As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 14 – New York-inspired (Dec. 2020)
When three singer-songwriters came together to perform at a neighborhood bar and the crowd response was so overwhelming, the three came together to form VickiKristinaBarcelona. Rachelle Garniez, Amanda Homi, and Terry Radigan make up the power trio creating reimagined versions of songs from the Tom Waits catalog.
With three-part harmonies, the trio’s instrumentation pulls together the sounds of an eclectic group of instruments from electric and acoustic guitars and banjitar to the accordion, kazoo, harmonica, a slew of percussion instruments, and several others.
How was the band formed, and what inspired the name?
The group was formed for fun, inspired by a love of harmony singing and a cool hang. We started playing for other singer-songwriters at a regular gig in a neighborhood bar, and as people really seemed to dig the concept and sound, we decided to buckle down and get serious.
The name is a sly wink and a little twist on the Woody Allen film title—we spell Kristina with a K. We’ve appropriated the story of three women in the throes of painful romantic entanglements; in our version, the women come out on top.
How would you describe your music?
There’s a Global Americana flavor, centered around guitar and acoustic sounds while simultaneously incorporating styles of music from every corner of the globe—after all, America is indeed a country of immigrants. In addition to swampy blues and Appalachian Back Porch, we have a lot of fun adapting the tunes to different grooves—Jamaican Dancehall, Bachata, Cajun Zydeco, Klezmer Gypsy, Belly Dance rhythms, and Irish Fiddle tunes are just some of the approaches we’ve chosen. Tom Waits likes to shout out to citizens of the world in his lyrics, so it’s not exactly a stretch to explore those avenues.
Speaking of Tom Waits, you’ve been reimagining songs from his catalog. What drew you to his music and share with us some of your favorite tunes.
As songwriters with extremely different styles, we’re able to find common ground in the Waits catalog. Each of us is especially drawn to stories and characters, a definitive aspect of his songs. We tend to gravitate individually toward specific songs; it’s an organic process. We divide our repertoire into songs that either feature one person singing lead or that we split verses on or sing entirely in harmony. It’s hard to play favorites.
Rachelle: “Innocent When You Dream” has sentimental value, “Jersey Girl” is just plain romantical.
Amanda: “Tango Till They’re Sore” reminds me of a cinematic Roma romp. (I love the rooster.) “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” we tried a couple of different arrangements, and nothing felt right until Rachelle suggested a Zydeco feel. It was extra fun for me to play a washboard vest and Cajun triangle.
Terry: “Soldier’s Things” and “Gun Street Girl.” The communal storytelling in our own unique voice is one of the things I love most about VKB.
Tell us about the instruments each of you plays.
Terry provides the consistent element of the group sound with her signature Gibson ES-140 riffs. She bops, twangs, and gets real sweet without being overly sentimental. Rachelle alternates between accordion and banjitar, adding the element of improvisation and drama as well as special effects, including kazoo, bottle blowing, concertina, harmonica, and assorted bells and whistles. In addition to rocking a custom cocktail-style drum kit, Amanda takes full advantage of her deep collection of percussion instruments and knowledge of rhythms from around the globe. She plays Brazilian shakers, finger cymbals, and Indian hand drums, to name a few, and also plays harmonium, alternately adding soulful drones and unexpected scenarios.
With the shutdown of live performances during the pandemic, what has the band been doing to stay in touch with fans and keep your music alive?
Truthfully, it’s time for us to step up our internet presence! We had one wonderful outdoor gig at a festival in New Jersey in August; since then, we’ve been mostly hunkering down, getting a fresh batch of Waits songs together to record. We’re setting up a performance space in a top-secret location to shoot videos of us playing, which we’ll be sharing with fans on various platforms. It’s not meant to be a live-streaming situation, as the “pajama-concert” mode isn’t especially appealing to us. We’re in the process of figuring out some creative ways to connect.
Photo by Charged.FM