Southern Drama
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Southern Drama

Austin, Texas, United States

Austin, Texas, United States
Band Rock Avant-garde


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Album Review by The Austinist"

Miss Clarissa Ysel’s piano powered melodies and Miss Naomi Cherie’s yearning violin flourishes emphasize the scores of Texan outfit Southern Drama, not to be confused with the California act with the same name. During their early days as a team, Ysel and Cherie found a fan in the late great Clifford Antone who provided ample encouragement along with sound advice (pun intended) to help Southern Drama continue on its musical journey. Eventually, Mister Gary Delgado was invited to join the squad, taking on bassist and drummer duties as needed with contributions from Mister Danny Hinojosa and Mister Steven Reyes completing the soft soundscapes concocted by the band.

Their debut record Little Broken kicks off with “Lightswitch” which turns us on to Ysel’s sultry voice and has us snapping our fingers to the beat in hope that the next snap will magically transport us to a cocktail lounge in some era, be it bygone or contemporary. Cherie’s violin accentuations arrive appropriately to garnish “Candlelight Blues” before expertly maintaining the alternating melancholy and gusto in “A Killer Waltz On The Ice.” Not to be outdone, Ysel’s soothing vocal delivery in “Sour Is The Day” along with equally comforting, soft piano strains actually sweetened our day. The tempo picks up with “Blood Red” and “Ghost Town Blues” -- more finger snapping, toe tapping ditties that would encourage the patrons of any lounge to make their way to the dance floor. “The End Of The World” (along with the “Hidden Track”) quietly eases us out of Southern Drama, back into the 21st century show that is our everyday life. Largely, Southern Drama conjures up easy-on-the-ears melodies that take turns to appease and invigorate. Most tracks could be the soundtrack to our hazy daydreams although quite a few cause one to long for a night out on the town. Not surprisingly, the duo of Ysel and Cherie have an inherent interest in directing short films and plan to release a series of music videos to accompany Little Broken, many of those already in the works.

- The Austinist, Austin Texas

"Album Review by Austin Sound"

What is traditional beauty? Something that is refined, soft and smooth around the edges? Something that makes sense and fits in its appropriate place? Perhaps the intrigue of beauty is the ability to not fit in any place at all; to confuse, be taken aback and to wonder - what the hell is this? Southern Drama’s self-released debut album, Little Broken, has that factor of forcing a double take. Not necessarily because it is classically pretty and you want one more glimpse, but because it takes a second glance to fully grasp the beauty that lies not in smooth soft edges, but in a raw, unabashed form. Southern Drama is not easily characterized; there is a slight touch of pop sensibility, but it’s buried in an almost Old World gypsy jazz, both sultry and dark. It is something to experience.

Behind the core duo of Clarissa Ysel and Naomi Cherie, the quartet features Gary Delgado, and Steven Reyes coming together to form a musical act that is far from a novelty. Vaudeville and sound of the Roaring Twenties is an obvious influence, but it’s toned down enough to keep from becoming something like White Ghost Shivers. The southern aspect is achieved through Cherie’s electric violin while Ysel, on piano, is jazz at the root. I can hear her playing in some dimly lit room downstairs during Prohibition. But, add a violin, simple, ramshackle percussion, modern bass and you get something that is well….something else. Recording analog provides for a rough, fuzzy, old time feel. Yet, it isn’t necessarily southern, or really western, but a sincere melding of southern and folk style, both in the guitar and violin, with an underground pre-swing era jazz and blues background.

The ten tracks on the album (plus one untitled hidden song) highlight that ability to mix old time jazz with old time south. “A Killer Waltz On Thin Ice” is a good example with it’s fun violin break. A more fast tempo track, “Blood Red” has the toned down violin and almost vindictive vocals. They even throw in a short piano melody aptly titled “1920’s.” Cherie’s violin talents pop out in “Candlelight Blues” as she cuts classic melodies with artistic tangents.

It’s clear that playing through the influences they love is what drives these songs, like “Transylvania” which starts with a bluesy-soul and transitions into something more kitschy and picturesque of the Southern Drama sound. “Sour Is the Day” may be the most restrained of the songs, but also proves one of the best. Ysel’s smoky vocals are wrought with emotion over the soft piano and accenting violin, almost country in flavor and sounding like a song Lucinda Williams or maybe even Cat Power would take on with equal impact.

