Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Evangenitals' Juli Crockett Interview

Some time back I wrote on the glory of the band that is The Evangenitals, they truly are a band that continually impress, and bring me musical joy. With the release of their last mini album and UK tour it is the start of something good, great? More and more The Evangenitals are playing live and seem to have settled on an almost permanent and stellar line up. Singer, songwriter and head honcho of The Evangenitals, Juli Crockett took time out to answer a few questions and elaborate on the past, present and future.

You have just released a new EP, as someone that is aware of those songs in various forms, it struck me as a record of band that are really very confident in what they are doing. How is the feeling in The Evangenitals at the moment? Confident?

I don't know if "confidence" is a natural state or feeling for an artist, but we are certainly feeling adventurous! We have a VERY loving, fun, and respectful dynamic in the band, and I think that is helping us to discover new willingness to take greater risk. Pretty much it's a love fest at the moment, and we're having a really good time.

The whole journey of this band has been a truly wild ride. Lisa Dee and I started the project over 6 years ago, and over that time there have been a LOT of amazing players that have been in the band at one time or another. Just like finding your audience, I think it has taken us a long time to find our "band"... and it's a continual process. Simply to survive as a band, it's been important for us to be very adaptable and fluid, with an extended family of musicians who can fill in for whatever opportunities arise.

In the past few years, the "core" of the group has really started to congeal with a feeling bordering on permanence. After myself and Lisa Dee, lead guitarist Henry Bermudez has been with us the longest, followed by ferocious fiddler Andrea Baker. Having these two in the band is a continual source of humbling gratitude for me. They are simply amazing musicians, wonderful people, and truly contribute so much to the arrangements, sound, vibe, spirit, everything of the band. Accordionist Ari DeSano (whom I like to call Saint Squeezebox) is a radiating faucet of joy and holds the 5th slot of seniority in the gang. These folks are all on the new album, and I am in love with the instrumentation. Since the recording, our rhythm section has completely changed. Drummer David Hurlin moved back to Fairfield, Iowa and bassist Keith Lubow sallied forth to pursue other aspirations (he's a great photographer).

Henry Bermudez.

Our latest additions: bassist Laurie Es and drummer Kristy McInnis, are pretty much their own comedy team. It wasn't a conscious plan to get a female bassist and drummer, making the band now 6 WOMEN and ONE MAN. We like to say that Henry Bermudez is the only man "man enough" for the Evangenitals.

This EP, Mini album, album, call it what you like, what does it represent?

Part of the mission of this album was to truly capture what the Evangenitals actually sound like. So many people have said that our past albums are great, but the REAL Evangenitals experience is the LIVE experience. I think this is true... there's nothing like seeing us live, and you truly "get" the band, concept, mojo, magic, whatever-it-is about us when you do see us live... however, we really wanted to create an album that captured some of that feeling, the dynamics and range of our material, and was also radio-friendly. And awesome. A really high quality recording.... which is why we did the album with Tracy Chisholm at Del Boca Vista, because he is amazing.

So Sweet by The Evangenitals.

Lisa and I were really hands on with the recording and mixing process for this one, and we really worked on things until we got the feeling that we wanted. The whole band was amazing, supporting each other in the studio, chiming in on suggestions, and solutions would come from all directions. I remember that every single member of the band had their moment of providing the key suggestion for something that wasn't quite feeling right at some point during the process. It was a really great recording experience, and it's wonderful to work in an atmosphere so free of ego, where we are all committed to the overall sound, and the band as a whole. Tracy was great at not letting us settle for "close enough" and really following through until we got just the right feeling. I'm so happy with the final result!

The EP is a sort of glorified Demo for us; we went in intended to lay a bunch of songs down, and maybe 4 would come out good... but they ALL came out great. This EP is kinda like our calling card to the world. It's the first album that we're really trying to get out to radio & press, and so far the response has been incredible.


You recently took you’re The Evangenitals experience to the UK, how did those live shows go? Did the British crowd react similarly to your US fanbase?

The trip to the UK was simply amazing. A transformative, bold, inspirational journey, both for ourselves and for those who supported us in this wild idea. We agreed to go with absolutely no idea how on earth we would pull it off, and the simple fact that we did it was so spiritually edifying... it still blows my mind. The live shows in the UK were off the hook. The audiences were so responsive and enthusiastic, it truly blew our minds. And people actually tip! And dance! Very different from the standard LA audience.

Did any particular songs go down better than others?

Fuck 'em All seemed to be an international success, hitting a chord with every audience we played it for. They LOVED the hillbilly barn-burners like Bad Town, Gasoline, and Sergio. Everyone seems to love the Vagina Song. Even the slow grooves, like Quee Queg, had magical effects on crowds. And the klezmer-punk version of The Hole that we do live never fails to set a room on fire. We are eager to get back over there ASAP and do a proper tour of the whole area. Our shows in London (What's Cooking at the Sheep Walk), Glasgow (13th Note) and all over Edinburgh (Voodoo Room, Forest Cafe, Bongo Club) were all totally positive experiences, and every venue wants us back.

Beyond our music and the crowds, we also got to play with some truly incredible Scottish bands, such as Scunner and Steph MacCleod -- whose drummer, Simon Walker, we borrowed for all of our Scotland gigs! We so fell in love with Steph's music and Scunner, we'd love to tour the whole friggin' globe with those two! And Simon was an utter champ. He fit in so well with the group that I completely forgot he was new and would forget to tell him which song we were playing next. He is a great drummer, and a great guy. We miss him.

