Friday, March 15, 2013

Honey and the 45s -- "Lolita's Lament" (2012)

I didn’t ask for your love
Not that I mind
But where’d you come from?

The last 2 or 3 lines featured "Got the Need," a bouncy and somewhat retro-feeling song by a five-piece Chicago group called Honey and the 45s.  Click here to read that post.

Today, we're featuring "Lolita's Lament," a song with a very different feel.  

"Got the Need" is a song you'll probably find yourself singing along with.  It's almost guaranteed to get you seat dancing.  ("Seat dancing" -- also known as "dork dancing" -- is what you do when you're listening to funky music in your car, on an airplane, or at a live musical performance when the venue isn't conducive to getting on your feet to dance.)

Honey and the 45s
But "Lolita's Lament" is a song for when you're alone late at night -- it demands (and rewards) more careful listening.

The instrumentation of "Lolita's Lament" isn't entirely acoustic -- the guitars are plugged in -- but the guitars and the somewhat muffled drums (no snare, no cymbals) generally remain in the background.  The musical arrangement puts the spotlight squarely on Kim Kozel's sinuous violin.  Kristina Cottone's singing is front and center, of course, but Kim's violin functions almost like a second voice.

In the very last section of the song, Kim does sing in counterpoint with Kristina -- for me, this is when "Lolita's Lament" really takes off and becomes something special.

Kim Kozel

Before I share "Lolita's Lament" with you, I want to share part two of my interview with Kristina Cottone:

2 or 3 lines: Tell us about your new album, The Need.  I would describe it as a very eclectic album -- how would you characterize the music on it?  

Kristina Cottone:  The album reflects the diverse musical tastes of the members of Honey and the 45s.  You’ll hear jazz, rock, blues, soul, funk, folk, and even country undertones.  The album is also diverse because a few of the songs were written by me years before the band’s fruition.  They are personal songs, playful songs --  and Honey & the 45s brought them to a whole new level.  

A very young Kristina Cottone
2 or 3 lines: Kristina, where did you grow up?  Were your parents or siblings musicians -- or big fans of music?

Kristina: I grew up in Edwardsville, IL, which is about 30 miles outside of St. Louis.  There was always music in my life and in my home. My grandfather was a singer.  He sang with big bands, with quartets, with mariachis in Mexico, and basically, anywhere anyone would listen.  My mom was a private songwriter; she never really went public with any of it, but she’s very talented.  When she wasn’t writing songs of her own, she always had music playing:  Janis Joplin, the Beatles, Carole King. I fell deeply in love with Nat King Cole at a young age, and I still feel his voice is the greatest voice of all time. 

2 or 3 lines: Speaking of your mother . . . as you know, I went to high school with her.  I'm pretty sure she had a big crush on me back then -- I don't know that for sure, but so many girls I knew in high school did, so the odds are that she did, too.  I'm sure she's told you a lot about me over the years -- how much she always admired me, etc.  Am I right about that?

Kristina:  You are right on all fronts.  She has thrown the word "brilliant" around quite often. 

2 or 3 lines:  Does your mom still have the hat she's wearing in the high school newspaper picture below?  How embarrassed would you have been as a teenager if she had ever worn that hat in front of your friends?  

Kristina Cottone's mother in high school
Kristina:  She does not still have that hat, but I have similar hats of my own.  So I wouldn’t have been embarrassed.  Maybe when I was young, I would have been embarrassed by the crazy things my family did, but it gets to a point where you just say, "Yup, we’re goofy . . . and we’re fabulous!" 

2 or 3 lines: Did you have any formal musical training as a child?  Did you participate in school musical groups? 

Kristina:  I had a year of violin when I was young, but I was terrible.  I was in our middle school and high school choirs, and had fantastic teachers both places.  I never took voice lessons, but you can get away with a lot when you’re singing in a crowd.  I was actually quite shy about my singing voice until near the end of college, and I still am in a way.  Until recently I was terrified of trying to harmonize.  I was afraid I’d be off key, and I don’t know . . . the world would end if I was, right?  I had a lot of voice training for acting in college with the brilliant Phil Timberlake.  Voice training for actors is very different than voice training for singers, but I would recommend it to every singer.  

2 or 3 lines: I know a little about the way singers are trained, but I don't know anything about vocal training for actors.

Kristina:  The vocal methods I was trained in were the Fitzmaurice, Linklater and Alexander methods.  Each technique is different, but it’s all about breathing correctly, finding your own voice, and vocalizing in an efficient way that doesn't harm your voice.  Screams, cries, shouts, speaking, and singing all need to be supported.  People can do a lot of damage to their vocal chords if they don’t know what they’re doing. 

2 or 3 lines: When and where was your first public performance?  

Kristina:  My aunt was an actress. When I was five years old my family traveled to Minneapolis to see her in a production of "Nunsense" that had been running for years. The theater had a tradition of pulling a child out of the audience to say the Pledge of Allegiance before the show began. Of course, my aunt chose me. I remember the excitement of walking up to the stage, my nerves, feeling like I would forget something, and then arriving on stage with hundreds of eyes looking in my direction.  I said the Pledge with all of the fervor I could muster, and when I was finished there was thunderous applause.  I thought to myself, "Hey . . . I could get used to this!"

