October 17, 2010
Some say that you can say more by saying less. For a band with a name like this,
I must say that I am rather speechless in trying to sum things up.
Thus, I must not really go into a rant or a long introduction, because Lisa
and Juli from Evangentials have a lot to say about their seductive
hymns. So I will leave most of the words here to them.
PHIL: How was Evangentials formed? In fact, where did the name "Evangenitals"
JULI: It's been a real journey, and I've yet to figure out a simple way
to tell the story. The original core songs that provided the first "material"
for the Evangenitals were written way back in the late 90s with my ex-boyfriend
Gordon Torncello. He was a filmmaker taking guitar lessons, I was a theater
director taking upright bass lessons, and we would hang out in our apartment and
make up silly songs with no intention of ever playing them in public.
Flash forward to 2003... Gordon and I had broken up, my bass had been stolen
in grad school at CalArts, I had stopped playing music, graduated with my MFA in
directing, and was working at an internet based sex toy company - where I met my
best friend Lisa Dee, who was an opera singer.
LISA: We were in the midst of doing a play together that Juli had
written/directed when she came up with the name one day at work. They were
trying to name the new manufacturing wing of the business and everyone was
putting two cents in, proposing things like "Three Monkey's" and "Russell St.
Mnfg" Juli said "Evangenitals" and we started laughing "never mind, you can't
have that one!"
Since we worked at an Internet company with a really good sense of humor,
we bought the URL and made a fake band website (a la Spinal Tap) and started
telling the tale of the Evangenitals with photos Juli posted from our camping
JULI: Somewhere in the mix, my friend John Maus gave me a guitar with
four strings, I found an old notebook with the chords and lyrics of the songs
Gordon and I used to sing, I started plucking out new songs (playing bass notes
on the acoustic guitar) and figured out a couple of chords. I finally got up
the courage to go next door and share some songs with Lisa.
She was studying opera at the time, had taken an Intro to Guitar class and had
an old Yamaha classical nylon string. I frequently go back to that moment in my
heart, because if she had told me my songs were dumb, there probably would never
have been a band... but she was super supportive and enthusiastic. And she's an
amazing singer and natural harmonizer. We sing together like we're related.
LISA: I also happen to really love Juli's songs, I always tell her "I
am not just doing this because you are my best friend you know, that part just
makes it really fun. I am in it for the long haul because these songs feel good."
JULI: The real band "moment" happened one late December night on a long
drive home from Ventura County, where Lisa and I had spent the day playing Dance
Dance Revolution and eating tacos on the beach. We were lost and trying to stay
warm in my topless 1988 Suzuki Samurai jeep by singing Christmas carols at the
top of our lungs until our voices were ragged. Laughing uncontrollably we said,
"Wouldn't it be hysterical if we signed up for Arlo's open mike at Mr. T's Bowl
and did our version of O Holy Night?" And we did.
LISA: I sing with an experimental music collective called Killsonic, we
played a lot of shows at Mr T's back then and I had been hanging out there for
years. It's a really special place and Arlo (the best sound guy in LA) was so
supportive of all the local musicians and people who hung out there. It was a
really magical time to be a regular at Mr. T's Bowl. We had a local family at
that place... and so many amazing bands came out of that place.
JULI: Technically the first Evangenitals show ever was a three song open
mike set of our versions of Oh Holy Night, Little Drummer Boy, and my original
song Quee Queg (about a character from Moby Dick) at the Mr T's Bowl in Highland
Park. Our friend Ariel Pink was there to witness it. That was a highlight. And the rest is history!
Lisa and I formed the core of the band, and we've had a whole lot of amazing
people surrounding us over the years. For the past 2+ years, lead guitarist
Henry Bermudez and fiddle/violin player Andrea Baker have been essential
elements of our sound. Currently we play with drummer Kristy McInnis, upright
bass player Nathan Phelps, and occasionally have folks sit in on the accordion
and keys. Typically the band is 6-7 members - sometimes more if we have horns,
banjos, whatever we can get.
One of the keys to our staying together so long is
that the lineup is somewhat flexible; we've done shows with anywhere from 2-10
band members, and we've got sub bass players, drummers, accordion players, etc.
We call it the "extended family" and frequently say: "Once and Evangenitals,
always an Evangenital". For example, our old drummer George Bernardo (who was
on the second Evangenitals album) still subs for us here and there, when he's
not busy playing with the Johnny Cash tribute band "Cash'd Out" - whom I toured
with for almost two years as their June Carter.
The interview continues
Phillip Hong is a presenter on AMPM, combining some great indie music with
quotes and interviews.