Bright Blue Gorilla: |
gorillas in the mix
An interview by Tom Knapp,
The movie Gorillas in the Mist inspired Robyn Rosenkrantz to name her new band Blue Gorilla.She doesn't remember where the "blue" came from -- at the time, she said, it made sense. But her husband/musical partner Michael Glover wasn't sure. It sounded too depressing, he told her. It needed something brighter.
And Bright Blue Gorilla was born. "Besides," Rosenkrantz said, "it's a name people will remember.'' But don't be surprised if you haven't heard of the pop folk band with roots in California and New Mexico - shortly after the two solo artists got hitched, combined talents and picked a funky simian nom de guerre, they packed their guitars and flew to Amsterdam. They spent five years in Europe (minus six months in India), released two CDs on the Virgin Records label and played more than 400 shows, opening for the likes of Suzanne Vega, Luka Bloom, Nanci Griffith, Donovan and Fish (the former Marillion vocalist).
They were pleasantly surprised when they returned to America and discovered that, in their absence, folk had made a comeback. "While we were away this folk thing really started to develop," Rosenkrantz said during a telephone interview. "We came back just when all these folk venues were really starting to open up." The duo was lucky to find an outlet for their music, which didn't have much of an audience in eighties America. "There's a definite movement going on now," she said. "People want to get back to the intimate, the direct contact with people. With folk, you strip everything away. ... We like to break down those walls."
Initially, she said, she and her husband billed themselves as soloists. "We got married before we became Bright Blue Gorilla," Rosenkrantz explained. "I played solo and he'd back me up, and I'd back him up when he played solo. We said "We are not a duet. We are two solo artists.' We wanted our own separate identities. ... Then we started liking the way we played together." Together, they sound a lot like the Indigo Girls, if one of the Girls was a guy and they had a sense of humor. "Michael is the humorous one," Rosenkrantz admitted. "I try to make a joke and it just doesn't work. I just don't have it in me -- I'm the straight one. ... He's also more of a storyteller," she added. "He has a great imagination. Sometimes he might write a story that sounds like it's about somebody else but it's really about him."
They stress vocal harmonies in their music, a la Simon & Garfunkle, and like to get people in the audience to play percussion. In addition to two guitars, they embellish their close harmonic singingwith a tin whistle, mystical drum and harmonica. "Michael comes up with his songs, I come up with mine," Rosenkrantz said. "We each work out our own lyrics, our own music. Then we come together and do the arrangements. "It's really a mix. It's not traditional folk at all, it's more modern folk or new folk ... a mixture of folk, rock and pop," she said. "Both of us like so many different types of music: jumpin' jive '40s music, big band music, Tracy Chapman, U2, the Beatles ... anything that's good and well written."
[ by Tom Knapp ]