Artist of the day: Betty Fox and the Dirty Bastards
Betty Fox and the Dirty Bastards have been causing quite a stir in the local music scene. Anywhere you turn your head, you might see a placard or online advertisement for an upcoming show of theirs.
The buzz began at WMNF’s 2011 Tropical Heatwave, when at the last minute, Fox filled in for Kaleigh Baker, who cancelled due to illness. Since then, it seems as though their name is on the tip of everyone’s tongue.
Fox and her Dirty Bastards (Josh Nelms, Guitar; Matt Walker, bass; and Aaron Fowler, drums) formed a little over a year ago and perform almost every night of the week, frequenting such haunts as Skipper’s, Ruby’s Elixir, The Ale and the Witch, The Hideaway, and The Ringside Café. They herald for the sound of days past and conjure ghosts via vintage gear and nostalgic songs. They are an ambitious blues and soul outfit that strives to put a new twist on an old tale.
In conversation, the names of influential musicians easily rolled of their tongues: Bette Davis, Aretha Franklin, Tom Waits, Howlin’ Wolf, Al Green, T-Bone Walker, Frank Zappa and more. Their latest album, Too Far Gone, will be released Saturday with a party at Skipper’s Smokehouse.
Fox and Nelms sat with us to give some insight to the inner workings of The Dirty Bastards.
What was it that initially made you want to work together?
Nelms: I heard her get up to sing and was like, “Son of a bitch.” That’s pretty much the size of it. I told her that I’d love to play guitar with her.
Fox: I really appreciate our project ’cause we all understand each other and appreciate and respect the same kind of music.
Why the Dirty Bastards?
Fox: I think it really defines the sound that we’re going for: the dirty blues and the old-school grit.
It has nothing to do with the guys’ past or anything?
Fox: It’s just a fun name. I think it describes them pretty well.
Nelms: She calls us all kinds of names (laughs).
Fox: That’s not the worst they’ve been called. I can tell you that much.
You said the name aptly describes what you play. What is it you aim to achieve?
Nelms: Musically, it’s pretty gritty. We all have a pretty strong love for old soul, early ’70s funk, blues, all that stuff. We go for that sound with original tunes. We’re trying to capture that vibe overall. Genre-wise, when we try to do something specific, we try and keep the authenticity intact while still trying to be powerful and energetic about it. ... Trying to keep the horsepower up. We’ve been just been hitting it as hard as we can for the last year, playing everywhere we can.
What does the future hold for Betty Fox and the Dirty Bastards?
Fox: Well, We’re gonna release this CD, and then we’re gonna tour around Florida a couple of times. I have some connections up the east coast, so we’re gonna do that. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and I know a lot of different people. I have connections over in Italy, Denmark, France, and Germany. So we’re gonna do that probably in about a year and a half, maybe next summer.
A possible 2013 European tour?
Fox: Yeah I’m really ambitious and it doesn’t usually end up the way I want it to, but it ends up f---ing happening ’cause I make it happen. I was always a little intimidated because there are people that are so much better than you all the time, and you can’t really focus on that. You just have to focus on the love and the passion that you have. No matter what I do, I’m always gonna sing. It’s what I’m good at. It’s what I love the most, and what I’m gonna focus on and do until the day I die.
-- Aaron Lepley, tbt*. Photo: Ruby Nelms.