The songs on Little Broken are brief and it works well for their unique style. The tracks are like bullet points, each one short, simple and to the point and invested with power. Ysel vocals are not in line with any traditional sense of beauty, at times even striking abrasive, yet with each song that abrasiveness turns into more of an intense emotional outlet. Her voice has the ebb and flow of an after hours nightclub singer. It’s burlesque, and risqué, and I’m describing a voice here not a body. It isn’t about having the most dreamy voice, it’s about projecting an idea, and Southern Drama projects an idea that is wonderfully rogue and unfiltered.

- Samm Newton - Austin Sound, Austin Texas April 2008

"Album Review by the Austin Chronicle"

Southern Drama's Little Broken is the most compelling recording to cross this desk in weeks. Their debut shoots out from under the radar near where Austin's Erik & the She-Wolves, Luna Tart, and Mr. Lewis & the Funeral 5 come out to play. There's a vague element of Loreena McKennitt twirling with Tom Waits in rich, arcane compositions like "A Killer Waltz on Thin Ice," and kitschiness abounds on "1920's Song," but Little Broken is a marvelous soundtrack for the Friday-night-alone blues.

Margaret Moser - The Austin Chronicle, April 2008

"Music Video Review by Austin Sound"

It’s not surprising that Southern Drama has put together one of the better local videos we’ve seen in while, given frontwoman Clarissa Ysel’s artistic bent. She directed the video for “Ghost Town Blues” from the quartet’s debut, Little Broken, taking the bloody wild west to task.

You can catch Southern Drama tonight at Emo’s as part of Soundcheck Magazine’s new website launch party. Also on the bill are a host of Austin Sound favorites including the Corto Maltese, Frank Smith, Death Is Not a Joyride, and Kevin Adickes of MothFight! Check out the mag’s new digs at, and Southern Drama’s video below. - Austin Sound

"Band Review by Cannibal Cheerleader"

A combination of baroque-pop sound and rock aesthetics, with a peppering of jazzy experimentalism and Gothic undertones, along with a great number of other literate descriptors, Southern Drama, an all-girl trio from Austin, are clearly hard to pin down. Violin solos float by the listeners' ears as easily as lead singer Clarissa Ysel Sugarcube-vocals. It's either a nightmarish, 50s style vaudeville act or one of the best indie bands in Austin, Southern Drama is not so much a band but a complete art project package and definitely deserving of all the attention we here at Cannibal Cheerleader can muster for them. Check these ladies out immediately at their Myspace and see if you can't write a better description of them than I can.
- Cannibal Cheerleader

"Live Show Review by Cannibal Cheerleader"

Performing at Austin's own Beauty Bar last night, Southern Drama managed surpass all our expectations and capture a refreshing slice of retro-country rock with a subversive edge that proved both genuine and engaging. There exists a level of underlying difficulty when playing any version of country music - the danger of the tunes seeming kitsch or even worse, too poppy is ever-present. However, Southern Drama plowed through such criticisms with instrumental virtuosity, care of their brilliant violinist Naomi Cherie, and with the captivating howl of lead singer Clarissa Ysel. With a voice more reminiscent of a riot grrrl act than a gypsy-country band, Ysel brings a level of emotion to songs steeped in evocative imagery, pulling the listener into the band's complicated world. Worth mentioning is of course the care the band seems to take with their presentation, dressing up in psycho-carnival wares, instantly inviting and absurd all at once, proving to us here at Cannibal Cheerleader that Southern Drama is not only deserving of our close attention for their music but for their whole visual and performance formula. We'll definitely be keeping up with these ladies, check in for more details this week!
- John Bradley

"Featured Interview by Soundcheck Magazine"

The Curtain Opens on Southern Drama

words by John Bradley
photos by Randy Cremean

Cooling off on the sun-drenched patio of Spiderhouse Cafe, the three women of Austin's Southern Drama contemplate the proper way to describe their trademark sound. "We have been trying to figure that out for, like, five years," says violinist Naomi Cherie.
Lead singer Clarissa Ysel adds, "We usually use words like 'creepy'--or you said 'sassy' the other day, right?"
She looks across to bassist Josephina Bethany, who begins to list different words associated with the band: "'Jazzy', 'gypsy', 'Transylvanian', stuff like that..." She trails off.

