The Ladybirds bring good ole rock ‘n’ roll to South Park Tavern
By Gary Spencer
When people talk about rock music nowadays, it’s rarely described as rock ‘n’ roll. You hear “rock,” “hard rock,” “indie rock,” “folk rock,” “punk rock,” “psych rock,” “garage rock” and other labels thrown around, but almost never do you hear someone describe a contemporary band as a straight “rock ‘n’ roll” band, as if the concept of no-frills rock music is archaic. Louisville, Ky.-based quintet the Ladybirds certainly think otherwise, and have been around for nearly six years, proving otherwise. Their newest full-length album, Shimmy Shimmy Dang! is fresh off the presses as of September 2011, but listening to the record you might be inclined to believe the all-original material contained within was written decades ago. The music on Shimmy Shimmy Dang! seamlessly melds together influences drawing from ‘50s Sun Records-inspired rock ‘n’ roll, early ‘60s girl groups like The Ronettes, ‘60s soul and garage punk and even early ‘70s proto-punk. So what’s the Ladybirds’ take on all this perceived retro music worship? My inquiring mind wanted to know and I managed to get lead singer Sarah Teeple to chat with me about The Ladybirds and their musical mission…
What is the mission or goal of the Ladybirds?
To bring sweet rock ‘n’ roll music to the people! To help people have fun and kick back and get down. What’s the point of life if not to celebrate? We like to celebrate all the time, and want you to do the same! (Sarah Teeple)
I can generalize certain musical genres or eras that your band represents, but what specific artists do the Ladybirds actually draw influence from and why?
When we started, we wanted to be like the New York Dolls or the Stooges meets the Shangri-Las or the Ronettes. So glam rock meets girl group, kind of sweet and fun, but a little nasty and bad at the same time. That was, and still is, just who we are, and the type of tunes we like to get down to. We’ve grown a little bit and incorporated some other musical influences, like some more classic R&B sounds in this current album, reminiscent of Stax and Motown type stuff. (ST)
I’ve seen pieces on your band discussing your love of Phil Spector’s songs and recordings. Why are you so fascinated with Spector’s work?
We love the sound and FEEL of Spector productions. When the wall of sound kicks in, you feel it in your gut and your soul. Some of his works are real masterpieces … to us as musicians and connoisseurs of ‘60s pop, that stuff is high art. The aesthetics, the production values, the era, the songwriting … they all come together and kill you in the brain. He’s not an icon for nothin’. Listen to Ike & Tina’s “River Deep Mountain High” and you’ll feel it. (ST)
Do you consider the Ladybirds to be a “retro” band of sorts?
We’ve definitely gotten tagged as a throwback group, but we’ve always just called ourselves a rock and roll band. We are not trying to be kitschy or ironic. We just love rock ‘n’ roll, and where that all began: R&B, old country, rockabilly and in the garage. So, that is what we live and listen to and make and put our own spin on. We keep it fresh and uniquely ours by showcasing each of us in our tunes. (ST)
Given that the first era of rock ‘n’ roll was five decades ago, why do you find inspiration in music from the 1950s and want to purvey these seemingly dated sounds in the modern millennium?
You are right that most current musicians don’t think twice about the ‘50s! Although they’re undoubtedly more influenced by that era than they know … Anyone who plays any kind of rock music is. Nobody cares anymore that that guy over there playing electric guitar in a band is playing electric guitar because that happened to be Chuck Berry’s instrument. It is just more interesting for us to look back instead of forward, especially now that we are in an era where every genre has been crossed over. It’s funny because I think sometimes when other bands hear that we’re heavily influenced by ‘50s-‘60s stuff, they think we’re squares. But then, our guitars are louder and we’re rocking harder and getting sweatier onstage. So, we let the music decide whose sound is dated. As long as it comes from an authentic place, killer rock ‘n’ roll never goes out of style. (ST)
Does the band do covers or is it all originals?
We pretty much do all original songs. The album Shimmy Shimmy Dang! is all originals. But we do throw in some covers at our live shows. Our fave covers include songs by Eddie Cochran, Johnny Thunders, Freddy Cannon and Wanda Jackson. And there’s a special little medley that we sometimes close the show with, when we’re feeling extra feisty. (ST)
I’ve seen pictures of your band. Is there a conscious visual aesthetic that you are trying to achieve?
We just try to look sharp! We call ‘em our cat clothes. It’s basically how we dress normally, but kicked up a notch. We’ve actually been working on some special stage clothes a la Nudie suits like the Flying Burrito Brothers used to wear. Those are for extra special occasions. (ST)
Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
Come hang out and drink some beers with us at South Park Tavern this Friday! (ST)
The Ladybirds will perform Friday Oct. 21 at South Park Tavern, 1301 Wayne Ave. in Dayton. Tender Mercy is also on the bill. Admission is $5 and all ages are welcome. Doors open at 9 p.m. For more information visit www.ladybirdsrock.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.