"I grew up watching ‘I Love Lucy.’ I love that show. She’s always coming up with brilliant schemes for Ricky and herself," Sabrina Ellis, of Austin-based pop band Bobby Jealousy, said last week. Ellis and her husband, writing partner and bandmate Seth Gibbs, were talking about raising money for their second album, "The Importance of Being Jealous," which they’ll release with a Thursday show at Red 7. (Also in the band: Brian Patterson and Adam Harlow; guitarist/vocalist Mark Stoney left the group last year.)
Instead of going to a popular crowd-funding site such as Kickstarter, Ellis and Gibbs went straight to fans via social media and threw out a simple pitch: We’ll write a song for you. They interviewed interested parties, some for two hours, about their lives. The result was a "supplementary album" that they’ll sell alongside "The Importance of Being Jealous." They’re calling it "Philanthropy."
The commissioned songs cover a range of subjects (the songs cost $100). One of their customers commissioned three songs — one about his fiance, one about his ex-wife, and the last about the house he shared with her. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the song about his ex-wife offered a positive message. "Nobody I guess is that invested in negative emotions to spend money," Ellis said.
Not that they are opposed to going negative. "We could! If anybody out there is really angry, we’re going to to do this again," Ellis said.
"There was another guy who wanted us to write about his man cave. He wanted a theme song to play," Gibbs said.
"We actually wrote about him and how awesome he is," Ellis added.
For Ellis and Gibbs, who have written personal and intense songs about love and relationships, it was a challenge to write from another person’s perspective. "We had to feel OK saying some things in songs that we wouldn’t normally say, using voices that are not ours," Gibbs said.
When they do use their own voices, on "The Importance of Being Jealous," the band shines. Bobby Jealousy’s first album, "A Little Death," was a mash of different styles — big, over-the-top glam, garage rock, pop ballads. "The Importance of Being Jealous"continues in a similar vein. And, like the first album, the songs on "Importance" are at once grave and funny, dramatic and hard to ignore.
They begin with "Falling On My Face," with its rock opera vocals; the album works its way into a couple more rootsy songs before returning to big arrangements and strings. The sweet shuffle of "25 Years" finds them singing alongside one another. On the twangy (and slightly NSFW) ballad "Fall Asleep In Your Arms," they sing to one another. Both work well in contrast with songs including "Shipwrecked," which soars with strings and existential lyrics.
If the country-influenced songs are different than what the group offered on its first album, they’re not necessarily new territory, at least for Gibbs. Before dating Ellis, he was writing country songs, "a whole album of sad country songs," he said.
Ellis said the music helped spark their relationship: "He had written this romantic album about getting his heart ripped out. I was working at Casino El Camino and was in the kitchen by myself all day. I would listen to this country album all day long until 5:30."
Bobby Jealousy play Thursday at Red 7 with Shapes Have Fangs, Bad Lovers and Roky Moon and the Kiss Goodnight.
South by Havana. A group called UnBlock the Rock is raising money to help bring Cuban metal band Escape from Havana to South by Southwest (the group already has been invited by the festival). A note on the group’s website explains that "much like the music and history of Buena Vista Social Club brought Cubans and Americans closer together, UBTR is working to break down fake walls erected by both governments through the power of metal."
The group is selling a compilation, "The Red Album," featuring music from Escape and EyeHateGod, among others. All proceeds go to legal fees, visa processing and travel costs for the band.
Solo Maines. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks will release her solo debut, "Mother," on May 7. The album was co-produced by Maines and Ben Harper. According to a news release, the album is "heavily influenced by the more rock-based, edgy and intense sound of title track, and Pink Floyd cover, ‘Mother.’"
Bushwick Bill. After playing Emo’s East a couple weeks ago, Bushwick Bill of Geto Boys has been showing up at Austin clubs. First, video surfaced of the rapper sitting in at the Continental Club Gallery. Then, on Wednesday night he stopped by Beerland, where he got up on stage and free-styled.
Garyfest. In addition to performing at every music festival on the planet and jamming with the Stones, Gary Clark Jr. is now launching his own music fest, which is set to take place a week after SXSW in San Antonio. The Maverick Music Festival will be Saturday, March 23, in San Antonio’s Maverick Plaza. Clark, the Toadies, Girl in a Coma, Arum Rae and Henry + the Invisibles will perform.
Sound City at SXSW. In an interview on the Nerdist podcast, Dave Grohl said that the Sound City Players "want to do SXSW" (Grohl has already been announced as keynote speaker for the music conference). The group, formed to promote Grohl’s "Sound City" documentary, which will screen at SXSW Film, includes Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear, Rick Springfield, Stevie Nicks, Rick Nielsen, Corey Taylor and John Fogerty. Taylor and Fogerty have also said they plan to attend SXSW.
In other SXSW news, Richard Thompson will offer a "songwriter session" on March 15.
Billy Bragg, Buddy Miller, Foxygen, Dawes, Eric Burdon, the Allah-Las and the Zombies are among the bands that will play the four-day Paste party at the Stage on Sixth during SXSW.
Old Settler’s lineup settled. The Old Settler’s Music Festival, which takes place April 18-21 in Driftwood, has announced its full lineup. Michael Franti, Jerry Douglas, Del McCoury, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Fred Eaglesmith are among the performers.