Boca Chica
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Boca Chica

Band Americana Folk


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"Boca Chica feature on NPR"

Boca Chica straddles the line between the roots and Americana sound of bands like the Old Crow Medicine show and Gillian Welch and the more ethereal indie pop of The Innocence Mission, HEM, or Kings of Convenience. Their debut album serves up a number of raw retro-country tunes as well as a smattering of delicate, synth-laden tracks.

This Pittsburgh group began in the summer of 2004 as a duo, combining the songwriting and acoustic guitar of Hallie Pritts with the thumping upright bass of childhood-friend, Susanna Meyer. Their dripping sweet vocal harmonies filled out the sparse, old country style. In December of that year, Boca Chica gained the banjo, keyboard, guitar, and vocal abilities of Greg Dutton (LoHio). Dutton’s pop sensibilities began to take the group in a new direction. Instead of aiming for a traditional sound, the band began to use the standard bluegrass instrumentation as a framework to create a more indie feel.

The band’s debut, self-titled EP was recorded in a living room by friend and musician, Kevin Finn. Violinist Megan Williams sat in on a few tracks and eventually became a full member of the band. In keeping with Boca Chica's multi-instrumentalist vibe, she also contributes a little baritone guitar and mandolin.

Written in only a few hours "one balmy night at the ocean," the featured track "Undertow" is the most ethereal track of the album. This track is perhaps indicative of what's to come -- the band is currently working on a new album.

- National Public Radio

"Vibrantly creative melancholic roots-folk-rock-pop"

“Desolation Row” is no longer just a song by Bob Dylan, or a record store ensconced among the stacks of Oakland’s Caliban bookshop. Now, the phrase also qualifies as a catchall for an unassuming but vibrantly creative cadre of melancholic roots-folk-rock-pop musicians quietly brewing in the East End. Both Kevin Finn, with his solo efforts and the band Last Night on Earth, and Emily Rodgers, with the group Her Majesty’s Stars, have made their presence felt here. Now, it’s the turn of Boca Chica, led by songstress Hallie Pritts with her best friend since the fifth grade, Susanna Meyer, backing her up on upright bass.

Growing up in the small Westmoreland County town of Scottdale on her mom’s musical diet of Neil Young and Dylan and CSNY, Pritts landed back in the Pittsburgh area at the leading edge of a small flock of graduates of Goshen College, a Mennonite school in northern Indiana. With a radio station pumping out Americana to the students, and members of the school’s radio station receiving complimentary copies of No Depression magazine, it’s not surprising that some -- like Rodgers, Pritts and Meyer -- decided to turn their hands to similar songwriting.

Yet their musical epiphany actually occurred as a result of a fortuitous spring-break experience. Rather than risking sunburn in Cancun, the three women looked for a venue where they could bask in the glory of one of their favorite artists -- Gillian Welch. “It ended up being in North Carolina,” recalls Pritts. “We drove all the way there, and it turned out to be a bluegrass festival where we stayed for four days. And that’s where I started getting into the more traditional side of the music.”

The seed of her collaborative effort with Meyer -- who had spent time in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, writing for a magazine about organic farms -- was planted, and all they needed was a name. “When Susanna returned, she was throwing all these Spanish words around, and she said ‘boca chica’ one day. It means ‘small mouth,’ but I just liked the rhythm of it, so it stuck.”

Debuting Boca Chica as a duo (it has since expanded, with the addition of guitar, banjo and gentle, Wilco-esque synth washes from Greg Dutton), the group has since been well received along with Finn, Rodgers, and Dutton’s other group, Lohio, at the mecca of mature songcraft -- the World Café venue in Philadelphia. With their soon-to-be-released self-titled CD (recorded live to eight-track in Finn’s house), it remains to be seen whether Pittsburgh’s own proponent of city-slicker folk-pop, WYEP, will jump on the Boca Chica bandwagon.

According to Pritts, her band’s Steinbeckian blend of Appalachian, alt-country and folk rock has appealed to the graying Calliope folkies as well as a smattering of indie-rock whelps who cut their teeth in the late ’90s on Palace, Freakwater and Edith Frost. But like any budding artist searching for her muse, she just wishes there were more of them.

“When we go other places, it seems that there are a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, and even younger than that, who are into that kind of music,” she says, without much hint of the twang that characterizes her vocal style. “But around here, it doesn’t look like it’s caught on that way yet.”

“On the East Coast, that music mainly targets the boomer crowd, like with Triple-A radio stations,” adds Dutton, who was raised on a farm outside of Flushing, Ohio. “But then, if you go into the Midwest, where people grew up on more rural music, you find a younger audience more receptive to ‘neo-folk’ and that kind of stuff. Coming from [that area], that’s definitely the experience I’ve had.” - Pittsburgh City Paper

"Boca Chica Moves Around the Americana Landscape"

Music Preview: Boca Chica moves around the Americana landscape

Thursday, August 18, 2005
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Think of all those vinyl albums by '70s folk-rockers in your parents' record collection. Think songwriter Gillian Welch without guitar god David Rawlings. Think story songs and simple musical Americana.

Boca Chica

Where: The Quiet Storm, 5430 Penn Ave., Friendship

When: 9 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $5, 412-661-9355

Lawrenceville's Hallie Pritts thinks a lot about those things. Her music isn't specifically any of the above, but it borrows liberally from all of it. While it might be tempting to call it "bluegrass," in the post-"O Brother" world the plunk of a five-string doesn't necessarily grow 'grass and the pluck of a six-string isn't a signature sign of country. Pritts wanders throughout the Americana landscape without sinking roots too deeply.