(Simon is playing with us in this video, from the Forest Cafe gig:

The drummer we played with in London, Daniel Hurst, was also incredible. We literally met him at sound check, rehearsed a few tunes, and he totally killed it at the show. You can see some video of that gig on Facebook:

Steph Macleod
Simon Walker

Whilst in the UK you also performed your play, Dawn of Quixote: Chapter The First, at the Edinburgh Festival. You have had quite a varied career already, but do you see this element of your writing separate to The Evangenitals or do you see all of your creative elements all playing a role in a bigger picture?

I'm standing by for the great convergence. I think it's on the horizon. In rehearsals we talk about the "Evangenitals Stage Show" which is the big-budget, stadium scale, circus/mega-church vision in my mind that someday I'm going to "direct" and it'll all come together in a blinding singularity of The Event... puppets, light shows, aerial rigging, the works... we really need to collaborate with Cirque de Soliel or something...

There are a lot of projects in the works that will blur the lines a bit more between the "theater" projects and the "band" stuff. We are getting closer to actually recording our Moby Dick album, which could very well end up having a stage show attached to it. I have also just begun talks with an amazing Cuban actress, Marissa Chibas, about creating a major collaborative theater piece that I would direct & the Evangenitals would do a full-on concept album for. We're also very involved with The 1 Second Film project, and will be recording a mini-album for that, and plotting another cross-country tour (the follow-up for our Road to Oprah tour) in 2011.

The 1 Second Film
Road to Oprah Tour

We don't really have a grand plan as a band, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing... we are very open to all sorts of adventures, and just try to follow our hearts and interests. Everyone in the band is in other bands, and has other projects and interests, and that is something that we greatly encourage. I think it makes the group more interesting, and more creatively fulfilled. I've seen so many people get burned out and frustrated with a band (or any creative pursuit) when it is ALL that they are investing in/counting on, and it is not fulfilling ALL of their needs. Each person has to be self-supporting and take care of their own creative juice. Then when we come together, it's like a pot luck... everyone bringing their latest passions and discoveries, and we get to play and share. That's the ideal. Creating from the overflow and joy of BEING, not out of desperation, lack, or need.

Going back to the new album, you have a beautiful track on the album called Home, it really hints at a longing to be “somewhere else but here”, is that what you were trying to convey or is it more about the security of the home?

Home was written as a sort of joke, because I have moved so much in my lifetime that there wasn't really any place that I identified as "Home"... I was born in Alabama and have lived in Florida, Bermuda, South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, Guatemala, and Los Angeles. In the 12 years now that I've lived in Los Angeles, I've moved over 20 times within this giant city.

Home by The Evangenitals.

To give some context to the creation of that tune, here's some backstory:

Many of the oldest Evangenitals songs I wrote with an ex boyfriend (writer Gordon Torncello) many, many years ago with no intention of ever playing them in public. Gordon and I met in New York at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. At the time, he was a filmmaker and I was a theater director and we were taking guitar (him) and upright bass (me) lessons from the same guy -- amazing jazz musician John Brandt. We were both painfully shy people, and just wrote silly songs for our own amusement. We started "Home" while living in a old piercing parlor storefront in Los Feliz underneath a sex toy company that I was working at ( When we moved out to LA, we moved in with his family. He was from here, 6 generations of family here, childhood friends, toys, baby blankets, etc... and I didn't have anything. I felt like a total nomad, which I like. The song was written out of a longing to emulate that kind of feeling, combined with a joy for being such a wanderer. The cool part about the tune, for me, is that the feeling of HOME exists within the song itself. It's not a place, it's a feeling, and I can take that feeling anywhere. Every time I perform the song, I absolutely feel like I have that kind of Home, a place you've never left and never want to leave.

When the Evangenitals did The 1 Second Film's Road to Oprah tour a couple years ago, we playing "Home" in every single town we visited. Very soon, the new 1 Second Film site is going to be launching and director Nirvan Mullick is going to debut the epic Home VIDEO -- which features us playing home for everyone from his grandmother to Albert Maysles, and everywhere from the Grand Canyon to the Lincoln Monument to the High School where my mom teaches in Florida. It's a real heart warming. I'm so excited for it to go live!

Whats next in the world of Juli Crockett?

Good gracious... I'm not sure, but I'm really excited! Over the Christmas holidays I decided to take a break from the Johnny Cash tribute band I'd been "June Carter-ing" for over the past couple years (Cash'd Out). I was super grateful for the experience and opportunity to tour extensively with that band, however, I feel like I need to give my full attention to my own original creative projects at this time. The Evangenitals are ripe and I wanna give the band the time and focus that it needs! There's some amazing energy in the air and the little voice inside keeps whispering "the time is NOW!" so I have to heed the call.

I've got some major theater projects on the horizon as well: adapting the Gertrude Stein novel "Brewsie & Willie" for director Travis Preston & the Poor Dog Group in LA, and writing a piece on Nijinsky for director DJ Mendel and composer DBR at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in New York. With the launch of the new 1 Second Film site, I'm going to be much more involved with that project again (plotting tours and promotional events), and I'm also involved with an amazing non-profit called "Laughter for a Change" which teaches improv comedy to communities that could really use a good laugh. The Evangenitals are working the West Coast in the coming months, with mini-tours from San Fran to San Diego. It's a full life, and a dang good one! :-)

The Evangenitals have a huge online presence and your first port of call should be the official site.

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