"After months of negotiations and under-handed intimidation, we were finally ready to call a spade a spade," local singer/songwriter Lindsay Holler says of her current band. "The dirtier the better, is what I always say. I'll see if I can string these boys along for a little while longer so we can make some fabulous music and break some more hearts ... I think we're just getting started with that."
Holler got her start in jazz, studying, singing, composing, and collaborating with campus players for years and earning a degree from the CofC. A year ago, she started playing out with a band comprised of various local CofC jazz students and young local rock musicians. By last fall, they'd taken the moniker "Hollerettes."
These days, they're calling themselves "The Dirty Kids." Cute and catchy, but not entirely accurate. The vocalist and her colleagues are neither dirty nor childish ... musically adventurous, certainly, but not immature or silly. Locals who keep an eye and ear out for things in the scene might have assumed that Holler had fired her rhythm section or hired an entirely new backing band. Actually, all were aboard and things were naturally falling into place.
"When we started performing as a band, we considered coming up with more of a proper band name," Holler says. "Richard Weld of A Decent Animal jokingly came up with the Hollerettes, which we used for a little while [laughs]. I'm terrible at coming up with names for songs. We finished a song where I refer to 'those dirty kids' in the lyrics. Nick Jenkins [the band's main drummer] liked that for a song title and, eventually, we liked it for the band name."
Jenkins is a guy who knows how to get power and delicacy out of a snare drum and a pair of brushes. He stays extremely busy in Charleston, keeping time on the side with a wild variety of bands -- Jack of Knives, Steve Fiore's various bands, Morimoto, Leah Suarez & Toca Toca, and Run Dan Run, among other jazz and rock pickup gigs. He was with Holler from the start and played multiple instruments on her debut EP, Malleable (released last summer).
Vibes player and auxiliary percussionist Michael Hanf is an aggressive player with a delicate touch. Tall-standing guitarist Dave Linaburg (who, with his Noel Redding 'do and hollow-body guitar, is looking more and more like a mod-turned-psyche-rocker from the Beat Club days) also plays with Leah Suarez & Toca Toca and Morimoto, and Run Dan Run. Acoustic/electric bassist Ben Wells plays with the New Groove Quartet, Metropolis (who are on hiatus), Run Dan Run, and a bit with Frank Duvall, Kevin Hackler, and other local jazz acts.
"We did a recording session at the unspeakably wonderful Sioux Sioux Studios in Charlotte," says Holler of her solidified lineup. "Sixteen songs in two-and-a-half days with engineer Chris Walldorf [drummer with Charlotte band Pyramid]. We are probably going to put out an EP of six songs under Lindsay Holler & The Dirty Kids. Hopefully, that will materialize in late spring. I think the difference in sound and style reflects the different players involved. When we recorded Malleable, it was pretty much [engineer] Brad Russell and I doing the writing and arranging, with Brad, Nick, and I recording the songs. With this new EP, we all had a hand in arranging, which seems to reflect the different influences from the people involved, whether that's Neil Young, Tom Waits, Aloha, or Radiohead.Malleable was more reflective of my influences and with the Dirty Kids EP we've added everyone else's into the mix. I'm still championing the twangy side of things, but we've figured out a good way to add what everyone else brings to the table."
At an elegant performance at Theatre 99 last week, members of The Dirty Kids and like-minded local trio A Decent Animal walked on and off stage at various moments with different tasks. Most of the night looked like a local supergroup, replete with two drummers and a percussionist (all of whom kicked in a few call-and-respond moments of excitement).
Bassist/singer Weld and singer/guitarist Jonathan Nicholson were longtime bandmates in Telegram before forming A Decent Animal as a duo in 2005. They expanded the lineup and the dynamics a year later with drummer George Baerreis.
It's clear both groups are on the same page, musically and aesthetically. Sometimes, they blend into a large-scale country-rock collaboration. Under the name "Lasso," they recently booked a show at Cumberland's as a one-off gig (but possibly becoming an occasional thing) featuring Holler on keys and vocals, the full A Decent Animal lineup, and Clint Fore guesting on guitar. Lasso delivered what they called "gritty/rhythmic blues," opening for Black Diamond Heavies in January.
Under strings of white Christmas lights, Holler and the band performed a remarkably beautiful, amusingly collaborative show on the crowded Theatre 99 stage. The place was nearly packed and the audience was at full attention. Highlights included a vibe 'n' vocals-only renditions of Tom Waits' "Take It With Me" and Radiohead's "Videotape," and a rousing closing number called "The Boxmaker Will Find You," with everyone pitching in. The lineup also featured the debut of "Charleston's premiere back-up choir," The Jesse Janes, comprised of Holler, Cary Ann Hearst, Jamie Resch, and Emily Painter.
Holler and the band perform two shows this week -- an "in-store" on Wed. Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. at 52.5 Records with support from The One AM Radio, and a bar gig on Fri. March 2 at Cumberland's with support from American Aquarium. Next weekend, both The Dirty Kids and A Decent Animal pack up the shared gear for a week-long tour through the Carolinas, Virginia, N.Y.C., and Maryland.
Their unusual instrumentation certainly helps set the Dirty Kids apart from the more conventional rock and pop bands in town. Their sophisticated, wide-ranging sound and ambitious approach to original compositions, cleverly reworked renditions, and expressive live performances might just set them ahead of the pack."