How does one sing pop songs in times of despair? Let Philly’s Louie Louie be your guide. It was a rainy Wednesday in November the day the band rolled in to record its Key Studio Session. Not just any rainy Wednesday in November; it was the day after the 2016 presidential election, and there was an unsettled, uncertain stillness in the air.
To be perfectly honest, it was such a weird day that I wasn’t 100% sure that the retro rock four-piece was even going to show up as I arranged microphone stands and headphone amps around the studio. Ultimately, a knock at the door came, and upon answering, frontwoman Emily Robb seemed just as grateful to see me as I was to see the band; as she told me, they weren’t 100% sure that I would even be there.
What followed was something kind of magic: Louie Louie used the moment to harness the transformative power of their music, tearing across four songs from their upcoming debut LP Friend of a Stranger and pouring the collective emotions of the room into their set. In this context, the refrain “I know I’m strong, I’ll get along” on the doo-wop leaning gem “After Me” took on a new meaning, and in a video of that performance, you can see the bold determination and confidence in Robb’s delivery. This will not hold me down, it seems to say. Not even close.
With Robb joined by her sister Jenna on drums, Leslie Burnette on keys, and Emily K. Eichelberger on bass — and everybody pitching in on vocals — Louie Louie’s songs channel the pure pop innocence of another era. Of course I mean the innocence of the 50s and 60s, the era of rock and roll’s infancy and the era these songs play off of, but I’m also talking about the bandmates’ own childhood, where they probably got their first exposure to this style of rock from older relatives.
But there’s more at play here than nostalgia. A song like “Do It (In Your Mind)” finds the women of Louie Louie putting a contemporary feminist spin on girl-group pop songs, taking a 21st century view on young love and gender roles. And then, the quiet storm of “Drums Not Guns”; the title says it all, and there could not have been a more appropriate way to close their performance that night.
Listen to Louie Louie’s entire Key Studio Session below, and catch the band live on Friday, February 10th at PhilaMOCA for its record release day party. More information can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Get Friend of a Stranger here, via Born Losers Records.
Louie Louie, The Key Studio Sessions