Album Review: Kera & The Lesbians – Kera & The Lesbians
The band’s name is ironic, considering lead singer Kera Armendariz is joined by drummer Michael Delaney, who is, unsurprisingly, not a lesbian. The name may seem gimmicky to some, but the band’s messy hybrid of folk, blues and rockabilly is causing quite a stir amongst their fellow LA natives.
Their eponymous debut album assembles a meandering pace, flitting between pacific, tracks and freewheeling surf rock. Armendariz’s caterwauling vocals provide the finishing touch, helping to electrify The Lesbians’ sleepy, folk sound. Armendariz has been quoted in a number of interviews as describing the band’s sound as ‘bipolar folk’- and it’s the perfect description. From the first track, ‘One Minute Please’, the listener is led towards the rambling beaches of LA with jangly, drawn out riffs before the steady beat of drums and a summery horn section makes us a little unsure of the album’s direction. The following track ‘November’ follows the same formula- with Armendariz’s notes stretching out into yowls as the song progresses. The horns again add huge flavours of jazz into the band’s heavily-saturated style, but it’s a colourful, chaos that has been constructed carefully rather than hastily thrown together. All of the different genres are given room to breathe and flourish- they don’t crowd each other out.
‘The Lesbians’ sound is wild and euphoric, the perfect soundtrack for darkening summer evenings when the moon and the stars begin to creep over the sun’s shoulders.’
Armendariz’s storyteller lyricism borders on ballad poetry in ‘Witch’s Tit’, with Delaney’s steady drum beat providing an infectious foundation for Armendariz to build upon. ‘She never once combed her hair/And people stopped, stood and stared/And people let down their hair/And gave two shits but never cared’, reminisces Armendariz moodily, perhaps reflecting on the stigma sometimes attached to the LGBT community of which she is proudly a part of. Armendariz’s lyrics put a wonderfully twisted spin on the typical fairytale. On the surface, The Lesbians’ sound is wild and euphoric, the perfect soundtrack for darkening summer evenings when the moon and the stars begin to creep over the sun’s shoulders. And then you inspect the lyrics and you see the subject matter is inflected with sadness and loneliness. In this sense, The Lesbians’ style, although not inherently akin to the genre, is bordering on soul music. The pace, lyricism and RnB inspired guitar all lend themselves to soul music, even if it is a modern reincarnation that The Lesbians have carved out.
That notion of ‘bipolar folk’ rears its unconventionally handsome head once more on ‘Balls’, beginning with dreamy guitar and the gentle brush of drums in the background. The track gains cadence, erupting into hard rock and an ’80s-style synthesizer that appears fleetingly. Armendariz’s maddening giggles towards the latter end of ‘Balls’ perhaps reflect the album’s quirky style- ‘bipolar’ as she labels it, an album that may seem to rock arbitrarily from one genre to the next, but is very aware of what it’s trying to achieve. For comparisons, Armendariz’s soulful cries will certainly align her with Janis Joplin. As for the band’s overall sound, there are certainly hints of Delta Spirit and Portugal. The Man, also both and unique and experimental indie bands. Despite the reaches for similarities, Kera & The Lesbians are by no means another run-of-the-mill alternative California outfit. The image, the mentality and most importantly, the music is making The Lesbians a group worth listening to- even if the band’s moniker is only half-true.