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Meet The Southern Belles

The Vegas line on jambands is they can’t sing. They may have enough soul and theory to pull the wool over your ears with some clever harmonies, but please try another genre if you’re looking for the next Sam Cooke. Well call your bookie and put your mortgage equity on black because the Southern Belles are on the scene. Since forming in 2010 the Richmond quartet has quickly gained a reputation for precise, high-energy shows, but what is truly remarkable is how well they can sing. On 2012’s Sharp as a Knife, Adrian Ciucci’s guitar, Tommy Booker’s keyboards, Raphael Katchinoff’s drums, and Andrew Carper’s bass shine more than their collective voices, but four years of hard touring and supportive audiences in their hometown have lifted their vocal dimension to a new level.

Seeing them for the first time a couple weeks ago I was floored by their take on Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” but most impressive were the tight harmonies that comprised a short “Fly Like an Eagle” jam in the midst of some nice guitar from Ciucci. Don’t get me wrong. The night’s version of their own “Jet Trails” demonstrated the band continues to be progressive and daring improvisers, but their vocals added a layer that even some of the great ones lack. In between shows up and down the eastern seaboard, Ciucci took the time to answer some questions about the band’s influences, cheese, and the many ways a woman can get pregnant without intercourse.

Will you guys do a tour as a Steely Dan cover band?

Adrian Ciucci: No, and stop giving us good ideas.

Do you think living in Richmond has pushed your creativity to a level it otherwise would not have reached?

Without a doubt we are incredibly privileged to be a part of an awesome music scene in Richmond. It is hard to convey the appreciation I feel towards the city that raised us. Not only is the musician family very supportive and positive but the environment in which you can build a band out of Richmond is unique in the fact that people LOVE live music in this town, and there is an established and growing pool of folks who regularly support the scene each and every night of the week.

You guys have been on the road a lot—especially on the festival circuit. What is the funniest thing that has happened to the band?

The whole thing is pretty damn funny if you ask me. Each time I think of one instance it seems to be outdone by the next. We have been laughing at ourselves for almost 3 years now. We could have just been normal people but instead we have gotten so hopelessly hooked on playing music that we have made lives out of it. And that is not easy to do.

Muenster or Gouda. Why?

You’re oversimplifying cheese, man. There’s never one answer. You have to consider what you’re pairing with before you can argue a cheese’s dominance. Muenster is a great sandwich cheese or good over an open face melt. It provides a nice change from your cheddar or your swiss. The smoky flavor of gouda can’t be outdone. It’s like the meat of the cheeses. I find it goes great with fruits, crackers, and real meat.

Please explain how a woman can get pregnant without intercourse.

Turkey basters, aliens, 3 point shots, immaculate conception (God has a family plan), half court shots, science, standing too close to Larry King, a hole in one or arguably eagles but generally if you don’t make it on the first shot it’s just a mess and your chances go way down. There’s like a bunch of ways, dude.

Especially on Sharp As A Knife you guys sound like a southern jamband in a way that no one I’ve ever heard does. Like the barefoot child of Buck Owens and Frank Zappa. Who else are you guys conscious of influencing your distinct sound?

That’s really nice of you to say. You should totally print that. Our pallet for music new and old is apparently vast with no end in sight. While there are some important eclectic anchors in our style—The Band, the Grateful Dead, Steely Dan, Little Feat—we always keep an ear to the ground as far as new music and our friends’ music. Individually our personal influences wander to many nooks and crannies of what has been and what is happening now. We spend a lot of time together and a lot of that time is spent listening to music.

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