She Keeps Bees
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She Keeps Bees

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Hometown: Brooklyn, New York.

The lineup: Jessica Larrabee (vocals, guitar) and Andy LaPlant (drums).

The background: She Keeps Bees are a bass-less boy/girl duo from Brooklyn who play raw, stripped-down blues-rock using a guitar and drums and little else. A couple as well as a musical partnership, they do their recording in their bedroom, in an apartment block with pigeons, with just a computer and a microphone. The pigeons don't contribute in any way to their music. The girl does the gritty, raspy bellowing and the boy keeps the beat, so naturally we're going to say they're like the White Stripes in reverse. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Jessica Larrabee has been in bands before, and it was she who taught recording engineer and producer Andy LaPlant, who had just moved to New York from New Orleans, how to play drums – her old man was the sticksman in a funk group. Larrabee's voice, steeped in the earthy R&B her parents played her as a kid, dominates their songs, and her singing style has been compared to everyone from Cat Power to Amy Winehouse and Polly Harvey, and most people who have heard it seem to be convinced that it is the essence of wanton abandon. Words like "sexy" and "raunchy" have been used to describe it, as though hollering and humping are synonymous.

We have no way of measuring the noise Larrabee and LaPlant make when they're at it, but we can quantify the racket on their recordings, to the nearest decibel: it's loud. Very loud. Even turned right down it hurts the ears, in the same way that Larrabee's shouting must hurt her belly and LaPlant's primal thump must hurt his hands. Even their mostly one-word song titles seem to scream from the sleeve of their forthcoming EP and debut album: Gimmie, Release, Focus, Strike ... they don't have exclamation marks, but they don't need them. Even when they use more than one word – Get Gone, Pile Up – they read like a series of commands, as though the listener is being somehow admonished. Naughty listener. You've been a bad boy/girl. That kind of thing. We've always been a bit partial to a stern reprimand, ever since that time at school ... and we're a bit partial to She Keeps Bees, even though we know there are other duos out there doing fairly similar things, being similarly reverential to the blues, reviving it with the same loving care. Not that we're afraid of saying anything negative about them, of course, but that Larrabee ... she's scary. - The Guardian


Comparing this record to PJ Harvey may be the obvious route, but the similarities are hard to ignore.
The same back-against-the-wall angst that characterized Polly's early work crops up in droves here, although that's not necessarily a bad thing.
The subtle and moody guitar parts add to the sinister nature of the songs, while the vocals are the most powerful instrument on display-such as the sultry performance on 'Release'.
Moving away from PJ comparisons, if you listen to the vocal deliveries and the stories that litter the album, you'll see it more as a female take on Lou Reed or Tom Waits, with the darkness or Bukowski thrown in for good measure. - Artrocker


Discography

2009- Nests (UK)
2009- Revival EP (UK)
2008- Nests
2007- Shhhh EP
2006- Minisink Hotel

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Bio

Jessica Larrabee, born in Washington DC, has been a self-taught singer and performer since childhood. With a funk/R&B drummer for a father and a delightfully eccentric mother, this is what you get: Jess. Records were always spinning at the Larrabee house...Rick James, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Kahn, Grace Jones, Lou Reed, Millie Jackson...not music a six-year-old usually gets the pleasure of hearing.

Jessica moved to New York, via Philadelphia, in 2003, where she started her solo career. She bar-tended and did odd jobs for two years while writing the songs that would eventually become present-day She Keeps Bees.

In 2005, Jessica was joined by recording engineer and producer, Andy LaPlant, who had just moved to New York from New Orleans. Together, they created Minisink Hotel, the first proper She Keeps Bees release. After a few drum lessons from Jess, Andy learned to keep a beat, and they have been performing, recording, and LIVING together since 2006.

They recorded a digital-only EP Shhhh in 2007, and shortly after, began work on their second proper full-length Nests. During the time they were recording Nests at home, they released an ultra-limited 12-inch vinyl EP with hand-collaged covers (made by Jess), containing early versions of two songs that would eventually appear on Nests.
Nests, self-released in September 2008 in the United States, was released in the UK on Names Records in early August, 2009.