This year's best new band wasn't originally meant to be a band at all. It grew out out of the recording of a solo album by Becky Kessler — a recent transplant from North Carolina who nabbed Best Singer/Songwriter honors in the 2012 Grand Band Slam poll. But as work on the album proceeded at Casa de Warrenton studios in Hartford, producer and multi-instrumentalist Floyd Kellogg became more and more involved. "I was just going to do very basic guitar-and-vocal things," Kessler explains. "But Floyd got more and more inspired. He's a multi-instrumentalist, and he just kept adding parts."
Kellogg — whose other bands past and present include Adios Pantalones, Spookie Daly Pride and You Scream I Scream — says "Becky had tunes and sketches of tunes. She needed someone to help produce and record it. Becky's a great singer, and a lot of it is hung around her voice. I've heard people say stuff like we sound like the Velvet Underground. There are moments of distortion, sometimes a nod to the '60s-ish kind of rock. There's also this fuzzed-out kind of jazz thing. Becky's written stuff with odd time signatures that feel pretty natural, not like a box you're trying to get out of."
The album — no longer a Kessler solo disc, now the debut Violent Mae album — will be released in mid-October. Around that time, the duo will embark on a "mini tour" of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, including the Mustang Music Festival. Violent Mae played one of their first gigs as a live act in May at the Meriden Daffodil Festival. "Oddly enough," Kessler laughs, "most of the stuff we're playing out now is brand new," more recent than the tunes on the album.
"It's a perfect musical match," Kessler gushes. "Floyd's tastes work perfectly with mine." For his part, Kellogg has been "having a blast. After my other bands, having a duo is just so... portable." —Christopher Arnott