Exquisite Corps and Cave Women – two of the Sacramento pop music scene’s most sophisticated groups – are releasing new records and putting on shows to celebrate them.
Exquisite Corps will mark the release of its second album, “Vignettes,” Saturday night Sept. 20 at Sacramento’s Witch Room. Cave Women’s EP “Second Chances” – follow-up to its 2012 self-titled debut album – arrives Wednesday , followed by a show the next night at Shine coffee house.
Here’s an update on each band:
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The group known for orchestral strings has become, out of equal parts necessity and artistic experimentation, more grooving and muscular.
Guitarist and lead singer Bryan Valenzuela started Exquisite Corps in 2010 with cello player Krystyna Taylor, later adding violinists Reylynn Goessling and Kristin Arnold, drummer Robby Dean and bass player Nathan Webb, the latter two of whom also played with Valenzuela in the band Call Me Ishmael.
The result was a more refined take on rock music – sometimes rollicking yet always elegant. But Taylor left Exquisite Corps, and now forms half the duo Calling Tempo. And Goessling and Arnold could not make it to every gig, Valenzuela said, especially when gigs were out of town.
“When we started playing out of town without the strings, we started going for this raw, rhythmic thing,” Valenzuela said during a joint interview with Dean last week.
The violinists appear on “Vignettes,” though the album as a whole is more bass-and-drum driven. Goessling and Arnold have become “rotating” rather than full-time band members, Valenzuela said. They still will perform with the band at special events such as the CD-release gig at Witch Room.
But Exquisite Corps is not just reducing. In news sure to hearten Allman Brothers fans, the group added a full-time organist (and pianist) Adam Rice.
“When the strings really couldn’t make shows anymore, we needed something to fill in the void,” Valenzuela said of the organ on the new record.
The songwriting process now differs from when Exquisite Corps started as a duo, Valenzuela said.
“We were fleshing out those songs from a smaller place,” Valenzuela said of the band’s self-titled 2012 debut album. “Fleshing out these (‘Vignettes’) songs from a full-band space kind of made it into what the record became, which is that groove thing. ... We were trying to base some of the tunes off drum beats and things like that, rather than coming from this really composed angle.”
“Vignettes” reflects “what people might see in L.A. or San Francisco” if they came to a show without the orchestral instrumentation, Valenzuela said.
But what about fans who fell in love with Exquisite’s strings?
“We expect a little bit of backlash, I guess, from people that are hardcore ‘Oh, I love the strings,’” Dean said. “Because they are not always going to be there.”
But according to Valenzuela, the band is winning over fans one prominent bass or organ line at a time. He said he encountered a fan who “was bummed” by a lack of bows in evidence as Exquisite Corps was setting up on stage as a four-piece. That changed once the band started playing its new material, Valenzuela said.
“There are still a lot of retaining elements – the vocals, and the songwriting is similar,” Valenzuela said of the four-piece Corps. “It is just a different take.”
To listen to Exquisite Corps’ new track “Caught in a Wave,” click here.
Cave Women, the 3-year-old pop, folk and jazz group composed mainly of California State University, Sacramento, music graduates, will not let a little thing like its members living in different cities tear it apart.
Flutist Kim Davis moved to Los Angeles after the band recorded its new EP, and multi-instrumentalist Emily Messick is about to head there for an internship. Drummer Vanessa Cruz, a founding and sometimes still-active Cave Woman, lives in New York.
Cruz does not appear on the new EP but will play at the Shine coffee house show, along with Davis, Messick, bassist Casey Lipka and guitarist Alicyn Yaffee.
“It is starting to get a little bit more difficult” to get everyone together, Lipka said last week during a joint interview with Yaffee. “But we are definitely committed to continuing the group and making things happen.”
This means playing with Cruz when she is available, and with drummers Mike Quigg or Elizabeth Goodfellow when she isn’t.
“We are like a Cave Women collective,” Lipka said. “We kind of shape, add and transform. But there are key people who always stay.”
Lipka, Yaffee, Davis and Messick all are singer-songwriters who contributed songs to the EP. The women sing lead on their own songs and contribute to the ethereal yet complex four-part harmonies that characterize the group.
The band is now “more cohesive” than it was on the last record, Yaffee said. After three years together, “we are used to each other’s concept and sound.”
As further evidence of the far-flung band members’ commitment to Cave Women, the group plans to tour next year.
To listen to Cave Women’s title track “Second Chances,” click here.