Their confusion is warranted. Southern Drama’s sound darts between off-kilter genres and centers on a set of wildly inventive tracks involving romance, death, and everything in between. "I think it's always good to not be pinned down," Ysel elaborates. "There are a lot of little movements that happen [in music], and then they're over--and because we don't fit into any of those, I feel like we're a little less at risk for having a little following and nobody be interested in it later." Southern Drama might defy simple definition, but that is their strength: there's no arguing the timeless nature of their carefully crafted indie-rock dreamscape. Describing the sound is only a fraction of the picture, though: the band’s theatrical sensibilities are a major part of the experience. "We're trying to make a mood, and it's not just about the sound--it's about the visuals, too,” Ysel elaborates, describing her band’s view on the interplay between aural and tangible elements. "…[The effect is] more atmospheric, a synthesis of our personalities." In fact, though the music is the centerpiece of their art, other aspects bolster its intended effect. As Southern Drama take the stage at their show at the Beauty Bar, they are decked out in Victorian garb with a Western flair. Their faces are painted with red, blue, and gold stage makeup. Ysel begins to strum her bright red acoustic guitar and launches into the set’s first song with her signature emotive howl, her cheeks marked with Raggedy-Ann circlets. The costumes and the deep shades of red and gold bring an intensity and romance to the three performers. With the atmospherics firmly in place, moody chamber-pop and high-energy gypsy rock fills the room and spins a web around its audience.

If Southern Drama’s overall aesthetic is difficult to pinpoint, it’s at least partially because the things that influence them are so widely varied. "All the stuff we said we listen to doesn't really come across in our songs, except maybe subconsciously. Instead of influences, things we like--like carnivals--are more influential than some artists we listen to. We started using things and ideas in place of musical influences," says Cherie.
"See, we like old country like Patsy Cline, but it was only [after we formed the band] that we started listening to her," says Ysel. She goes on to explain that Southern Drama doesn't rely on outside music for inspiration.
"We just like to play songs," says Cherie. "But now that we have to try and be a real band, we have to come up with a range of influences after-the-fact. We have to fit into that real-band world." At this point in their career, however, the band has molded their own definition of what the reality of “the real-band world” means to them.

Southern Drama’s equal attention to music and its presentation is evident in everything they do. The video for their song "Ghost Town Blues" could be more accurately described as a short art film with a bizarre, moody score, centering on the story of murder and lust unfolding in a Vaudevillian Western. Ysel, a film major in college, uses the medium to further her band’s aesthetic vision. (She directed “Ghost Town Blues”.) Even the band's Myspace page functions as an art piece, with swirly script printed over a colorful background surrounding stately pictures of the trio in various Victorian wear. On the site, the band has printed an elaborate history, spinning a tale of "ghostly vignettes", "soft lullabies of yesteryear", and "eerie Transylvanian nightmares", all building upon their impressive mythos. Perhaps it should be no surprise that Southern Drama is so visually oriented. "I'm actually not that much of an audio person," explains Ysel. "I don't play things by ear; I think of things visually. Even explaining songs, we have to draw it out." Given that the tangible and the audible are so intricately intertwined, it only makes sense that Southern Drama should be a multi-media spectacle rather than simply a band.

The elements that make Southern Drama unique—from the stylized costumes to the videos’ barroom camp to their music’s soulful wail—all coalesce into a highly-detailed whole. When asked if they are consciously trying to create their own alternate world, the trio laugh and shake their heads. "More of an atmosphere, really," says Ysel.
If there's one thing these women don't lack, it’s atmosphere: with plans for future shows incorporating a menagerie of different art forms--from music, to film, from face-painting, to carnival actors--Southern Drama can only expand their aesthetic universe outwards onto unsuspecting audiences.
"Maybe a small world," adds Cherie with a smile.

