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MP3 Deluxe - Mary's Got Seven But I've Got Ten

theatrical indie rock

10 MP3 Songs
ROCK: Folk Rock, POP: Quirky

Sometimes it takes the most mundane occurrence to change a girl’s life. For Katrina Skalland, it was watching a Sacramento singer-songwriter perform at a local venue. The occurrence was common enough, but to Katrina is was an awakening, a realization that live music was happening on local stages in her town.

It was a strange realization, to be sure, for Katrina had already spent her life in and around music. Her parents, after all, were ministers and singing in church on Sundays was a regular occurrence of her childhood. Television was a rarity. Instead, there was music. “I grew up singing in chamber choirs and playing cello in the school orchestra,” she would remember later. “Lots of chamber music. Ave Maria. Stuff like that.”

But the idea that music—rock music, in particular—was happening all around her was a concept that required the shock of recognition. She realized that she could do it herself, that she could write songs and could bring them to local stages, that she could form a band and could tour and make records.

It may sound naïve and perhaps it is, but it is this same sense of innocence and enthusiastic joy that makes her music so compelling. There’s a strange dichotomy in her songwriting—a jagged, world-weary sensibility combined with the innocence of a little girl wandering through a candy-colored world. Even her physical presence shares that sense of juxtaposition: her pale Scandinavian features and innocent smile have encouraged at least one journalist to wax poetic. (“Even though it was a mild evening,” the journalist wrote, “her cheeks glowed red like embers.”) But there’s always a sense that Katrina Skalland is not quite so innocent as the first glance might assume.

The band that formed to articulate the vision of that dichotomy is Deluxe. But to state bluntly that Deluxe is the embodiment of Skalland’s musical vision would not do the band justice, for with Deluxe the parts themselves are in many ways as important as the whole. Drummer Justin Gonzales, bassist Ian Bone, multi-instrumentalist and producer Dave Middleton, guitarist Jay Shaner, and keyboardist Emily Sault—many of them singer-songwriters themselves—combine to form a musical force that is decidedly indie rock in its approach and yet brings in a weirdly theatrical sense of drama.

Even the band itself, then, is something of a juxtaposition of musical elements. If you ask them what their principal influences are, you are likely to encounter the usual safe answers: Elliot Smith, Radiohead, Pedro the Lion, Nick Drake, Led Zeppelin. But then Katrina is likely to pipe in with Andrew Lloyd Webber. Indeed Webber’s influence seems evident on many tracks of the band’s debut CD, Mary’s Got Seven, But I’ve Got Ten, from the character piece “Gin & Tonic” to the backing choir during “An Evening Alone.”

On the whole, though, Deluxe’s approach is decidedly more indie rock, reminding of simultaneously of the sonic adventure of Animal Collective and Neutral Milk Hotel, the emotional vocals of Beth Orton and Tori Amos, the straight-forward rock moments of Pedro the Lion and Sebadoh, and the complex songwriting of Andrew Bird.

Already well-established in its hometown of Sacramento, the upcoming year will find Deluxe bringing its sound out on the road as it works to build its fan base in the Western region. It’s a process that will likely meet with much success as Deluxe’s live show continues to be one of the most popular in the Sacramento area. One can only assume that the same energy that graces Sacramento stages will follow the band out onto the road in the upcoming year.

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