(originally published in Avenue magazine, July 2006)
By Brian Tucker
Andrew Boudouris wants to get pierced. Someone at a local tattoo shop told him when to stop by but the shop is still closed. It’s probably for the best. Hurricane Alberto was sending much in the way of a storm on this early Monday in June.
Boudouris is the drummer for Labeling Deloris, a band with in Wilmington via lead singer Jennifer Reiff, whose vocals land somewhere between Janis Joplin and Gwen Stefani. The drummer will have to wait until Tuesday to get the upper part of his ear pierced. The band has been in town hanging out with friends and family for a brief period prior to hitting the road in support of their new album For the Sake of Deloris.
“We’ve been in town since last Wednesday, living it up at the beach,” says bassist Brad Rigney. “Taking a little vacation before everything gets started, enjoying the waves and a few beers.”
During their stay prior to the album launch show at the Soapbox on June 13th, the band hung out at the beach as the hurricane moved closer. On sunny days the beach was crowded with summer vacationers and young people. Brad was caught off guard by so many people down there, thinking, doesn’t anybody work?
“I was talking to someone. I said, how do you hang at the beach all day and not work?” he says. “Then I realized, I play guitar, that’s my job. I have it pretty good.”
The band came together after Jennifer and guitarist Jason Rigney wanted to play Battle of the Bands a few years ago in Wilmington. Enter Jason’s brother Brad and drummer Andrew. The band won first place out of thirty bands and it was their first public performance together. Asking Brad, what it was like that first time?
“A hundred dollars in our pockets” he says laughing but dead serious.
The band relocated to Nashville to live and make it as a band shortly after. Although perceived as a country music town, Nashville is also filled with singer-songwriters, a source of discontent to some degree with the band. Jason makes little bones about it.
“Do away with it because it’s killing the band,” Brad says. “I’m more band oriented. I like it as a team. That’s the way I’ve always been.”
Living there as a musician is difficult in that, much like Hollywood where everyone has a screenplay, many in Nashville are involved in music – all hoping and praying to make it.
“It’s hard to enjoy the music scene. It becomes more of a chore,” Brad says. “Everyone you meet is in the music business. You’re in competition with them or something. It’s hard to not talk about music.”
But a rock band trying get started there seems contrary. There’s a rock scene, but different – the rock scene was either metal or indie that tried to be underground and wasn’t. And an out of town band moving into an already saturated area was just another rock in the road. They even had shows booked prior to even locating to Nashville.
“People have a hard time accepting an out of town band that’s picking it up, that you’re stepping on their ground,” Jennifer says. “We stepped on it and they haven’t accepted it.”
The hard work paid off from the get go but building a fan base and getting known in a new area took time.
“We did more in a year than most do in than most would ever do there,” Andrew says. “In our eyes we expected a lot more than we got but we did a lot more then we should have in that town.”
In a town where singer songwriters and performers rely on others to craft songs for them to sing, a band should be a different breed. Recording their album was a marriage of hurry and wait. It took a day to do the drums and scratch vocals and about five months to do the rest of it. The band members laugh looking back at it. The flooded scene creates an unusual competition and benefit in terms of getting recorded.
“Mixing,” Jennifer jokes. “No, it took one day to record everything and then we did extra bits.”
“Recording in Nashville, you don’t have to pay for it if you have your shit together, if you’re good,” Brad explains. “People will want to work with you to have that to their credit.”
The band set about playing shows and writing their own material. Songs reflect their own lives, what they take on stage is what they bring off stage with them. They’ve lived together and it comes through in the writing. Interaction is a trait. Jason is the band’s guitarist, who plays both rhythm and lead parts.
“It’s actually a good thing. I can play bass when he plays rhythm guitar, then pick up where he leaves off. When he plays solo, it allows me, when he does do breaks or solos, it allows me to pick right on rhythm,” Brad says, having been both a guitar player and a drummer.
“He plays bass and rhythm and Jason plays rhythm and lead,” Andrew says.
For economy’s sake they had a lot worked out before entering a studio that charged a flat rate, doing everything off-hours before the studio opened. Playing shows in the area helped prepare for recording, knowing the songs inside and out. The worst show involved a Nashville club in which their show time kept getting pushed back from playing to keep the people in the bar, to keep them drinking. The band ended up playing up twelfth on a bill where they were slated to play fourth and played at 1 a.m.
