Monday, February 15, 2010

The Back Pockets put juvenilia on blast

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge A CONVOLUTED AFFAIR: The Back Pockets
  • A CONVOLUTED AFFAIR: The Back Pockets

The Back Pockets' singer, banjo player and founding member, Emily Kempf, radiates with genuine excitement when explaining that she prefers to be called "Em!" (exclamation point included). It's easy to mistake the group's unplugged balance of juvenilia and ramshackle folk-and-noise drawl for an urban take on the hippie experience. But the Back Pockets' lo-fi musical theatrics are convoluted affairs.

"When I started this group, I wanted to direct a play and make it a creative event that involved everything that I can think of that is creative and awesome: music, art, theater, animation, graffiti, skateboarding – things like that," she says. "I didn't know I could sing, but people said I could. ... Then I thought, 'I need to get an instrument.' So I got a banjo because I don't like guitars. We kept getting shows, then it took over my life, and now it's all I want to do."

The so-called Beautiful Crappy Demo sold at the band's shows is a hodgepodge of 2 a.m. banter between its revolving cast of characters, live recordings and spontaneous musical outbursts. The recording quality of a song such as "Cannibal Erotica" is unapologetically primitive to the point where audio hiss and the room's activities are just as much a part of the song as the music itself. On stage, song lyrics are projected onto a sheet and accompanied by shadow skits. Audience interaction is always part of the show. The group's been known to arm guests with drumsticks, or record and loop snippets of crowd chatter.

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(Photo by Mrs. Morris)

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