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One of the things I love about being an American lesbian living in London is discovering new things happening on the lesbian scene here and sharing those discoveries with American audiences. The latest brilliant find? Eeek, an all-women band from the West Midlands in England. Their buttery smooth vocals, rich blended harmonies, and perfect guitar arrangements in their music all come together for a connection that draws you in and keeps you there for hours. The mellifluous, soulful vocals, inspired by artists such as Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith, create a warm, lazy sunny afternoon vibe even in the most torrential rainstorm.
Having played at Birmingham Pride for the last five years as well as Nottingham and Manchester Pride, the women have developed a huge lesbian followng. They've also appeared at Diva's for the SHOUT festival and play annually at L-Fest, one of the U.K's. largest lesbian camping/music/comedy/arts festivals. Their fan base seems to be ever increasing.
I had a chance to catch up with band members Lucy and Mandy Burton to have a chat so I could get to know Eeek a bit better. It's such a bonus to learn their fun, fresh personalities carry over from the stage to real life.
Lucy, the lead vocalist, began writing and singing back-up in bands in the late '90s. When they met, Mandy had been working as a session guitarist sessions, as well as being part of the all-girl pop band Sugar Fix since 1991. They're chance meeting in a recording studio in 2008 led them to writing together.
"I walked into the studio, took one look at Mandy, and thought, 'Wow!'" Lucy says.
Mandy says she was playing it "cool and aloof," but there was no denying the spark. Soon a full-on relationship began and they officially married in August 2010. The ladies formed Eeek with Danielle (the lone New Yorker) on back up vocals, Karen (long time friend of Mandy) on drums, and Ruth on bass. All the women had worked together at some time or another on the music scene, lending their talents to recordings in studio sessions, so through familiarity and friendship, Eeek was born and the gigs started to roll in.
Eeek performed at L-Fest this past year, and there were so many things about the band that locked fans in: the mixed vocals, Mandy's masterful riffs, and the unexpected mix of original and cover songs. With original songs like "You Lose" and "Turbo Girl" that have a bluesy, soulful sway to them, you're instantly hooked, but the ladies also play some unexpected covers like "9 to 5," "Landslide," and "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" infusing them with Eeek's signature sounds.
The Advocate: How do you guys pick a song to cover? It's a tricky thing.
Lucy Burton: I think with "9 to 5," it's such a gay anthem, so doing so many Pride Festivals, and with Danielle having huge boobs, it was an obvious choice. [Laughs] Seriously, it's got that twang and bluesy feel to it in the beginning, and it gets a bit funky too, so we just worked on giving it a more modern feel. The fans always seem to love it. It never fails to get people up on their feet.
Mandy Burton: We also do a cover of "Billie Jean" and people seem to like that, too. If we love playing a song, the crowd generally likes it, too. I think the first time we did "Billie Jean" there was moment when I thought they hated it, but later everyone kept coming up and saying they loved it.
I heard that you guys are back in the studio for a new project?
Mandy: In January, [we recorded] five songs in six days at Woodbine Studios, with John Rivers.
Lucy: We're in pre-production now, thinking up new things we can add, like maybe bringing in some strings, and punching up vocal harmonies, and seeing what we can throw in the mix.
Mandy: We've sold merchandise, t-shirts, etc. and we've been gigging like crazy, because it does cost a lot to get studio time. We've hit our goal so we're really excited to get in there and get going.
What's in the works, aside from the new tracks?
Lucy: [In] February, we're putting together a mix of music and comedy with comedians Jen Brister, Stacy Stockwell, and hopefully three band. We've been chatting with Heads Hearts and Bar Code Zebra, so it's all in the planning stages, but that's in the works.
Mandy: We served as music directors for this past L-Fest, and got to meet all the bands, and so many great things have forged ahead nicely since. We've made some really good friends. From that gig we met [the lesbian band] Horse, too, and I reached out to her through a simple email and right away, we got an email back saying she'd love for us to open for her on a few dates of her winter tour! We did Bush Hall and Brighton with her and it was amazing.
The lesbian music scene is so fun here in the U.K.
Mandy: And in the [United] States. We love Sea of Bees, and I learned about Playboy School... so I sent them a message and it turns out they know Sea of Bees, too! I love that it's all one big family from everywhere.
Lucy: We so want to play in the States some time. Can you make that happen? We're ready and waiting.
If only I could snap my fingers and make it so.