Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers
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Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers

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Patsy Cline brought country music from the hayride into the smoky piano bars of what was adult American pop in the late 50’s and may have set their course on that trail blazed by the torch she seemed to carry in every song. Add the that list Atlanta’s Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers. This time the sorrowful siren is Lauren Staley who not only belts out some great tunes but plays guitar to boot. Luke Long lends the reverb vibe, Carla Kootsillas is on Mandolin and Mike Schmidt’s Bass and Jimmy Martin’s Drums all laying down a heavy bottom to pile high the tears. They even lend a feeling of remorse and loneliness to Micheal Jackson’s “Beat It.”

They group is out shopping their first EP and I think it’s going to be a jewel once released. Keep you eye on these folks, they’re doing it right!

- Twang Nation (www.twangnation.com)


Looking like a hillbilly troupe in a David Lynch film, the country-fried indie band known as Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers burst onto the Atlanta scene in 2008, winning numerous local accolades, including Creative Loafing's 2008 "Best New Band." Sure, they resembled an old-timey jugband, but they sounded like your favorite new indie artist.

The story of Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers began when singer/songwriter Lauren Staley, 23, was working with guitarist Luke Long, 25, as an Ocoee River raft guide. She eventually introduced Luke to his now-fiancee, mandolin player Carla Kootsillas, 23. In 2007 the idea of forming a band took shape during the friends' periodic excursions to the capital of country music, Nashville. The trio soon recruited bassist Mike Schmidt, 28, and drummer Jimmy Martin, 34, and the band of five was christened with a fictitious band name that Staley had once used as a Myspace joke.

"In the beginning, we practiced a ton," explains the blonde-locked, big-voiced lead singer. "I've always been a psycho for perfection, so when it came time to start thinking about playing the songs in front of people, I refused to do it until they were damn near perfect. Before we played live gigs we decided to record a small eponymously titled EP, just enough to get the songs on Myspace. Within a few weeks of its release [April 2008], we had over 13,000 views. It was crazy how quickly it caught on."

Indeed, the toothsome EP sounds like butter-pecan maple syrup drizzled on a stack of Hank Williams records, with a PBR to help wash it down. Missy Gossip's vibe is just western enough to appease the country folks and just pop enough to please indie fans. The versatility to cross genres is most apparent in their down-tempo cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It," which started out as a joke but turned out to be a testament to their ability to carry off things that seem strange on paper but are genius in performance.

Staley grew up spending summers at her grandparents' house in the Alabama countryside and studied abroad in England during college. "I listened to a lot of old country as a kid, but I never really appreciated it until I was living in England and far away from it," explains Staley. "I listen to more British music than anything else. I'm a sucker for a good pop song. So I guess the country comes from a more subconscious place." Subconscious or not, the result is a winning combination of soulful old-school country (think Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn), a dash of raucous rockabilly and soaring Brit-pop melodies that would make Bono proud.

After their debut at Smith's Olde Bar last April, Staley's chill-drawing voice and the band's tightly wound muscianship garnered them a slew of high-profile shows, including the SoCo Music Experience and Pop Death Squad's Big Trouble in Little Five Points.

"In Atlanta we don't get overshadowed by the competition," explains Staley, who's hoping to work on a full-length recorded album this year. "In Nashville, we'd be just another country band. In Athens, we'd be just another indie band. In Atlanta, I feel like we stick out like a sore thumb. Which in all honesty, has worked to our advantage." - Atlantan Magazine (by Jonathan Baker)


Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers, a self-described “gothic Americana country” band, have always known in the back of their minds that they would probably fit in more comfortably in a city like Nashville (or even Memphis) than in the hip-hop and indie rock-filled venues of Atlanta. Missy Gossip is not your typical band; yet, instead of complaining about being on the fringe of trendiness, the group actually chooses to revel in its unique persona and not-oft heard sound instead.

“You can see a shoegaze band or one that sounds like Mogwai any weekend in Atlanta, because there’s so many of them,” says lead guitarist Luke Long. “But I think we’ve been very fortunate in being able to do what we do, and have people come out and see us just because there’s not a huge scene for that type of music anymore. I think it’s more of an advantage than it is a drawback, just because we’re something that’s not being done a lot.”

What started off as simply just three friends playing around for fun soon lead to something more serious when a road trip to Nashville inspired Long, his fiancée Carla Kootsillas (mandolin) and Lauren Staley (vocals/guitar) to take a chance and form an actual band. Soon after, with the additions of bassist Mike Schmidt after a chance

meeting at a party and drummer Jimmy Martin on Craigslist (“In the Casual Encounters” personal section, they like to joke), their music became much more fleshed out and took on a life of its own.

