Zoe Boekbinder opens a chapter of clever covers at Paper Wing.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Zoe Boekbinder is a tad bit nervous about returning to the Paper Wing Theatre for Thursday’s performance with opening act Dakota Belle Witt. The last time she played there was five years ago with her sister in the theatrical burlesque duo, Vermillion Lies. It was their first show.
“It’s going to be strange playing there without Kim,” she says.
After several years of local success the sisters parted ways, musically, to embark on separate projects.
So far, Zoe Boekbinder’s done well for herself in the solo capacity: Her 2009 debut, Artichoke Perfume, was well-received, and she continues to develop her chops and creativity. She’s unafraid to take unconventional risks, which is what made Vermillion Lies such a sensation. Her new EP, Over the Top, is exactly that: An unpredictable collection of five tracks – including a couple of a cappella covers of international pop stars – that are not only expertly performed but also thoughtfully arranged and, at times, downright endearing.
Everyone’s experienced the phenomenon that led Boekbinder to cover Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.”
“That song was stuck in my head for a year,” she admits.
So the vivacious musician decided to make a simple recording on her computer, just for fun, of her singing the Beyonce hit. Boekbinder even took it a step further and made a video to go along with her recording and posted the piece on YouTube.
“After I saw that [the video] got a ton of views I thought I should keep going in that direction,” Boekbinder says.
That’s when she had the idea to make a covers-themed EP. Boekbinder’s takes on both tunes – the other is Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” – aren’t straightforward facsimiles: Her voice loops a melody in the background while she sings, giving it an abstract but infectious quality.
“It kind of just happened because I have loop pedals,” she says. “At first, I thought I would cover ‘Single Ladies’ on guitar but then I got the pedals and it seemed like a more original way to do it.”
Boekbinder took the cover theme in another direction with the EP’s final track. In fact, she isn’t even on the song. It’s a 1954 recording of her grandfather, Bobbie, singing Hughie Cannon’s “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey?” It’s raw and gravelly and has a quality reminiscent of an old Hank Williams recording.
“My grandfather is such an incredible person with so many stories,” Boekbinder says. “One day I was at his house and he said cheekily, ‘I was a singer too.’”
Her grandfather led her into the guestroom, where the stereo is housed, and put on a cassette of him singing the early 1900s ragtime ditty.
“I almost died; it was so amazing,” Boekbinder recalls with a chuckle. “It was the cutest thing ever.”
Then and there Boekbinder knew she wanted to use the recording on her album, but never told her grandparents about it.
“At the beginning of this last tour, I gave them the CD knowing that they would immediately go into the same room and listen to the whole thing,” she says. “When the last song was on I peeked in the door at them while they were listening and after it was over, [my grandfather] cracked this little smile.”
Unorthodox moves like that show us Boekbinder’s quirky sentimental spirit is just as potent as her talent. That’s why we keep listening.