Jennifer introduced the song ‘Never Gonna Fail’ in frustration towards the club owners, a night worsened by the fact she was suffering from a wretched cold. She dedicated it as “this song is for all the people who are fucking us over.”
“I never cursed on stage before,” she laughs.
Brad, whose southern drawl and distinct frankness is humorous but could likely be taken roughly by strangers, offers his own feelings.
“By that point, shit, I didn’t even want to see myself play. We were there five hours,” he says. Brad’s brother, Jason, is his polar opposite. The guitarist is quiet and thoughtful, content to let others answer questions and listen. Brad will answer for him and it can be humorous. When he does speak its direct and friendly – the type of person who speaks only when he has something to offer.
The question of getting nervous before a show comes up. Jennifer simply says no. Perhaps it’s all those years of performing in musicals, all those nights of performing in front of strangers that quickly become friends. Brad offers a colorful analogy.
“Its like a date when you meet a chick, you meet her at a bar, you get butterflies, and as soon as you break into a good conversation, everything is gone. You’re having a good time, everything is awesome. As soon as the first song is over, I’m like, let’s do this.”
Jennifer concurs. “As soon is that first chord is hit, nothing else matters.” Brad explains that the band never drinks before a show, takes it easy the night before.
“It’s a thing, man. Coffee and ice cream the night before. Relax. I don’t drink the night before a show.”
“You never know who’s gonna be there at a show one night,” Jennifer says. “You got to be able to give your best for each show.”
The band has disparate influences. Andrew is a fan of The Mars Volta, The Beatles, and cites Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins) as a big influence, and anything that makes his head move.
“I’ve been listening to Buckcherry in the last couple of weeks,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s rubbed off on me too,” Jennifer follows. Brad recalls how Buckcherry’s show recently was overtly loud to the point of annoying.
“Some members of the band are more rockers, and some are more arty, but everyone respects each other,” Brad says. He says that hearing ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’ was a musical beginning, hearing that song and seeing that video.
“Those guys were a great band,” he says. “You knew who they all were.”
The song, among many, is a cover the band will do. They have a list of them and try to include a few per show.
“Purple Rain” is fun,” Brad says.
“Sweet Child ‘O Mine,” Jennifer says.
“Dexy’s Midnight Runners,” Jason says.
For a booking at MAARZ nightclub in downtown Wilmington Davey Williamson saw the list and replied, “You do Motley Crue? Which one?” Jennifer replied “Dr. Feelgood” and Williamson said, ‘You have to do that.”
Their tour schedule is long and in addition to playing a conference in Pennsylvania or loading equipment in the rain there has been more shows added. The band will play MAARZ on July 21st and head to Miami that same week.
Traveling is not without struggles, not enough rest and then there’s the camping. But one thing a band with a female lead singer has to worry about is the perception of just that.
“I have discovered now why girls don’t travel so often, there are too many things to worry about,” Jennifer says. “Does shit persist in the music industry? Absolutely. Proving yourself is a given, and even harder if you’re a woman.”
“Guys specifically do not think much of girl singers,” Andrew says.
There was a show a while back in which the sound guy made dismissive comments but whose attitude changed after Jennifer sang.
“The first thing he says is ‘alright sweetie get up there and shake that moneymaker,’ she says. “I felt dirty by the time I left that place and not because of the condition,” Jennifer syas. While she typically doesn’t go Courtney Love on anyone when these things occur, she doesn’t shield the band from it either.
“I complain about it afterwards,” she says. Naturally, the guys in the band are very protective of her. “I live with three dads and three brothers all rolled into one.”
One thing that has changed is that Jennifer doesn’t play guitar onstage anymore, focusing solely on singing. She misses it, but it goes back to stereotypes.
“The fact is that as soon as they see a girl onstage they down it, but when they see a girl with a guitar it’s different. I’m a little nervous about doing it, with just me and a guitar. Leave me to mess it up,” she laughs.
Humility aside, Jennifer’s vocals more than make up for the lack of a guitar in her hands. Neil Young’s producer was at a gig and said Jennifer had the best vocals, the most control of anyone in Nashville.
“He was on Saturday Night Live last night playing guitar with Neil Young. I used to drink PBR’s with him,” Brad says.
The band has more than respect for their singer and Andrew makes it all the more clear.
“If they know my name or anyone in the band’s name before they know Jennifer’s, we’re not doing our job. Bass and drums are not the lead instruments; we set the foundation for the lead instruments,” he says and then points to Jennifer.