2 or 3 lines: What kind of music did you enjoy when you were a teenager?  Who were you a particular fan of when you were in high school?  

Kristina:  In high school, I got into Alanis Morissette, Jack Johnson, Fiona Apple, Dave Matthews Band, Ben Folds Five, Tracy Chapman, Shakira, The Black Eyed Peas, Common Sense, Mos Def, Talib Kweli.  Also Frank Sinatra -- I used to joke about how I wished Frank Sinatra could have been my prom date.  Later I went through a hip hop phase for quite a while and even attempted break dancing.  In college I fell in love with Regina Spektor, the Avett Brothers, Ray Lamontagne and Laura Marling. 

Kristina Cottone
2 or 3 lines:  When I was in college, we tended to listen to entire albums -- with LPs, it wasn't so easy to jump around from song to song.  With CDs and online music, you can  create playlists of individual songs instead of listening to albums from beginning to end.  How do you listen to music?

Kristina:  When I find an artist I like, I literally play their album over and over and over again.  I listen and re-listen for all the little details.  If a song makes me feel something powerful, I stick with it for a while before moving on to the next song.  I don’t know why but I almost feel like I’m “cheating” an album unless I’ve played it over and over again and given it my full attention before moving on to listening to another artist.  It was hard for me to get used to CD mixes for this reason.  I’ve gotten much better about this, and I’m not such an annoying road trip passenger as I used to be. 

2 or 3 lines: What artists would you say have influenced your writing and performing style?

Kristina:  Regina Spektor has certainly helped encourage the playful element of my music.  Laura Marling has absolutely influenced my lyrics -- every word out of her mouth is completely brilliant.  Eli "Paperboy" Reed has influenced the "Motown-ness" in me that you see in Honey & the 45s.  He puts on a fantastic show!  And I have to mention my significant other, Nathaniel Matthew, who has really pulled out the soul and blues in my voice and style of writing.  

The cover of Regina Spektor's latest album
2 or 3 lines: Are there any other Chicago groups you've heard or performed with who you think are especially talented?

Kristina:  Lonie Walker and Patricia Barber are two of my local favorites.  I may be biased but I think my guy, Nathaniel Matthew, is one of the most talented vocalists and musicians around -- his album, Songs Written On Recycled Cotton Pulp, is rich and soulful.  He just started a project called Crook County, and Honey has played a few shows with them.  There’s something special there.  Some of the other notable bands or musicians we’ve played with are the Outfit, Valentine Xavier, Audio Bakery, Elle Casazza, Diana and the Dishes, Lying Delilah, Egon’s Unicat, and Ahymnsa. 

2 or 3 lines: Where do you see yourself in ten years, Kristina?  

Kristina:  I can see myself owning or running an arts foundation or program in ten years: something that encourages and incorporates visual, musical, dance, and theatrical arts. I would like to have traveled and toured, put out amazing records, collaborated with hundreds of artists, directed a few plays as well as acted in dozens; I would like to have changed people’s minds.  And I would like to own some land!

2 or 3 lines: Land is good -- everyone should have a little piece of land of their own!  [Laughter.]  And what about the future of Honey and the 45s?

Kristina:  As far as Honey & the 45s go, the sky’s the limit.   I really think we have something special and I’d like to see us go far.  

2 or 3 lines:  You've talked about your fellow band members a little already, but I want you to tell me a little more about their musical strengths and what each one  contributes to the group.

Honey and the 45s during the
"Lolita's Lament" video shoot
Kristina:  Jon Gould is one of the most talented, tasteful, coolheaded, cooperative lead guitarists I have ever met.  He doesn’t try to overplay anything.  He really listens to the song and works with what is best for it.  If you need powerful, sensual, tasteful guitar licks, he can give ‘em to you.  He can also play pretty much any instrument you put in front of him. Chris Kusek is a fantastic, all-around musician. Like Jon, he is great at listening and knows how to create special moments within a song.  He is very versatile and he doesn’t mind playing goofy percussion instruments if that’s what the song calls for.  Kim Kozel can find harmonies you would never knew existed.  Not only does she sing and play the violin, she plays the saxophone.  How rare and awesome can you be?  She is dynamic, graceful, positive, and supportive and she really grounds the band.  Our newest member, Sean Tatum, has upped our “coolness” factor by at least 150%.  He’s got swagger and he’s interesting and his bass lines pour out the soul we need in our band.  I can’t wait to hear more from Tatum as we continue to work on our next album.  These buddies of mine, they’ve got it going on. We deserve to get somewhere, and I think we will.  

Click here if you'd like to visit the Honey and the 45s website.  For those of you who are in the Chicago area, check out the "Calendar" section of the website -- they perform regularly in Chicago and other cities in the midwest.  Kristina is especially excited about the group's upcoming March 21 visit to her home town -- Edwardsville, Illinois -- where they will perform at the Southern Illinois University campus and at the historic Wildey Theatre.

Here's the brand-new music video for "Lolita's Lament," which was shot on the roof of Kim Kozel's apartment on a cold Chicago day.  The video features Kamani Raqs, a Chicago dancer and dance instructor who specializes in traditional and modern belly dancing.

Click here to buy "Lolita's Lament" from Amazon:

1 comment:

  1. Belly dancing? I hope Nocturra (a.k.a Michelle Mills) sees that!