Southern Drama exists in a time and place outside of modern music, where art forms of all varieties combine into a singular, spectacular vision. If one is looking to define it, though, don't bother – ultimately, the experience is more important than the ability to describe it.
- Soundcheck Magazine

"Album Review by Soundcheck Magazine"

This is the sort of music that would be subconsciously playing through your head as you strolled down the mist-drenched streets and sidewalks of the south, circa mid-19th century. This is the sort of music respectful of the past – where women wear sultry, corseted red dresses and smile suggestively, and that corner shop might really be a burlesque house – but still very conscience of the present. This is the sort of music Austin’s Southern Drama plays—soaked in all the heat and emotion of the Old South. And does the band ever take this aesthetic and run with it: their press photos, font styles, and stage outfits all suggest bygone eras, those often visited by silent films. Slow, meaningful, and orchestral, Southern Drama’s self-released debut Little Broken is the perfect music for a late-night bar’s jukebox. Singer Clarissa Ysel’s voice is lightly tinted with a delicious southern accent, and her piano style jumps with a vintage twist. Naomi Cherie’s violin adds just enough back-country spice without delving into the stereotypical honky tonk pitfall (think a sweeter, more sultry “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”). All of this makes songs like “Blood Red” irresistibly antebellum, yet very much contemporary. Is this half-country, half-folk concoction indie? Technically, yes: this is a self-released album, and the DIY attitude hangs over the music like a thick Alabama fog. Yet, this is different from other indie folk-country acts like Iron & Wine or Rocky Votolato. This is classier, more real, more organic. Perhaps it's just the feminine touch emitted from the vocals, or the swaggering style in which most of the melodies are presented, but Little Broken is as seductive as it is catchy. Southern Drama use their regional flair to spice up their sound, and create an alluring mixture of unique, antique melodies.

-Michael Schmitt
- Soundcheck Magazine, Austin Texas September 2007 Issue

"Label Alert Column by Soundcheck Magazine"

Although the Bohemian era of the late 19th century is ancient history, Southern Drama keeps its spirit very much alive and well. The music, dominated by Miss Clarissa Ysel's sultry vocals and Miss Naomi Cherie's mischievous and brazen violin, manages to circumvent the stigma of kitsch by being blatantly honest about its artifice. Heck, it's right there in the band name: these ladies and gentlemen are in it for the theatrics. What happens, though, when you can embrace the masquerade is that you will discover an emotional core that rings as true for the listeners and performers as it did for the denizens of past to whom the band pays homage. That music this refined comes from a band so young is noteworthy; that it comes without any adherence to social subcultures or caricaturization is what sets them apart as a group worthy of respect and a much, much wider following.

- Emily Strong

Start with: “Lightswitch”

Label Alert: Drag City, Roadrunner Records, Projekt Records, Kill Rock Stars - Soundcheck Magazine Austin, Texas September 2007 Issue

"Album Review by Infuzed Glasgow Scotland"

Drop whatever you're doing and come along with me on a little journey back to the deep south, where the music had soul and went on through the night till the morning light shone down brightly. Ladies strapped in corsets and laced up boots and wore flowers in their hair, the men dressed in their Sunday best to go and relax in sometimes the tiniest of rooms to hear the music musicians from near and far would come and play. Long since has this been replaced with something a little louder and little heavier and not quite as intimate, so it's a delight to find that Southern Drama are bringing it back while at the same time stamping their own mark through it!

Starting off is Light Switch, it bellows through in such a way, that makes you feel like your in some old saloon and there are girls in exquisitely provocative outfits serving drinks to the men and on stage there providing the entertainment... I like when music can create images in the mind as your listening along. Creativity is one the high points of the music here, it has this distinctive vintage feel to it, but at the same time a modern vein runs through it as well, marrying together seamlessly. It's the perfect start to the music here.

Blood Red comes in next with a bit more pace, there's a distinctive bounce here that will quickly get the people up and on their feet to have a bit of a dance. The swaggering guitar riffs are dynamic and smooth against the skittering of the drums. The music is quite grown up and mature, something a lot of the younger generation might not be familiar with and more than likely something the older ones will remember and be quite at home with, but that's what I like about this, its different to what is popular at the moment and creatively carves a way for other bands who's like to try something different. This is the kind of music that goes on into the night and well into the morning, lovely stuff.

