kind of a cold and rainy country, I was looking forward to coming to “The Sunshine State.” But the first two weeks when we arrived it rained constantly. My husband was working so I was basically just sitting in the apartment writing songs. “Florida” is like a diary note from those two weeks, and the forecast in the beginning of the song on the album is actually a real one from that time.

Is there any story about how you became the first Swedish female artist to score a spot at Lollapalooza?

I was part of an online music competition called Famecast and got to the finals in my genre. So they actually flew me over to Austin, TX where I got to perform for a jury and an audience. I didn’t win, but the booker for Lolla saw me there and I got the gig. Playing the Lollapalooza was one of the coolest things I’ve done. That festival is huuuuge!

You’ve got a VW bus on one of your posters and you’re traveling around the US in an Old RV. That sounds mighty Retro to us – how’d you score those wheels, where did you start, how long have you been on the road and what’s your favorite on-the-road Americana experience so far?

My tour is called Drivin’ & Dreaming, because it’s all about touring and living the dream. We actually don’t tour in a VW bus even though that would have been really cool, however, it would probably also have been a lot colder than a newer RV. My husband and I started out the tour in Florida in December where [we] bought this old Gulfstream Conquest from ’94 which we fixed up. It looked pretty good until we started tearing off the wallpaper and discovered it had water leaks all over. But we just tore everything out and now it’s really nice inside – our little home on the road.

So far the tour has been amazing. We’ve met so many wonderful people who invited us into their homes, for dinner and brunch, helping out with stuff etc. We’ve also got to see a lot. We were around Florida in December which was nice and warm and then we headed up to GA, SC and NC. Savannah, GA was wonderful and we stayed there for a few days. In Charleston, I woke up in the middle of the night because someone tried to steal the bikes we had mounted on the back of the RV. That was scary. But mostly it’s been positive experiences. One of the best things is that I get to do this with my husband. He actually quit his dayjob back in Sweden to come with me on tour.

You’ve also been described as emerging like a Lady of the Forest, the slideshow accompanying your current shows brings the mystical world of Scandinavia to life, and your Website asks “do you believe in fairy tales?”  Now that sounds like your music also has roots in the rich folktales and traditional music of Sweden or do you mean something else and more universal?

I think I’d label my music as a mix between the melancholy of Scandinavia and the mysteriousness of the American South. You won’t find me singing about trolls and elves or anything, but I guess my music does have a bit of that overworldly feel to it. I think you can definitely tell that I’m not American in my way of writing lyrics and melodies, even though I am singing in English.

What would you like to share about this Saturday’s show at the Drunken Unicorn? We’ve heard that you’re performing with an acoustic guitar and some 3D video visuals.

I’m really looking forward to playing there, and I hope there will be a big crowd that will be there for the music. I’m solo on stage, and my music isn’t crafted to overpower drunk people talking and watching TV (laughs). I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to play a lot of listening rooms and coffee shops on the tour, and I always try to make my show the best one so far. A girl with an acoustic guitar – you may think you’ve heard it before, but I promise there’s more in this show than that.

What’s next for Sofia Talvik?

My new album, THE OWLS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM, will be released January 31 and is up for pre-orders on my Website now. My tour will go on for two years so that will also keep me busy. In February, I’m doing an official showcase at the Folk Alliance International Conference in Memphis, so I’m really looking forward to that too. In the nearest future, thoug,h I think we’ll have to find a campground so we can charge our house battery in the RV a little.

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Brushing Up HAIR for a New Generation: Allison Guinn Is No Happy Hippie and That’s OK

Posted on: May 18th, 2011 By:

HAIR: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical; Fox Theatre; May 17-22; Ticketmaster; presented by Broadway Across America.

When actress Allison Guinn showed up for a 700-person cattle call audition for Tony Award-winning revival of HAIR, she had 16 bars to show she had what it takes to join what most people think of as a celebration of peace, love and understanding. She picked Janis Joplin’s “Turtle Blues” and screamed “I’m a mean, mean woman, and I don’t mean one man no good.” She was certain that she wouldn’t get cast.

Then three weeks later, Allison found out that seemingly risky choice was exactly the right one to make, scoring her the part of a disgruntled hippie in the Tribe ensemble. “Director Diane Paulus took my hand and led me down a hall of pictures, then she pointed at one of Grace Slick looking really heavy and giving me the finger,” Allison recalls. “She said, ‘That’s you.’” Later Allison would also get two more roles as the conservative Mother of draft-resistor protagonist Claude and a Buddhist monk called Buddhadalirama.

HAIR has a reputation for being the hippie-dippie musical. After all, what’s more New Agey sounding than “Let the Sunshine In” and “Age of Aquarius.” But Guinn, who’s more into the less cheerful early ‘60s beat generation than the late ‘60s Summer of Love counter-culture says, not so fast. “It’s easy to paint with broad strokes and say this show has such wonderful bright colors and we say ‘love’ every fifth word,” she adds. “But it’s not just all laidback and groovy. It’s about this quest for a new life because the old way of life obviously isn’t working. Society is at a boiling point. All these people have been killed [in Vietnam], all these riots happened, it’s a period of great change, and these people are at the pinnacle of it.

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