Pinpointing the group’s style, or even the genre, is a difficult challenge, probably stemming from the diverse musical tastes of its members, who list everything ranging from U2 to British rock to electronica to pop music as inspirations to help inform their sound.

“We obviously have a country influence” says lead vocalist Staley. “There are elements of that all throughout it. But it’s hard. It’s like, we’re not really a country band, we’re not really an indie band. I don’t know what we are.” Thus far the group has enjoyed modest success, playing their distinctive country-tinged music to approving fans in Atlanta and throughout the Southeast, yet Missy Gossip is soon on its way to being a professional band planning a full-scale tour in November that’s taking them as far west as Austin, Texas. The goal is to afterwards settle in Nashville for a while a record a proper follow-up to their self-titled EP currently available.

The group has also been getting some particular attention lately for its unusual, low-tempo cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” which they often perform live to unsuspecting audiences. This seems almost normal for a band that refuses to play by the rules of the hipster scene.

However, something they do in fact share in common with other local bands is that being an indie band tends to have its inherent disadvantages.

“It’s a matter of getting everything together,” says Long. “Right now we’re not working with a label. We’re basically doing everything ourselves. We recorded our EP ourselves, we’ve booked all our shows ourselves. Whether or not it’s the smartest move, I’m not sure, but I mean right now it’s been working for us.”

One thing is still left to answer: even if Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers do end up moving to their beloved city of Nashville - where country music is the local religion - will Nashville accept them? An answer in the negative is something the group reluctantly admits is a very real possibility.

“In the main scene, in the music scene — no. Absolutely not,” says Long. “I think we’re a pack of strays, when it comes down to it. I mean, honestly, when we’re writing something, or working on something, we kind of just let it go where it goes. And so long as it doesn’t go way too off the deep end, it’s a Missy Gossip song.”

They might be too country for the hipster scene of Atlanta, and too rock for the country pop of Nashville, but at least one thing is for sure: they are just perfect for anybody like them who doesn’t care about those things.
- Performer Magazine (http://www.performermag.com/sep.spot03.0810.php)


Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers - Best New Local Act (Reader's Pick) 2008 - Creative Loafing Magazine


Nowadays, there just aren't enough strong female vocalists who can coo heart-wrenching notes against the backdrop of steady drum beats and rhythmic guitar chords. But Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers fill the gap with a blend of country rock and classic Americana. They deliver a steady sound throughout the six-track EP, with singer Lauren Staley's crisp, sorrowful voice and lead guitarist Luke Long's heavy rhythms. But the band breaks the mold in the standout "Ankle Twister" by bringing some upbeat rock to an otherwise mellow set. The biggest surprise: Their take on Michael Jackson's "Beat It" turns the song into a misery-filled ballad. Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers have spark, but it'll take a second listen to fully appreciate it. 3 stars.

Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers play the Earl. $7. 9 p.m. Thurs., June 26. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com.

- Creative Loafing


Discography

2008 Self-Titled EP (unsigned)

Photos

Bio

On an incredibly hung-over car ride home from an incredibly drunken vacation to Nashville in the summer of 2007, singer/songwriter Lauren Staley, guitarist Luke Long, and mandolin player Carla Kootsillas decided to finally get serious about starting a band. Because this dream had dominated the inebriated ramblings of the three for sometime, it only seemed logical for these three lifelong friends to do what they know best--consume alcohol and make music. I guess you could say it was divine intervention (or a confession at an AA meeting).
Over the next couple months, it became apparent that the band needed a bassist and drummer to complete their sound. Providing a much needed level of composure to the band, bassist Mike Schmidt joined Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers. After playing several capacity shows in the spare bedroom of Long and Kootsillas's midtown Atlanta apartment, the group finally welcomed Jimmy Martin on drums, who the band found through a sexy classified ad in the "casual encounters" section on Craigslist.
In less than a year, Missy Gossip and the Secret Keepers have written and composed many original songs and are currently planning a fall tour to promote their debut EP. Their sound is a blend of a large variety of influences: alt-country, gothic-Americana, blues and indie rock. Since posting several tracks from the EP online, the band has gotten a large number of fans from across the region. They have also shared the stage with many of the best up and coming acts such as Langhorne Slim and the Mother Truckers.