We’re all familiar with the inescapable curse of having a catchy song stuck in our heads. The words, “MTA bringing me down, weekend changes riding my heart around” have been coming to mind repeatedly. This refrain is from just one of the melodic satires written and crooned by Menage a Twang, Brooklyn’s unparalleled “country camp” trio, or as Salon.com called them, “Brooklyn’s hilarious lady-country trio.” They’ve written such chortle-worthy lyrics as: “I’m thirty years old and I’ve nothing to prove. I don’t want to hold your baby and frankly neither do you.” Their Valentine’s Day benefit for Housing Works was a radical and inspired show which included a full costume change, new songs such as “Pant Suit,” and “Every One Deserves a Blender,” and a full opening set of Beyonce and Destiny’s Child covers. After the show, Jessica Delvecchio and Rachel Levvy, two of the Twang, answered a few questions. The illusive and illustrious Emily Moore was regrettably in Mexico and unable to comment.
Traditionally country or folk music emerges from rural places. How does Brooklyn inform your music?
Obviously, we love Brooklyn because we all live here, have jobs here and have found love here. But man, living in New York is just so damn hard. How can you NOT sing about it? Also, I am not sure region is such a determining factor in music anymore. Many big country stars–like Keith Urban, who is from Australia or Shania Twain, who is from Canada–are removed from the rural origins of American country music. We are three Northeastern ladies who are deeply inspired by country music-the poignant storytelling, the harmonies, the gorgeous melodies, but we wear our inauthenticity on our (matching dress) sleeves, and, I hope, that is part of our charm.
How does the music of Destiny’s Child/Beyonce lend itself to your project?
We are more influenced by them lyrically than musically. Destiny’s Child and Beyonce write amazing, incredibly specific songs that speak to women’s experiences, particularly in relationships. What is more specific than, “I’m gonna put your number on the call block, have AOL make my email stop?” By country-fying the songs, we allow people to hear the lyrics anew.
Do you experience tension between the relationship of fiction and non-fiction in song writing?
Absolutely, but no song is ever pure non-fiction. There is always exaggeration, especially in comedy. I think the fact that we are campy kind of eliminates the automatic assumption of autobiography that plagues many female singer-songwriters. And though we do try to pretend we are making these things up, I think our songs resonate with our audiences because of how truthful they are.
Fashion is really another amazing component of your show (much like Beyonce!). Why is it so important?
The matching outfits harken back to the “girl groups” of the 1960s and give our performances more of a “showy” quality. We all love to dress up, and the matching dresses kind of put quotes around our femininity. It all feels very drag-ish to me. We get to wear crazy heels and tons of makeup and, at our last show, a Bump-it! We are on a very tight budget, which is part of the fun. Out most expensive dresses, the sparkly ones we wore in the “Hipster” video, were $29 at Phat Albert’s in Flatbush. Our cheapest, the pink dresses we wore on the album cover, were $10 from Danice’s sale rack. Jess is in charge of all of it, with Emily and Rachel having veto power over an outfit if it is especially hideous.
You made big splash on the Internet with your debut video, “Listen Sister, Don’t Date a Hipster.” Are you working on a new video?
Yes! In fact, it’s almost done. It’s a video for, “Dan Smith Will Teach Me Guitar.” And it has animation!
Menage a Twang plays a free show this Thursday, February 25 at Pete’s Candy Store, 8pm, 709 Lorimer Street.
Sent by Chrysanthe, text by Anna Dunn. Photos courtesy of Menage a Twang.
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