Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Label: Evangenitals Records
Sounds Like: Violent Femmes, Natalie Merchant, Ween, Those Darlins
Imagine if Johnny Cash, Bob Marley and Joan of Arc were one woman. Now, imagine that woman gathering a band of eclectic musicians on a crusade to expand the bounds of Country music. The Evangenitals, founded by playwright/director Juli Crockett and opera, jazz & gospel singer Lisa Dee are an alt-country/Americana love revolution made flesh for your listening pleasure. On a quixotic crusade in the key of life hell-bent on breaking hearts open, they are a genre-bending, ever-creating force of nature.
The Evangenitals boast one of the most eclectic resumes in the indie music world. As live performers, they’ve built a fiercely loyal following through a thousand shows at clubs, coffee houses and festivals throughout the world (including Scotland’s prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival). Their shows are notable for music that can be bawdy and rollicking in one moment, and, in the next, sufficiently mysterious and haunting to make the rowdiest of beer brawlers pause, turn toward the stage and listen.
The group’s current lineup consists of principal writer/vocalist Juli Crockett, gospel/jazz singer Lisa Dee, keyboardist Michael Feldman, bassist Joey Maramba, Andrea Baker on fiddle, Daniel Mark on mandolin, Danny Graziani on fiddle and harmonica, and an ensemble of rotating drummers including George Bernardo (Cash’d Out), princess Frank (Killsonic), David Hurlin (Apocalypso Tantric Boys Choir) and Rob Shaffer (Ninja Academy).
Having spent the better part of a decade navigating the choppy waters of the Southern California indie rock world, the Evangenitals have turned their considerable creative attentions to the greatest seagoing adventure of them all. Moby Dick: or, The Album, the band’s debut album with Fluff & Gravy Records (March 18. 2014), is a musical swirl of immaculately crafted songs, each interpreting an aspect of Melville’s masterpiece with an approach that tacks between intricate arrangement and the deceptively simple country-inflected tunes for which the band is best known. At times the songs are lushly poetic, at others, coarsely powerful. They are as infectious as they are ambitious, filled with humor, insight, mystery and wonder.
“Moby Dick” might seem a lofty source of material for songwriter-musicians, but for partners Juli Crockett and Lisa Dee, who stand together at the center of the Evangenitals, this sampling of literary masterwork is a natural progression.
The album was recorded entirely in the home studio of Crockett and Feldman (who happen to be married, and have an adorable son named Thelonious), and finds the band being joined by such notable guest artists as: folk legend Jim Kweskin (of Jug Band fame), acclaimed avant-garde performer Dorian Wood, composer Jeremy Zuckerman (“Avatar: The Last Airbender” and recent #1 iTunes Soundtrack “Legend of Korra”), cornet ace Kris Tiner (Empty Cage Quartet), and bassist Edwin Livingston, who frequently accompanies Natalie Cole.
Produced by Michael Feldman, bassist Joey Maramba (formerly of Ninja Academy), and the Evangenitals, the record was then mastered by the legendary Doug Sax and Jett Galindo at The Mastering Lab.
Asked why she turned to Melville’s novel as the point of departure for her songs, Crockett pointed to the precedent of her adaption of the same material for theater a dozen years earlier. “Moby Dick,” she says, “is one of those iconic texts that has a life beyond its pages. People who have never read the book still have an understanding of its themes and its characters. Much like Don Quixote, characters like Captain Ahab and the White Whale transcend literature and enter the realm of the symbolic. Great works of art aren’t satisfied with being passively received; we are meant to engage, challenge, and play with them. The greatness of great literature is in its ability to respond with resiliency to the times, over ages and eons. Without changing a word, they somehow manage to consistently change our lives.”
Adapting material as exalted as a volume often referenced as “the great American novel” is an unaccustomed pursuit for popular musicians, though, of course, such adaption is commonplace in other arts disciplines. To the question, “Should popular music mine classic literature as source material?” the Evangenitals’ inventive and revelatory “Moby Dick” answers with a resounding affirmative. Combining pioneer lineage with a love of performing arts, the Evangenitals take listeners on a journey of passion and creative freedom, embracing all of life as source material.
Ranging from truck-stop lullabies to Klezmer-punk-jazz, ballads & barn-burners to hillbilly stomp, citing influences from the new-wave intelligentsia of the Talking Heads to the archetypal fire of Johnny Cash, all welded together with the mutant masterminds of Ween: The jukebox at the Mad Hatters tea party is the Evangenitals.
“... manic, diverse, unusual and creative songwriting and delivery at its best. This album doesn’t simply tip its hat to the old tale; it also proves itself seven times over an impressive marriage of fiercely original and free songwriting and absorbing story conveyances.”
James Carlson - Examiner
“The Evangenital brand of sound grew up in a hippie commune that went to hoedowns on the weekends, and it’s got a great sense of humor. The septet tends towards the rowdy, and spinning might be the most appropriate dance move. Well, spinning mixed with stomping.”
Kate Jacobson - Santa Cruz Weekly
“Although I agree their sound may be described as alt-country, I would further call it a California based Americana with lots of blues and folk moves within a structure that easily glides into an indie-rock format. So basically, this band could play with about 90% of the bands touring America these days.”
David Hintz - FolkWorld
“This is fun, freedom, and freak folk all delivered with a huge capital ‘F’”
Jeff Perkins - Blogcritics Music
“Some days you go looking for the sky but oh lord it's a long walk upwards. Other days you stay down on the earth and find your Evangenitals. Get your tired heart wrung by the best new band since the last best new band ... and maybe the best band after them also.”
Colum McCann - Author of "Dancer"
"The Evangenitals: call it freak folk, alternative country, love drunk, hillybilly rock; call it what you like, they got it."
