Decidedly not “striving for mainstream commercial success,” the married members of local drum-and-guitar duo The Sawtelles just seem to do whatever they like, and that accomplishes a neat trick: it makes you feel like you can, too.
Dan Mims- Daily Nutmeg
The Sawtelles know how to show some old ladies a good time
You might have heard of this group where the guy plays angular electric guitar and sings poetic songs in a high voice, while a woman drummer bangs away behind him. You have? Well, here’s your chance to see them then, on the 6th, playing old favorites and unrecorded future classics. That’s right, Peter and Julie Riccio, otherwise known as the Sawtelles are coming to Middletown. You were expecting somebody else?
I hope not. If you’re at all like me, you might have found that other couple who play together a bit annoying. I’m talking about the coy way they describe their relationship, the dude’s annoying yelps, that sort of stuff. The Sawtelles write better songs. They cop to being married. Plus, Peter won’t punch you in the face if he thinks you’re disrespecting him.
“One of the things that separates us from lots of local bands,” says the, uh, chatty, Mr. Riccio, “is that we will play anywhere. We don’t have that snooty artistic thing that only allows you to play at certain venues. We play at road races and farmer’s markets. Plus, very often, the less chic, the better they pay.”
Riccio also mentions that you can make fans for life at the strangest of these places.
“We once played at this huge outdoor gig in Coventry,” he says, still giggly about the show. “They were selling produce here, they were doing Civil War exercises over there. They put Julie and me over by these 60-year-old tea ladies. I wasn’t sure if we could even be heard over the fifes and drums playing over the military skirmishes. We did our set. One of the tea ladies came up to us as we were packing and said, ‘Oh, I’m so glad they had you play over by us this afternoon. You really made the afternoon pleasant.”
The tea ladies have good taste. This Connecticut-based, husband-and-wife duo make shimmering, eerie, entrancing pop music. If their latest CD, Dime Museum (recorded at home for “about a buck”) is any indication, this Velvets-leaning band, with traces of Television wafting through their sound, are poised for a nation of tea ladies to get down. Peter plays mostly rhythm guitar, while Julie accompanies him with light, sophisticated drumming. More Gene Krupa than Tommy Lee. In terms of manners, too — they’re both really pleasant — they are nothing like that other couple who wear red and white all the time. Plus, considering how attractive songs like “Roman Holiday” are — think punk jazz, with ethereal harmonies — Peter and Julie are refreshingly modest about their music and their goals
I’ve actually had fans come up to me and say, ‘You know I saw you a couple of times and I was intrigued, but still sort of scratching my head. Then, I saw you a fourth time and I totally got it!’ Those are the kinds of fans you have forever.”
Personally, I loved them the first time. I think you may, too. So check out the Sawtelles live and fall in love with our nation’s other great duo. You need more proof? Then, tell me: Have you ever met a tea lady you couldn’t trust?
Indie pop makes Cafe 9 a foggy paradise
The bitter cold and emminent rain seemed manufactured to go along with the melodic indie music that was performed last night at Cafe 9, located at 250 State St. in New Haven. Cafe 9, winner of the 2009 Advocate Reader’s Poll for “Best Place to See Local Music”, was host to The Sawtelles (a guitar/drummer duo from CT) the Chariots of Tuna (a four piece from Brooklyn), and the headliners Death to New England (three piece from CT). The show was presented by Tweefort, a music promotion company that brings indie pop into the New Haven area. The openers, The Sawtelles, have a timid sound that fills the room, an impressive feat for a band with only two members. The songs were simple but beautiful; droning and melodic, invoking memories of lonely drunken walks back to the car while you recycle all of your loves and hates. The subtle emotion of the lead singer seemed purposely fleeting, to be forgotten within the hour and replaced with grocery lists. They were very relaxed onstage, like they were playing in their living room to close friends, content just to be there and that someone was listening …
The Bones of Rock ‘n’ Roll
The Sawtelles and Al Howard show Javapalooza just how little is needed to really rock
Shortly after I began writing Local Motion, I met a group called the Sawtelles. They bowled me over not only with their musical talent, but also with their sheer enthusiasm to introduce me to other musicians in the state. Musically, they like to call themselves “nerve rock,” but I tend to think of it like this: while most rock groups go for the louder/ faster/ harder angle, the Sawtelles strip it down to the absolute bare minimum you need to still be rock ‘n’ roll. Their “nerve” is elegant minimalism. All elbows and cheekbones, they are; and the wonderful thing is that there are no secrets, no cards up their sleeves, because they’re not trying to out-cool you.
Proof in point is their new disc Here Is…, out on local label Thin Man Music. Husband-and-wife duo Julie and Peter Riccio played Here Is… in its entirety on Saturday night at Middletown’s lovely Javapalooza. The new material is bolder and more melodically varied than the last album’s — and I loved their last album. Peter’s fingers paw anti-chords from his guitar. His voice is Neil Young-ish, reedy but not nearly as grating. Julie’s timekeeping is whispering and gentle (partly because she excludes a kick drum from her kit, opting for toms, snare and cymbals only).
But the real treat came right at the end of their second set, when two curious high-schoolers walked in to Javapalooza. “What’s ‘nerve rock?'” they asked Julie, who had just stepped down from the stage. Rather than try to explain it, the Sawtelles went back up on stage shortly thereafter, and fired off three songs just for the latecomers. They ran down a sizzling rendition of their song “Three Cheers.” It took on a whole new attitude at a faster tempo: urgent, punky, sexy. And voila — the two dudes walked out with a CD and a grin. The Sawtelles walked away with two new fans. And I walked away convinced that there are few other groups of artist-entertainers in Connecticut with such big hearts.
Along for the ride was Al Howard, one of the Sawtelles’ partners in creative crime from the New Haven scene. His songs were stuffed with wit so dry that a stray ember might have lit a forest fire: “I made a peace sign for the President / He was dead / He had to find the top of his head.” His songs were a feast for the eyes. Howard’s patterned, deliberate delivery gave listeners time to envision each of his lyrical paintings. “Al’s, like, this Zen songwriter,” Peter Riccio whispered in my ear during Howard’s first set. And like the Zen painters who try to wring the most meaning from the fewest possible strokes, Howard left the bulk of his work to his listeners. What an excellent complement to the Sawtelles. The night’s music was small and limber, spare, designed to stir people instead of looking or sounding flashy. Sometimes less is more.
Hartford Advocate (CT)