The Joke That Turned into the Truth
It sounded like a good idea to Mary and Courtney and Erin and Stacy: let’s start a band! After all, we all listen to good music; we can all play instruments well enough; and we’re all cute enough in our collegiate way to get away with it! Suddenly one of them gasped—they still fight about which one it was—“But . . . we’re just kind of starting out. What if we can’t play well enough and people think we suck?”
A silence settled over the plucky foursome. Then another one—again, no one is quite sure who—smacked her smooth smooth forehead and said, “I know. Let’s not just be a band. Let’s be a fake heavy metal band. That way, we get to rock out without necessarily having to be all that good, and we can be ironic about it at the same time”.
“Yeaaaah”. And they sealed their resolve by putting all their hands together in their room in Atlanta. “A fake-metal all-girl band. This is gonna be so cool”.
First, though, they had to come up with some fake-metal all-girl band names. You know, to be extra-ironic. Courtney, the singer and guitar player, chose “Kitty Kowabunga”. Mary, the other guitar player, picked “Trixie Riptide”. Erin, who played bass, said, “I’ll be Leggy Limbeaux!” And Stacy, the drummer, called dibs on the name “Betty ‘Skins’ Boomskins”. They knew the names were corny, but that was the point. Armed with these monikers, the girls started practicing.
First came the riffs. Riffs were fun. Then, they started to work out the whole bass and drums thing. Then shy Courtney pulled out her notebook and said, “I’ve been working on some lyrics”. The girls all squealed: “Lyrics! We must be a real band now!” And they were cool lyrics, too: “Cheated” was a great song about how boys suck because they cheat: “Have you ever been cheated? / Have you ever been lied to?” Perfect! Another song was called “This Devil”—the devil was so metal.
They called themselves the Moto-Litas, because it sounded super-ironic. And they lined up some gigs in the area. At first, it was just their friends who showed up, but then it turned out that people thought they were super-fun to watch. They even played with Thee Machine Gun Elephant, a real live Japanese band! And they met ultra-glamorous Lynda Stipe, who was in under-achieving bands like Oh-OK, and whose brother was kind of famous.
But there started to be a problem with the lyrics: they weren’t all that ironic anymore. It seemed Courtney actually had ideas and stuff. One new song, called “Those Questions”, talked about the indecision of being a girl in this crazy world. Another, “Welcome Mat”, seemed to be kind of about a stalker ex-boyfriend. And a third one, “Not Pretty Today”, was all about that uncomfortable time for women when they’re, like, not feeling well, and their partners, y’know, want sex. It was actually kind of deep, the more they thought about it; all of them had been in that position. How could they be a fake-metal all-girl band if she kept coming up with words like that?
Another problem was the fact that Mary kept listening to really good music. She was only supposed to be rocking out to AC/DC and Zeppelin—why was she dragging those surf-rock and Billy Zoom punkabilly things and Mick Jones fills into rehearsal? Furthermore, Erin and Stacy started really jelling as a pretty good (if mostly just enthusiastic) rhythm section. Oh my gosh! The Moto-Litas could end up being a real group!
They played more shows, and worked a lot more on their technique. It seems they actually had a technique. That certainly wasn’t supposed to happen. And they threw some weird twists into some of their songs—“Did I Mention”, which could have been kind of a sad “he’s bad and I’m mad” song, sounded better if they really felt the song and played like they meant it, and rocked it double-time on the chorus with Stacy throwing in extra beats so that it actually sounded…funky! And Courtney’s voice, especially on “Goodside”, one of her best songs, was really getting to be quite good and growly and sexy, like Susannah Hoffs, although Courtney secretly wanted to be like Michael Steele. (Everyone knows that Michael Steele was the cool Bangle.)
Damn! They thought to themselves. We can’t do the ironic fake-metal all-girl band thing anymore. We’re real. This is weird.
They got signed to Daemon Records. They (mostly) ditched the cheesy nicknames. They produced a half-hour debut CD. It’s not the greatest CD anyone’s ever heard, but it’s pretty good. It rocks, but it’s reflective. For the next record, Mary’s come up with some new riffs that sound like Wire, and Erin thinks she can do kind of a New Orleans bass feel on some of the new stuff.
The Moto-Litas aren’t really a joke anymore. They might turn into the truth someday.
// Notes from the Road
"BBC Music hosted a mini-touring showcase of up-and-coming British artists.READ the article