Cheryl Johnson - NELA Live
"Evangenitals are unconventional, creative risk-takers who are - at times - too much to take, yet too gutsy to be ignored. I hope these underground bohemian diamonds stay true to themselves; they should never be tampered with."
Janet Goodman - Music News Nashville
"If you get a chance to see these gals you'd be a fool not to. They put on one of the best parties you can go to. Great crowd, good music and a sure-fire fun time. I'm a believer..."
Skeeter - Front Porch Musings
"devoted album of grassroots and grit"
Brett Love - LPM Voice Magazine
"They killed it with their female-Johnny Cash influenced folk-rock."
Soleil - Soleil Music Blog
“Have you ever met a retired professional boxer who is working on her Doctorate in Media and Communications, sings lead for an alt-country band, is a published playwright and theater director and works in a sex shop? No? Well then you should meet Juli Crockett. She has done it all and more.”
Mike Gormley - Music Connection Magazine
"So Sweet" is a heartbreaking song. Juli Crockett's vocals convey the emotion of the song perfectly and if you don't share a tear to this then you're already dead.
Tony Deans - The Cheers
"Transports you back to a time when the music came from front porches and folk gatherings that allowed for the songwriting to take center stage."
Today's Country Magazine
“It is my firm belief that no band in Los Angeles gets more "room respect" (and deservedly so) than the Evangenitals. When these guys play, no one speaks or makes a sound. It's a true phenom.”
Michael Anderson - Stereo 9
“The vocals are the highlight of the EP; I would go as far as to say that they sound like a modern day Dolly Parton.”
Mathew Webb - MuzikReviews.com
"Their sound is a chimera of American music, a blend of country, bluegrass, jazz and rock, with soulfondling lyrics, which might leave your skin wet from dancing and your eyes dripping tears of joy all in the same evening."
Monterey County Weekly
“3rd loudest audience applause in the 10 years I've been booking the Buccaneer.”
Tim - Booker for The Bucanneer
"We’re talking about alt-country at its finest, but that’s only the start. Influences of Southern rock, cow punk and even a little klezmer pop make a tasty brew."
John Sollenberger - Pasadena Weekly
“Just fantastic, bunny with a chainsaw coolness.”
Brett McFarlane - El Kiwi, New Zealand
"A very tight and dialed in sound bleeds from these albums...with a brutal honesty that seems to soak the walls with it's straight forward sound."
Brett Love - LPM Voice Magazine
“When Juli Crockett and Lisa Dee come together vocally they deliver a solid harmony that captures the mood of the song and lyric perfectly."”
Today's Country Magazine
“Best EP's of 2010 - #1 Evangenitals”
“Crockett’s likely to snarl like a punk rocker one moment and then yodel the next, while pulling off an odd dance that’s part Appalachian stomp and part shadowboxing bravado.”
Bliss - Pasadena Weekly
“Gifted with a powerful voice, Crockett makes her distinctive mark as the anti-crooner. She sings with a deep clarity and is able to maintain odd balance of folky sweetness and country music's signature yee-haw.”
K Nacy - Orphan Records Review
"they can take the band out of the bar and into the mainstream music scene"
Paula Munoz - Music Connection Magazine
"had me thinking a female Old 97's"
Simon2307 - Beat Surrender
"Like the Dixie Chicks being beaten with their own guitars at the playful hands of the Violent Femmes."
Aaron James - Musician
“The band name alone grabbed me by the ovaries and did a little do-si-do with my uterus. Little did I know that clicking the 'play' button was going to throw me into a spasticated hoe-down. The harmonies are ace, the instrumentation is brilliant and the lyrics are (pickin'and a) grinnin' fuel.”
Ten Toes - Dirty Rooster
“One of the best names for a group I've ever heard. Gave me a smile all day when your CD arrived.”
Whole Wheat Radio
“At first listen, [Crockett's] vocals call to mind other notable altos like Cher, Grace Slick, and flannel-clad lesbian grunge pop extraordinaire, Linda Perry. Crockett's sound is low, smooth and profound.”
K Nacy - Orphan Records Review
"The Evangenitals are a folk rock band best taken with a whiskey neat. The mishmash of styles and eccentric personalities makes for an entertaining night filled with spontaneous sing-alongs, hearty laughs and masterclasses in guitar, upright bass, and drums."
Paula Munoz - Music Connection Magazine
"entrancing strains of rootsy Americana pop"
Falling James - LA Weekly
“A very solid release, "Evangenitals" presages excellences to come. They should catch on very quickly and will, I guarantee, get any festival up and dancing, with clapping hands, and a lot of smiling moon-eyes growing misty over the ballads.”
Mark S. Tucker - Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
“The Evangenitals. Not only do they win best band name, they're pretty darn cute in a pop/twang sorta way... The Evangenitals. I just want to say that name over and over again.”
Tony DuShane - San Francisco Chronicle
“I plan to spread the 'Everlovin' message in a land where it is desperately needed! ... I really do think you all are the best band doing it, in this outlaw city of Fante and Chandler and Noir. No one has been this exciting since Jane's Addiction played Scream.”
Reg - on Myspace
“What the hell kind of church service is this?”
Steve Kotler - LA Weekly
"Los Angeles musical gypsies the Evangenitals are either a deliriously obtuse experiment in musical realism, the outgrowth of serious medicative therapy or the benign side effects from a misspent youth. I am voting for all-of-the-above."
“The Evangenitals... sound sort of like a cross between Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks and L'il Kim. I bought their album.”
Steve Almond - Author of Candyfreak & Not That You Asked
"This group is filled with musical intelligence and raw talent at every angle..."
"Will the band name hold them back? Who knows and...who cares? The only thing that matters is the music. And in this case, these seven tracks kick ass."
"Cosmically country-fied freak folk at its finest."
Jeff Perkins - SeattlePi