Producer/musician Jim Dickinson once wrote in a 2005 letter to the Flyer that "the history of Memphis music is peopled with misfits who failed to conform — artists who would not have had the opportunity to express themselves in other artistic communities."
There is perhaps no current local act that embodies this sentiment better than the emerging indie-rock outfit known as The Warble.
Composed of a group of former Memphis College of Art students — bandleader/singer/guitarist Alex Harrison (classifieds art director for the Flyer), singer/violinist Judith Stevens, singer/keyboardist Steve Pereira, and drummer Ben Bauermeister — the Warble have made significant inroads on the local scene largely on the strength of their frenetic live show, which includes visual and performance art in combination with the band's unique sound.
Sonically, the Warble is as indescribable as pop music gets — elements of genre-bending rock auteurs Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart flow directly into more low-key moments reminiscent of folk artists such as Cat Stevens or Nick Drake.
For Harrison, who is also a well-respected painter and illustrator in town, the combination of artistic modes and influences was an obvious one.
"It all comes from the same area," Harrison says. "A visual artist's drawing, painting, or video will feel like the way he or she plays guitar or violin. The Warble is like a bologna — it has a plethora of sources."
The band has self-released two recordings to date: last year's Live @ Indian Camp, which, as the title suggests, was recorded live over the course of a single weekend, and the recently unveiled and more deliberately produced Spacetime Breakfast. Both recordings are available online and at Midtown retailers Shangri-La Records, Goner Records, and Black Lodge Video.
The band spent four months working in the studio with engineer Andrew McCalla on their latest effort, and the extra time allowed the band to be more experimental with both recording techniques and song arrangements.
"Spacetime Breakfast was recorded with much time and critical analysis using off-the-wall recording machines," Harrison says. "I love recording either way: Quick and on the fly is more like a sketch; over time is like a painting."
The Warble recently added another feather to their cap when they were asked to play the second night of Shangri-La Projects' Memphis Pops concert on Saturday, July 26th.
"I think they have a great sound, and all the visual art, painting, and whatnot makes for a very interesting live show," says Shangri-La founder Sherman Willmott. "It's hard to come up with a unique pop sound at this point in time, but the Warble have done just that. The whole package excites me."
For more information about the Warble, visit MySpace.com/TheWarbles.
— J.D. Reager
Local harmonica great Billy Gibson will host a fund-raiser for the syndicated radio show Beale Street Caravan Thursday, July 17th, at the new Ground Zero Blues Club downtown. Tickets to the event are $75 a person and include food, an open bar, and a harmonica (with free lessons). There also will be a live and silent auction. The event is slated to run from 6 to 9 p.m.
Beale Street Caravan is produced in downtown Memphis and is broadcast internationally to more than 2.4 million listeners each week. The show, which is dedicated to presenting the best in blues and other roots music from Memphis and around the country, is produced by Sid Selvidge and hosted by Pat Mitchell. In recent weeks, former Commercial Appeal writer Bill Ellis has presented a series on the relationship between religion and the blues.
Upcoming shows are slated to feature artists such as north Mississippi bluesman Kenny Brown, multiple Blues Music Award recipient Watermelon Slim, second-generation blues belter Shemekia Copeland, and piano man Mose Allison.
See BealeStreetCaravan.com for more information.
— Chris Herrington