Surrounded by a capable band she calls Boca Chica (Pritts on guitar and lead vocals, Susanna Meyer on upright bass, Greg Dutton on banjo and keyboards), Pritts celebrates the independent release of her first CD, named for the band, Saturday at Quiet Storm.

"A lot of my influences come from '70s folk-rock people: Neil Young, Joni Mitchell," she says. "My mom had a lot of those records around the house and, well, I took 'em. Then Susanna and I started going to bluegrass festivals ... because Gillian Welch was there."

Instead of stealing too literally from her influences, Pritts borrows enough to build sparse musical lattices on which she weaves her winding stories.

"People have told me that a lot of songs might be compared to poems," she says. "Mine are more like short stories."

In her musical novella "Boating Backwards," Pritts conjures a vibrant tale of circus lovers, complete with three rings worth of narrative.

"I like telling stories with lots of visual imagery," she says.

Co-produced by Pittsburgh singer-songwriter Kevin Finn, and including a little fiddle by Megan Williams, the CD is as literary as it is musical.

"John Steinbeck is as much an influence as Welch and Young," she says. "I sort of struggle with what to call it. Alt-country doesn't quite really hit the nail on the head. I think maybe indie-folk." - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

"Locals Capture bluegrass melodies, graceful vocals"

Boca Chica, a local four-person band with an alt-country sound, has been welcomed enthusiastically to the Pittsburgh music scene. With four October dates already confirmed, this band stands poised to make a big impression on the local community.

Boca Chica, meaning “small mouth,” has already received significant acclaim from August reviews in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the City Paper. Kevin Finn, a well-established local performer, supervised the recording of the band’s first full-length album.

The band has a penchant for long, narrative pieces set to rich acoustic accompaniment. The instrumentation on the debut LP includes an upright bass, a banjo, harmonica and violin, along with acoustic guitar, electric guitar, keyboards and vocals. They cite a long list of performers, past and present, as influences, including Johnny Cash and Neil Young, along with more contemporary bands such as Wilco, Kings of Convenience and Iron and Wine.

The musicians describe their sound as being “like Neil Young if he didn’t do so much heroin, really dug bluegrass and lived in Pittsburgh.” Such a description is sure to rouse the interest of a broad range of listeners, and Boca Chica delivers.

Their LP features seven tracks, and the titles, spanning from “Desolate Highway” to “Cowboy Hat,” give another indication of the musical tradition they are working within. The tracks themselves usually run a bit over four minutes each.

The opener, “Desolate Highway,” is indicative of the feel of the album. It starts slowly, with two acoustic guitar chords that feel almost tugged back and forth by the strong bass accompaniment. Lead singer Hallie Pritts joins after about a minute and sings in a soft, regretful voice about a failing relationship. Her voice comes slowly to the front of the mix as she reaches the story’s climax, and then backs down gracefully to accommodate an instrumental finish to the piece.

Pritts is a singer with a gift for articulation and a keen sense of vocal dynamics. As each song ends, Pritts lets her voice recede into a soft, legato trail.

The debut album accomplishes the feat of maintaining a tone that is both consistent and captivating. “Boca Chica” is an act worth hearing. - Pitt News

"Boca Chica Voted one of Pittsburgh's Favorite Bands"

Best acoustic artist(s)

Brad Yoder
2nd: Cathasaigh
3rd: Emily Pinkerton

Best blues band

The Blues Orphans
2nd: Jill West & the Blues Attack
3rd: Chizmo Charles

Best country band

Povertyneck Hillbillies
2nd: Ruff Creek
3rd: Boca Chica

Best indie-rock band

School of Athens
2nd: The Yards
3rd: Modey Lemon

Best jazz band

2nd: Don Aliquo
3rd: Walt Harper

Best club DJ

DJ 7up
2nd: DJ Goofy White Kid
3rd: Justin Hopper

Best hip-hop performer

Grand Buffet
2nd: Beam
3rd: Wiz Khalifa

Best visual artist

VJ Edahc
2nd: Mike Budai
3rd: Justin Giunta - Pittsburgh City Paper

"That Real Alt.Country Sound"

Looking for that real alt. country sound so that you can tell all your friends how folked up Americana and roots rock is real and alive and well in the cities as well as the countryside? Pick up this indie folk gem from Boca Chica. Not concerning themselves with over-the-top production numbers, Boca Chica is Pittsburghs answer to all things country folk. There are elements of bluegrass, indie folk, pop, and country all steamed in a moist blanket of doughy melodies and dripping wet harmonies. Excellent! - Smother Magazine


Boca Chica EP, 2005

Steel City: Dead End World Compilation-- "Undertow" featured, 2006

Transform into Beasts- due out in 2007


Feeling a bit camera shy


Voted one of the city’s best bands by the 2006 Pittsburgh City Paper poll, Boca Chica has been garnering praises far and wide since they got their start in 2004. Boca Chica, which, incidentally, means “small mouth”, straddles the line between foot-stomping alt-country and a more ethereal indie folk sound. Their first release attracted the attention of both sides of that spectrum, with NPR featuring the delicate, atmospheric “Undertow” on their Open Mic podcast and getting the opportunity to share the stage with such Americana heroes as the Avett Brothers, Laura Love, and Mason Jennings .

Featuring a thumping upright bass, jangly banjo parts, and a killer fiddle as well as the occasional gentle synth wash or distorted guitar, their songs are catchy, quirky and emotive and could be compared to Gillian Welch, Iron & Wine, and Sufjan Stevens. They are one of Pittsburgh’s best-loved bands and are making their mark across the country.

Boca Chica is currently in the studio producing their second release due out in 2007.