Poetry 'n Lotion: A heady brew of jazz, pop and experimental rhythms
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2012 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Poetry 'n Lotion.)
Poetry ’n Lotion made a musical transition and it was anything but quiet.
The first edition of the band, with Jim Page’s mandolin out front, suggested Bill Monroe sitting in with Django Reinhardt’s Quintet of the Hot of the Hot Club of France.
The addition of trumpeter Kenny Pullin, a sharp increase in electricity and Page’s departure have combined to give P’nL a decidedly different sound, although with the same eclectic spirit of its earlier incarnation.
“We never really played bluegrass,” insists drummer John Nowicki, chatting on the patio of Ybor City’s New World Brewery before a recent set there. “It was kind of more acoustic centered and we used bluegrass instrumentation, but what we were playing never really resembled bluegrass.”
Listeners late to the party can hear that version on Poetry 'n Lotion’s first album, Kentucky Monkey, released in 2010.
“Some of the stuff we were writing was getting a little louder and not so acoustic,” adds guitarist Matt E. Lee. “We started writing a lot tighter songs, actually counting our measures and things like that.”
An idea of the band’s eclecticism could be gleaned from three albums it has performed live in their entirety — Black Sabbath’s Paranoid, Devo’s Q. Are We Not Men? A. We Are Devo! and The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack.
“I don’t think we actually try to do anything in a particular genre or try to mash up particular genres, it just happens,” says Pullin.
“We have a new song that came up as a joke — 'Let’s do a tango’ —and we ended up taking that little kernel and marrying to this ’70s, fuzz-metal part Matt had,” Nowicki says of the track, titled Tango and Gash.
Pullen’s trumpet adds an unmistakable jazz element to a band for which Miles Davis’ electric period is a touchstone.
“Having Kenny on trumpet adds a completely different from voice form what we were using before,” Nowicki says, “and it kind cues it more toward jazz area even though we don’t typically play a lot of jazz.”
“We’re definitely more like the ’70s electric jazz, the out-there, psychedelic, more raw and raucous side of jazz,” bassist Thomas Murray clarifies.
The band comes from varied musical backgrounds as well, from the self-taught Nowicki to the classically trained Murray.
The primarily instrumental quartet formed in 2006 and has been especially busy in the last year, performing an official SXSW showcase gig in March 2011 and appearing at WMNF’s 30th annual Tropical Heatwave last May.
The band recently began recording its second album, which it hopes to release in late summer or early fall.
-- Curtis Ross, tbt*. Photo/video: Carolina Hidalgo, tbt*