The NY-based trio of Rachelle Garniez, Amanda Homi, and Terry Radigan are three gifted singers, songwriters, storytellers, and multi-instrumentalists with their own distinct styles. Together, as VickiKristinaBarcelona, they create something unique and magical through imaginative interpretations of Tom Waits songs. The trio shares this joyful music on their first album, Pawn Shop Radio, which arrives on May 29, 2020, via StorySound Records.
Premiering today ahead of the May 29 release are two singles from Pawn Shop Radio, “Way Down in the Hole” and “Tango Till They’re Sore.”
“Way Down in the Hole” is a Voodoo groove with a touch of psychedelia and ’60s Girl Group minimalism. Rocking and rolling on a bed of swampy guitar and chunky percussion, it’s a double-dare to the Devil himself.
Terry Radigan explains, “Way Down in the Hole” is centered around the guitar, the hypnotic repetitive line holds down the gritty swampy groove; the sound is raw and spooky.” She describes, “The guitar is officially a Gibson ES 140 3/4. It’s all original and the P-90 is the mother of all pickups. My reverb & tremolo combo is compliments of the fab Strymon Flint Pedal and the amp is the awesome ZT Lunchbox.”
“Tango Till They’re Sore” is a die-hard gambler’s traveling funeral dance party. The raucous and passionate accordion-driven tarantella guarantees an adventurous send-off, ultimate destination unknown.
“I borrowed Terry’s vintage monster banjitar, doubling the accordion solo line on “Tango Till They’re Sore,” with the intention of recreating an Italian-style kinda cheesy mandolin tremolo. The rhythm guitar chunk has a ska feel to it, working in tandem with the accordion, subverting the tarantella,” said VickiKristinaBarcelona’s Rachelle Garneiz. “The banjitar is actually an old Gibson that Dave Rawlings gave to me – in two pieces. The neck & body in an old soda box,” added Terry Radigan.
When asked why they chose Tom Waits, Rachelle Garniez says, “Tom Waits balances his sonic signature bark and bite with raw tenderness and sly humor. Each song is a world unto itself, conjuring a mix of memory and fiction. The settings are so perfectly crafted, that if you close your eyes you can even smell the dusty roads, beer-soaked barrooms, cheap perfumes, and dewy meadows. You feel for the protagonist, no matter how rough and sinful his actions and intentions may be.”
Their debut single, “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” was released in April along with a companion video. VickiKristinaBarcelona tap into a Zydeco groove for their version of this tune, which highlights an enchanting mix-and-match sound and scintillating group vocals. Their vibrant camaraderie also is readily apparent in the carnival-themed video, which takes a light-hearted approach to this darkly playful song.
Like a wild spin around the dial, Pawn Shop Radio covers a colorful spectrum of musical styles. The album opener, “Cold Cold Ground,” is sparked by ’60s girl group-inspired vocals. Next comes the Latin rhythms of “Jersey Girl,” which is followed by the gypsy stomp of “Tango ’Til They’re Sore.” The stylistic explorations also include blending blues and bluegrass on the ominously toned “Gun Street Girl” and infusing a little Brechtian theatrics into “I’ll Be Gone.” The trio acknowledges that this eclecticism was intentional. “We wanted the album to represent our broad range of influences, from bachata to Cajun, klezmer, and swamp pop.”
While quite diverse, Pawn Shop Radio remains marvelously cohesive, coalescing around the artists’ gorgeous and inventive three-part harmonies and a treasure trove of instruments — from accordions to zills. Picture the Triplets of Belleville disguised as Depression Era hobos riding the rails across America stopping to play dance parties and funerals along the road to nowhere. VickiKristinaBarcelona creates music that is at once powerful, playful and poignant, with each member bringing her own distinctive sensibilities to the group’s sound: Garniez’s genre-fluid cabaret, Homi’s global rhythms and forms, and Radigan’s traditional Americana Roots.
Over the course of the album’s ten tracks, each band member sings lead on two songs that she especially related to. “Tango Til They’re Sore” and “I’ll Be Gone” places Homi in her element of cinematic scenarios in minor keys. The bluesy, rootsy qualities of “Chicago” and “Way Down in the Hole” provide a perfect fit for Radigan, while Garniez, who is drawn to opposite extremes of trash and tenderness, shines on “God’s Away on Business” and “Innocent When You Dream.”
Pawn Shop Radio’s other numbers — the back-porch “Gun Street Girl,” party tracks “Jersey Girl” and “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up,” and the girl group-vibed “Cold Cold Ground” — are group songs showcasing VickiKristinaBarcelona’s intoxicating vocal dynamics. “There’s just about nothing more satisfying than singing in harmony,” they admit. The arrangements tend to arrive simultaneously in the zeitgeist with each one singing a verse and then coming together on the choruses in a sing-along approach.
VickiKristinaBarcelona began several years ago as something done just for fun in a Brooklyn bar before solidifying as a bona fide self-contained band in 2017. The three seasoned musicians found common ground at the Waits crossroad of poetry and groove, although their interpretations are assertive and unapologetic. “We aim to re-imagine the songs with love, and bring a feminine perspective to the rough and rugged wreckage — which in itself alters what is typically considered feminine. The mythic picaresque male archetypes are transformed, their beauty and vulnerability revealed. Melodies are unearthed and shine like polished diamonds, no longer in the rough.”
The band’s name too reflects the trio’s belief in the positive forces of reinvention. VickiKristinaBarcelona serves as a gently tweaked repurposing, with slightly altered spelling, of the 2008 Woody Allen film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which focuses on the lives of three women. With this sly, mischievous wink, the group flips the script, reclaiming the names and — most importantly — the power.
In their live shows, the three are known for their wisecracking banter, and they aren’t afraid to use goofy instruments like the kazoo and blowing into pop bottles. At the same time, however, they don’t shy away from tenderness. They also have fun choosing different looks aimed at maintaining their identities within the band identity (hats, in particular, play a large part). In just a few years, VickiKristinaBarcelona has earned a reputation as one of NYC’s most beloved bands, appearing regularly at places like the City Winery, Club Bona Fide, and Pangea, as well as performing around the northeast and in Europe.
All three musicians stay busy beyond VickiKristinaBarcelona. Rachelle Garniez, an active member in New York City’s music, dance, and cabaret scenes, earlier this year released her seventh solo album, Gone To Glory, a covers project saluting great musicians, from Bowie and Prince to Cohen and Campbell, who recently have passed away. Brooklyn-born guitar-slinger Terry Radigan is back in her hometown following a successful stay in Nashville, where she made several solo albums and had artists like Patty Loveless cover her tunes. Radigan also founded Shelter Songs, a non-profit organization offering a therapeutic songwriting outlet for women living in shelters. Hailing from England, Amanda Homi traveled the globe exploring music and cultures before settling in NYC. The award-winning musician/dancer also co-produced a documentary on the Afro-Colombian legend Toto La Momposina. Collectively, Garniez, Radigan, and Homi have worked with artists such as Jack White, Jackson Browne, Jane Siberry, Patty Loveless, Ray La Montagne, Thomas Dolby, and Taylor Mac.
Garniez, Homi, and Radigan hope to take VickiKristinaBarcelona on a fall tour of Europe along with playing shows in, and around, New York City. Also, they are already plotting their next video, a ’60s-inspired theme for “Cold Cold Ground.”