Monday, July 22, 2013

Austin trio The Please Please Me bringing its original sound to Chicago


With a sound centered around a guitar, drums, a cello and a glockenspie, Austin trio The Please Please Me is  not your typical indie band.

The band,, comprised of frontwoman Jessie Torrisi, drummer Agustin Frederic and cellist/backing vocalist Alissa McClure, will bring its refreshingly original sound on July 30 to Reggies Music Joint, 2105 S. State St., Chicago.

The show starts 8 p.m. and tickets are $5, available at The Please Please Me will then come back to town and will play Aug. 15 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago.

Chicago band Cobalt and the Hired Guns and Matthew Morgan and the Lost Brigade also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at

The Please Please Me is touring in support of its new EP, "Shake A Little Harder,"  produced by CJ Eiriksson, known for his work with U2, Fastball and Blue October. The album will be available online on Aug. 6. 

I had the chance to talk to Torrisi about the album.

Q - Great to talk to you. How is the tour going? How has the band been dealing with the heat across the country?

Writing to you from the back of the van 2 days in. I'd say night #1 was totally awesome in Denton, Texas. Indie club with three great  bands on the bill and 15 kids ended up dancing onstage with us. 
Night #2 in Bartlesville, Okla., was a little rougher. 

The band is constantly evolving, and I think we've gotten to that point where we're making so much ambient, electro, low-end noise (between the cello effects & drum triggers), that the set-up-our-shitty PA in 15 minutes and play in the corner of the room thing just doesn't work. That wall of sound comes with its own demands.

In terms of the weather, it's been '80s and rain, which is perfect. After Texas, anything lower than 90 degrees feels like heaven.

Q - Of  course, the band's EP, "Shake A Little Harder," will be released online on Aug. 6. What were your goals for the album and do you think you achieved them?

Yes and no. Yes in that we legitimately exist now. People can find us on iTunes, we have CDs that say the Please, Please Me to sell at shows. We've launched into this world.

No in that the EP was a huge learning experience. In a way, it was after we finished recording that we were really able to reflect on who we feel we are as a band and how to create a sound that hits at the sweet spots of all our strengths. 

While I'm proud of this EP (especially certain tracks like "Dreamin' " and "All Danced Out"), I feel like we have a lot more to give. And now have enough miles behind to know how to capture the authenticity of our personalities in the studio. 

Can't wait to record EP #2 as soon as this tour's done. Expect something way artier, sexier, darker with a New York City soul.

Q - How did you hook up with CJ Eiriksson, who has worked with such bands as U2, Fastball and Blue October? What do you think he brought to the table?

We interviewed about six producers across the country, and all the heavy hitters we could find in Austin. We got lucky that CJ, who has worked with a shit ton of big bands, was open to working with us. 

He's very mild-mannered (originally) and was a super reassuring presence in the early stages of pre-production. And his main instruments are violin, so we felt he could speak the language of cello, and drums which both Agustin and I are. 

He seemed to be the right combination of a lot of things we were looking for. He was interested in working with an indie band, but we felt he could bring a mainstream legitimacy to us as well.

Q - I understand a Kickstarter campaign raised $12,656 so you could make the EP. But I understand that right before you were to make the Kickstarter video, the filmmaker bailed and you had to make a different video than you planned. Do you think in hindsight, things turned out better than you expected? What did you think of the Muppet-like character?

Yes, we got super lucky. I put out a Hail Mary ad on Craig's list because we had no video and were leaving to tour in two weeks. The people who answered are a film collective called Archimedes. 

They do a lot of fantasy and animation stuff so at first we thought we could end up with something weird that was about them not us. Rock bands and puppets don't really go hand in hand. 

But they are incredibly talented and we ended with something way more unique and innovative than would've ever been possible if the original guy had done our video. I thought it was a good way to say, "We're trying to do something different. We'd love it if you came along for the ride."

Q - Jessie, you had previously played for glam bands when you lived in Brooklyn. What was your idea in putting together The Please, Please Me?

My idea was after I moved to Texas, I got real sick real quick of playing Americana music. I wanted to be in a band that I would turn my head and say, "what's that?" if I heard it on the radio or wandered into the right club. 

I wanted to play music that 20-year-olds would like, not just 40-year-olds and above. And I still wanted it to be really well crafted heartfelt songs - but just with more dance and unusual sounds inserted into it. 

Alissa was one of my first friends in Austin and we jammed for fun... so I thought, "I've got to make the cello a big part of this." And then with Agustin, I got lucky - another Hail Mary pass on Craig's list. 

Since he's done sound for tons of huge bands, he has a really deep and technical understanding of how to create that sonic hugeness.

Q - How is the music scene different from the one in Brooklyn? Was it hard making the transition?

It's funny, I constantly hear about bands from Brooklyn and think, "How come I never heard of them when I was there?" For me personally, I didn't feel like there was a scene in New York. 

Maybe there's a million micro-scenes, or maybe the Williamsburg hipster thing just seemed too sceney for me. In Austin, there's more of a small town vibe. Everyone knows everyone, especially since there's so many gatherings, events, resources geared at bringing professional musicians. 

For me, Austin is the perfect incubator. It's been a bit tricky to find what there is outside of the singer/songwriter or country twang worlds, but once you crack that door open, it's great. Clubs like the Mohawk bring in the coolest indie bands from across the country, and we also get to kill it on that stage.

Q - The glockenspiel and cello aren't instruments usually used every day in a band. What do you think they add to the band's sound?

I think they are a key part of the band's sound. They make us sound like us. But it's not a conscious "let's do this" or "add that." It starts with what do we play? what can we throw into the mix? how can we create something that is so uniquely us and close to our hearts that it can't help but come across powerfully onstage? 

I mean, Agustin built glockenspiel - weighing in at 50+ pounds - from rusty bars that his band director in high school gave him. And wait 'til you see my log drum. (It will be featured in our upcoming "Exile" video.) I got that on my junior year abroad in Cameroon, Central Africa.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Short-term: survive this tour, have a great time, make some new connections, come home twice as good as we left, and throw a kick-ass CD release party at Stubb's on August 30th.

Long-term: make this our main source of income (juggling 10 jobs gets exhausting), find a bad-ass booking agent to help take us to the next level, and be a band that everyone says, "yeah they're amazing" when we're mentioned.

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