Stolen Babies merge heavy rock with heavy theater
By Gary Spencer
Photo: Cabaret/metal trio Stolen Babies will perform at Bogart’s in Cincinnati on Jan. 26; photo: courtesy of Stolen Babies
In the world of the performing arts, the mixing of heavy, guitar-based music and the artiness of theater seem to rarely cross paths. Sure, there are exceptions to this (“Rock of Ages,” anyone?), but usually when it does happen it’s presented in some kind of nostalgic, kitschy, cheesy or tongue-in-cheek manner and almost never crosses into anything of a more artistic, dark or disturbing nature. Californian trio Stolen Babies have spent the past decade or so thumbing their collective nose at such notions, presenting a highly original style of hard rock that openly flirts with elements of musical theater in a manner that may seem rather unorthodox to many listeners and concertgoers.
Stolen Babies consists of the core trio of Dominique Lenore Persi (lead vocals, accordion) and brothers Rani Sharone (bass, guitar, upright bass) and Gil Sharone (drums, percussion). The band was birthed (pun intended) from a 12-piece high school theatrical performance troupe called The Fratellis. The band’s namesake was taken from a skit written by Persi during her tenure with the group. According to guitarist Rani Sharone, even at this early stage the seeds were being planted for the bizarre, mish-mash of musical styles the future Stolen Babies would explore.
“(The Fratellis) would play a hybrid of jazz, big band, ska, progressive rock, musical theater and cartoon music,” Rani explained. “Music wasn’t as much the focal point as the theatrical stuff going on stage was. After sometime it got tough keeping up with a band that size. We were just out of high school and everyone was being pulled in different directions. Dominique, Gil and myself kept at it.”
Sure enough, Persi and the Sharones have kept at it. The trio self-released its first EP in 2002 and soon developed a reputation for its schizoid mix of modern metal and dancey, cabaretesque pop/rock delivered in concert with the theatrical roots from their days in The Fratellis firmly intact. Listening to the Babies’ 2012 full-length opus Naught, issued through their own imprint No Comment Records, one can hear many seemingly disparate musical reference points including Dresden Dolls, Marilyn Manson, The Arcade Fire, Rasputina, Slipknot, Emilie Autumn, The Birthday Massacre, Gwar and, less specifically, goth and ’80s new wave. To Rani, such musical cross-breeding is far from an accident.
“We are influenced by so many types of music and bands that it’s not surprising that we sound the way we do,” Rani said. “I couldn’t imagine being in a band that only played one type of music. Writing a thrashy punk song, a twangy rock n’ roll song or a cabaret-style tune, sometimes all in one song, is just what we know. It’s our voice and it comes naturally to us. Oingo Boingo and Mr. Bungle have been at the top of our list of favorites.”
Stolen Babies have built their reputation not just on their musically mind-boggling back catalog, but also on the strength of their high energy, must-see live show. Rani said seeing Stolen Babies live is where it’s at because each show throws predictability to the wind and takes on a life of its own.
“Our live show is something one night and another thing the next,” Rani explained. “There’s nothing like live energy. It’s unpredictable and can’t be explained. It’s a fleeting moment; A hard attack with a slow decay. We just do our thing and have fun doing it.”
The band has toured the States and abroad with an impressive cast of coconspirators including Lacuna Coil, Within Temptation, Otep, Devin Townsend, Dilinger Escape Plan and Katatonia, among others. At their upcoming show at Bogart’s in Cincinnati this Sunday, the group will be joined onstage with Stone Sour and Pop Evil. On paper, it may seem like a strange pairing, but Rani sees it as another opportunity for Stolen Babies to win over more fans.
“Our agent told us we got the tour, which pretty much came out of nowhere,” Rani said. “We were ready to take time off and work on new stuff, but this tour sounded like a great opportunity for us and we are looking forward to it. No expectations […] we can show up and play for who’s listening. Cool thing is, more people are listening!”
Stolen Babies will perform Sunday, Jan. 26 at Bogart’s, 2621 Vine St. in Cincinnati. Also on the bill are Stone Sour and Pop Evil. Tickets are $40 in advance and the show is all ages. Doors at 6:30 p.m. For more information, please visit stolenbabiestheband.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.