Following on is Candlelight Blues which immediately gives you the sense of walking on the hot and dusty roads of the south on your way to some one's house to hear some down and dirty music - Blues, to be exact, as no one does it better than in the south. I love the shrill and vibrato aspect of Miss Clarissa's vocals, it really creates such presence and ambiance, giving a perfect delivery of the song. But, one can not ignore the stunning execution of Naomi's violin playing; it sits perfectly as the icing on this cake - utterly delicious! They as a whole work so well together, each balancing off the other and not once becoming overshadowed, which all too often can happen; this is another really unique track.

The End of the World is our last one here and quite suitably named for the end as well. It bellows out in a whimsical lullaby of sorts as the gentle violin glides gently against the tenderness of the vocals slowly and softly singing you off to fairytale dreams and adventures. There's this exquisite rawness heard throughout the song that's impossible to ignore, it quickly swarms around and wraps you up like a blanket. A very beautiful and charming piece, you won't mind listening to again and again in your darkest hour!

I enjoyed all the musical delights here, it was nice to break free and hear something different and unique for a change. I think this will help them to stand out to listeners and not be boxed in somewhere and forgotten alongside the rest of the bands out there. This would be the kind of music you'd like to hear live to feel the emotion given off by them just through listening; and this most definitely the kind of music you'd love to hear being played through some vintage record player, it would just feel right. If they can keep up this standard of music and draw listeners from all over (which won't be hard), then I don't see why they shouldn't have a long road ahead of them. Gorgeous work!

- Kizzy H.

- Infuzed Magazine, Glasgow Scotland July 2007 Issue



'Little Broken' LP
Self-Released/Lucy The Poodle's Recording Co.
Copyright 2007


Southern Drama's debut album has received radio play on Austin, Texas radio stations KUT 90.5fm and KVRX 91.7fm regularly since the summer of 2007. Their full-production music video 'Ghost Town Blues' has also been aired weekly on Austin music video staion ME TV (Channel 15) since January of 2008.


Live Session in Studio 1A on KUT Public Radio 90.5 FM
Radio Without Borders hosted by Laurie Gallardo
Podcast available at:
May, 2008

Live session at KVRX College Radio 91.7fm
Local Live Radio Show
Downloadable at:
November, 2007


'Ghost Town Blues', 2007
A music video shot on 16mm film
Directed by Clarissa Ysel
Austin, Texas

'A Killer Waltz on Thin Ice' 2008
A music video shot on HD Video and 8mm Film
Directed by Cat Gray
Los Angeles, CA

'Untitled Documentary' 2007
Filmed during Southern Drama's West Coast Tour 6/07
Directed by Matt Castro
Release date TBA

'Lightswitch' 2007
A music video/short film shot on 16mm film
Directed by Clarissa Ysel
Austin, Texas

'Southern Drama', 2005
A music video shot on Super 8 Film
Directed by Clarissa Ysel and Naomi Cherie
Smithville, Texas

'Blood Red' 2008
A music video shot on HD video
Directed by Naomi Cherie
Austin, Texas





Southern Drama is an eclectic blend of sultry and sour vocals, erratic and experimental violin, haunting vaudevillian piano, carnival-esque bass lines that thunder like a stomping circus elephant, and ramshackle guitar, percussion and toy sounds.

The press had this to say about their debut release, an LP titled 'Little Broken':

"The most compelling recording to cross this desk in weeks...a marvelous soundtrack for the Friday-night-alone blues." -The Austin Chronicle
"Either a nightmarish 50's style vaudeville act or one of the best indie bands in Austin" -Cannibal Cheerleader

"That music this refined comes from a band so young is noteworthy; that it comes without any adherence to social subcultures or caricacterization is what sets them apart as a group worthy of respect and a much, much wider following." -Soundcheck Magazine

"Creativity is one of the high points here, it has this distinctive vintage feel to it, but at the same time a modern vein runs through it as well marrying together seamlessly." -Infuzed

"It takes a second to fully grasp the beauty that lies not in soft smooth edges but in a raw unabashed form. Southern Drama is not easily characterized; there's a slight touch of pop sensibility but its buried in an almost Old World gypsy jazz both sultry and dark. Its something to be experienced...wonderfully rogue and unfiltered." -Austin Sound