Lass Out Loud: Rachel Fannan on Her New Band, Only You, and Playing with "Three Vixen Warlords"
Only You, with Rachel Fannan in the red-striped shirt. Photo by Simon Weller.
The women of the Bay Area music scene are breaking rules and defying expectations. Lass Out Loud is a new column exploring their lives and work.
Former Sleepy Sun singer Rachel Fannan's new all-girl group, Only You, takes a break from the sunnier shores of Southern California to perform at Brick and Mortar Music Hall this Thursday, Jan. 26. Presented by local tastemaker (((folkYEAH))), the lineup also features the great San Luis Obispo rock outfit Sparrows Gate and San Francisco's own Light Fantastic.
After her public and somewhat dramatic break from San Francisco psych-rock outfit Sleepy Sun, Fannan struck out on her own. A little over a year later, she's fronting "three vixen warlords" in Only You, a musical amalgam of surf rock and dream-pop love songs. Their throwback sound with a modern feminine twist is currently being recorded for an upcoming EP, so keep your eyes peeled. Fannan's also got a handful of side projects brewing, recently lending vocals to a Bonnie Prince Billy song and to Mars Volta frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala's new project, Anywhere.
Canadian roots collective Welcome to the West just released a live in-studio video of Fannan singing a duet with Slang Chickens' Brandon Intelligator in Fannan's hometown of Los Angeles. "I contacted her because she has been, in my books, one of the most captivating performance vocalists I had ever come across," says Welcome to the West co-founder Brendan Kane. "Yet I felt the world hadn't quite picked up on that quite the way they should. So we set out to do something about that. Hopefully this is just one in a million ways her voice will touch people." Welcome to the West teamed up with Black Iris Studios engineer Michael Harris to catch Fannan doing the Everly Brothers proud with her original "Let Me Sing You Love Songs."
With her range, force, and controlled vibrato, Fannan is an incredibly powerful vocalist. After seeing her perform live for the first time, it was clear that she is one of the only contemporary singers who can be trusted with a Roy Orbison cover. And after speaking with her a year ago, with her fearless conviction and strong opinions about the notion that "sex sells," I knew Fannan would be the perfect woman for Lass Out Loud's inaugural interview.
Perhaps empowered by her new cohort of female band members, Fannan seems a bit calmer about gender issues. "I wouldn't know sexism if it slapped me on the ass," she says, offering the quote of the day. But the perks of working with women aren't lost on her. Let's find out what they are.
What has changed for you, musically and professionally, since your split with Sleepy Sun?
I've gotten to work with more people. I've sort of picked up where I thought I left off.
Tell me about the new band. How did everything come together?
Micayla Grace (bass, formerly of S.F.'s Leopold and His Fiction) and I had met on the road a couple years ago, and when our paths crossed again we were both at the end of relationships with our other bands. So we flirted around with the idea of a girl group but started playing right away just two of us, and more often than not we were graciously joined by a handful of sexy, talented men. Later, when I moved to L.A., we lassoed Cecilia Della Peruti (guitar), whom I had sung with before when I lived in Santa Cruz. We waited an entire year before a mutual friend introduce Lia Braswell (drums) to us. And it was obvious to all of us what we'd stumbled upon.
Why did you want an all-girl lineup? Was it more difficult to find female musicians?
I think because I'd been oddly wedged in a boy band for a couple years I was losing touch with a feminine vibe. I wanted to reclaim it, relearn it. And so yes in a way it was difficult. We had to wait.
How has your band experience been different now that you're in an all-girl band?
We talk more.
Were there problematic issues with being the only girl in Sleepy Sun?
I think it was actually more of a help to have gone through the ringer that was being the only girl in a six-piece. Nothing more problematic than trying to be accepted by my dude-peers or wanting to stop at a rest stop to piss.
Are you treated differently now than when you were the only girl in Sleepy Sun?
Oh, just more responsibility. Which I'd been craving in Sleepy Sun, but for whatever reasons was not deemed fit to hold. Now I get to call more shots, write more music, play guitar, and front three vixen warlords.