Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Garage powered
The Charms avoid the blues — and Charlie Chesterman’s next chapter

So far, the biggest national stars to come out of last year’s garage-rock revival are — well, nobody, unless you count tangentially related bands like the White Stripes or commercial near-misses by the Hives and Sahara Hotnights. But with a few dozen garage-inspired bands waiting in the wings — including all the veterans and upstarts who played Little Steven Van Zant’s festival on Randall’s Island in New York last year — you’d think the mainstream would have room for at least one band who play pure fun, wild and raw rock and roll.

In a perfect world, that band might have been the Charms. They’ve long possessed whatever combination of rock appeal, sex appeal, and sweat it takes to put a band across. And you don’t have to be a trend meister to be charmed by Ellie Vee’s gutsy vocals, by her flashy stage presence and that of Kat Kina, and by the fast and catchy songs that Vee and guitarist Joe Wizda come up with. What’s more, the band have a couple of unusual features: Kina plays a Farfisa organ, an instrument long associated with garage rock but one that’s too unwieldy for most modern bands to bother using. And they’ve been able to evoke the ’60s and ’70s music they love while writing nearly all the material themselves.

It’s been a heady year for the Charms, one that’s seen them rub shoulders with rock stars, appear on two major film soundtracks, and play for 10,000 people at Little Steven’s garage festival, where the guy that grabbed Vee’s arm to compliment her after the set turned out to be Bruce Springsteen. They also had one of their heroes, Lyres leader Jeff Conolly, fall asleep under Kina’s Farfisa for an entire set at the Kirkland — only to wake up afterward and play a set himself. Yet this week finds them pretty much where they’ve been all along: releasing a new indie album (Pussycat on their own Red Car label), preparing to hit the road for all it’s worth, and wondering whether they can all afford to quit their day jobs. There’s also their continual rhythm-section flux: current members Prince Frederick and Billy Way (Way joined since the album) are their third drummer and tenth bassist.

"I keep thinking of that line that says, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans,’ " Vee, who’s recovering from a throat infection, notes at the Abbey Lounge over a tall soda that she wishes could be a beer. "Our goal is to have this amazing story so we can tell it all when we do hit it big. Then we can write our encyclopedia on how to make it in rock and roll."

Two figures have loomed large in the Charms’ life over the past year: Van Zant and Kim Fowley. The former, who programs the Underground Garage station on Sirius satellite radio between his regular stints on The Sopranos and in the E Street Band, heard the Charms when a mutual friend (from Jersey City’s underground station WFMU) sent him their previous CD. "That connection probably made him put the CD on the top of his pile," Vee explains. "He wound up loving the song ‘Believe’ and played it on his syndicated show three weeks in a row. It made his weekly pick as the ‘coolest song in the world.’ For us, it felt like momentum — we ended up selling more records, people got more interested in what we were doing."

The Little Steven connection paid off on several levels. They played as special guests at the final of his national garage-band competition in Asbury Park (where fellow Bostonians Muck & the Mires tied for first place), then played a short set during the Randalls Island bash. And when Little Steven got booked to produce a soundtrack for the movie Christmas with the Kranks, he called the Charms and offered to produce a track. Recorded at Q Division last summer, their "Frosty the Snowman" was arranged as a cross of the familiar Ronettes/Phil Spector version with Ramones guitar — a neat conceptual turn given Joey Ramone’s latter-day friendship with the Ronettes singer Ronnie Spector. "We worked up four different arrangements, and that was the one he liked," Wizda says. "You can get awful sick of ‘Frosty the Snowman’ after playing it 16 times."

The Steven connection also led to their meeting with Kim Fowley, who’s a story unto himself. He’s been a legendary LA maniac since writing the novelty hit "Alley Oop" in the early ’60s. He went on to discover the Runaways and produce the Modern Lovers while embracing a reputation as evil genius and sexual predator. (See George Hickenlooper’s film The Mayor of Sunset Strip, which he runs away with.) It was Kina who met Fowley standing outside the bathroom at the Asbury Park show, Fowley having decided to cover his face with Band-Aids for attention. "He saw me later and said, ‘So what did you think of my face?’ " she recalls. "I said, ‘I thought you were some guy with a disease.’ " The two liked each other straight off.

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: May 20 - 26, 2005
Click here for the Cellars by Starlight archive
Back to the Music table of contents

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group