Thursday, December 19, 2013

Lizzie Weber: Your Favorite New Artist of 2014

By Kyle Kapper

“Possesses a commanding narrative voice, especially for a debut – Exudes Joni/Beirut/Idina Menzel – Exquisite arrangements, like sweeping through a magical land – Are the darker songs autobiographical?” Thus were the notes I scribbled down while listening to Lizzie Weber the album, leaving me utterly curious to learn the story of Lizzie Weber the person, whom I had never met.

Seated across from me at the back table of a narrow, deserted wine bar in her hometown of St. Louis, Ms. Weber graciously shared her remarkable tale with an inviting energy just shy of being eager.

She warmed her hands around a steaming cup of tea as she recalled how her passions for performing, writing, and acting were all born at Once, in a Chicago Theatre performance which clearly affects her still, five years later. Stirring her tea, she spoke wistfully of how she followed her heart, quit college, and, at the age of twenty, moved to LA to be an independent film actress.

“I was told that I wasn’t unique-looking enough,” she said. “I was told to dye my hair, to cut it, to lose weight. I was told to change everything about myself. After a while, it left me feeling just empty. That was when I really started writing intensely.”

After enduring two years of such objectification, Ms. Weber returned home to St. Louis, went back to school, and began crafting that intense writing into music, much of which appears on her eponymous debut. “Had I not had this musical outlet, I would have a very big chip on my shoulder,” she said. “It just made me realize that I would rather do something that I had more control over. I could control when I wanted to be creative. I could control when I wanted to perform out, play a show.”

Luckily for us, she’ll be doing just that with full-band shows on both sides of the album’s January 10 release. Check her out, and by the time the full interview excerpted above is published in Eleven, Ms. Weber may well be your favorite new artist of 2014, too.

Lizzie Weber celebrates her album release with shows at Off Broadway on December 26, Plush on January 3, and The Gramophone on January 31.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Cat, a Felon and a Shark Walk into a Bar…

The Fortnight Before Christmas w/ Cat Purse, Shark Dad, Ellen The Felon
Saturday, December 14, 9pm
The Heavy Anchor, 5226 Gravois

Tomorrow, a cat, a felon and a shark will walk into a bar. They won't say "Ouch." They won't groan about 1920s gambling laws. They won't be the punchline to any of those dumb jokes about different species ordering beers. The motley crew will simply play some damn good music. 
Talented as they are, Cat Purse, Ellen The Felon and Shark Dad all have something to prove during Saturday's "The Fortnight Before Christmas" at the Heavy Anchor (9 p.m., 5226 Gravois), which means that they'll be setting the bar instead of walking directly into it. Cat Purse, an Americana band led by Matt Champion, will test a fresh lineup and sound. Ellen The Felon's Ellen Cook continues her revved-up comeback from a health scare with a new album. And Shark Dad has that new-car smell, with former Orbz frontman Jason Robinson and company having played just one show so far. Those challenges don't deter any of these acts, though.
"Matt's infectious enthusiasm is pretty clear," Robinson attests. "When he says we'll put together a killer bill, he means it."

Though "Fortnight" will be the first time all three acts perform together, there are connections among the band members that go back years. Champion briefly played keyboards for Robinson's old band the Orbz, and former Orbz members Chris Luckett and Kenny Adelman now are part of Cat Purse, along with Scott Feller. And Cook and Robinson played one show at Cicero's together and were formally introduced to each other at the STL Loud Volume One release party.

"Langen Neubacher [of the Defeated County] introduced us. The first thing we did was try to scare Langen by having Ellen hide in an empty beer locker thing," Robinson says.

"That's right!" Cook remembers. "And we talked about doing a Zappa tribute, and your bandmates kept talking to me about synths and gear that I have no knowledge of. I'm not a very good gearhead."
This camaraderie and mutual admiration is why Champion brought Ellen the Felon and Shark Dad along for the ride in his Christmas sleigh. "I picked Shark Dad and Ellen because I like them as people and respect them as musicians," Champion says. "I do this for fun, and there is nothing more fun than playing shows with your friends."

The variety in the bands' musical styles certainly will be the centerpiece of tomorrow's festive show. Champion describes Cat Purse as "a bitter and angry version of the band America, or maybe Warren Zevon, Neil Young and the Pixies playing old Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings tunes." Shark Dad plays '50s-tinged garage rock under song titles like "Sorry, We Only Date Vampires." And you can hear a variety of influences in Ellen The Felon's distinctive piano wailings. "Ellen is a cabaret punk," Robinson says. "Like Joan Jett having a fight with Carole King."

For Champion, there's no question that all of the eager musicians on the bill will make a perfect Christmas gift for St. Louis. "Shark Dad's rawness and barely controlled chaos will knock a few folks over. Ellen and Matt [Reyland, aka The Mattronome, who plays drums in Ellen the Felon] will provide unexpected class and elegance to the trashcan rock and alt-countryish indie rock of the rest of us," Champion says. "I think the audience will be most surprised about the way Cat Purse sounds. It's a distinct departure from our original sound, and one that I think will keep developing in the future."
That future is bright for all three of these very driven acts. Over the past few months, Robinson has been releasing Shark Dad demos, and he's excited about his first new band since the Orbz called it quits in 2012. "I think for Shark Dad and me personally, it's time to really show off what I've been working on and time to re-introduce myself to the music scene," Robinson says. "This show in particular is a big, big showcase for what's been trapped in my head for a year and some change."

Cook already has garnered plenty of acclaim for Bang Bang Bang Ellen the Felon's debut album that was released this fall and promoted with a roller-skating party that St. Louis still is talking about. "It was a blast! The Skatium is easily one of the most underrated venues in Saint Louis," Cook says. "Everyone skated and drank. Everyone got a CD. It was perfect. I'm still glowing from that night."
And Champion, who briefly held down both the guitar and vocalist positions in Cat Purse before assembling the new lineup, is ready to start pumping out songs that listeners can keep forever. "We have a handful of tunes that are ready for prime time," Champion says. "I don't know how soon we'll get into the studio, but I definitely see some basement recordings surfacing before too long."

As for "The Fortnight Before Christmas" show, Champion isn't promising any lords-a-leaping or turtledoves. But he does suggest that audience members get ready to shout "Merry Christmas and happy new yeeeeear!" during an unexpected holiday cover. "We’re going to tear the roof off the sucker," Champion promises.

by Allison Babka