When you hear that there’s a Celtic music band from County Kern called Banshee in the Kitchen, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve somehow been transported to Ireland. But nope, this is all going on right here in California. These four women are taking traditional Celtic music and adding a contemporary edge — a shot of unapologetic “now” to compliment the “then.” They play Boulevard Music this week, so we spoke to the band (collectively) about what we can expect…
CULVER CITY NEWS: When did Banshee in the Kitchen form, and what was the initial mission? How did you all meet?
Banshee in the Kitchen: Well, we’re all from basically the same place, so it was pretty inevitable we’d eventually meet. Jill (Egland) and Brenda (Hunter) were in different Celtic bands when they met back in the late 90s. A few years later, they formed a a trio with guitarist Mary Tulin. Kat (Edmonson), a guitar player and singer forever, took a hammered dulcimer lesson from Brenda at some point, and so when Mary retired six years ago, Jill and Brenda asked Kat to join. Kris (Martin) and Jill played together in their high school orchestra, and Kris was in a band with Kat. It took about a year after Kat’s recruitment to convince Kris to join, too.
Describe the sound and style…
We’ve seen the pendulum really swing from one extreme to the other in Celtic music. When BitK started, we had a hard time getting into festivals—we weren’t considered traditional enough, because we messed with the tunes too much, changing keys, reversing sections, adding interludes, improvising little bits and pieces… And now that festival music has become more rock-based, we’re considered too traditional. Or, rather, we would have, if we hadn’t begged Kris to switch from stand-up to electric base. We’ve also added a ton of songs about drinking and sex, so that helps, too. Our sound depends on what instruments we are playing. Jill plays the accordion, flute and penny whistle. Brenda switches between the fiddle and hammered dulcimer. Kat can choose between two guitars, three tunings, and a bouzouki. Whether Kris opts for acoustic or electric bass also makes a big difference.
Are there other like-minded musicians/bands in the LA area, or are you kinda out there on your own?
You’d be surprised how many Celtic bands there are in County Kern. Seriously. We even have a weekly session in Bakersfield. We’re the only all-girl Celtic band in the area, though. And our sound—the fact that we’re a non-trad trad band—makes us different.
Where else do you normally perform?
Well, since we’ve all had day jobs up until recently (Kat just retired from teaching), we’ve had to stay in the region. We perform all up and down California and in the southwest. We like doing festivals—especially the ones where we get to teach workshops—but we really love small venues like house concerts, where the audience is really engaged.
Best show to date? And worst?
We have specific criteria when it comes to ranking shows. Top of the list: how was the sound, and was there fabulous food. One of our favorites has to be Boulevard Music – no… we aren’t just saying that! Mike the Sound Guy is a genius, and actually makes it as lovely an experience for us on the stage as he does for the audience. The Live Oak Festival might top the list for gastronomic experiences, although Sonora’s food vendors (they have crepes) are right up there, too. Worst—hard to say. There was the time our sound was channeled through a karaoke machine. Or the time the sound guy fell asleep in his car during the break and just never came back. Or the time it was 105 degrees and we virtually left puddles where we were playing on the patio.
Do you have albums/singles/CDs available?
Heck yeah. We have six CDs available to date, and we’re working on our seventh. You can find them on iTunes and CD Baby.
What can we expect from this show?
We know you will be entertained! We certainly will be—we totally crack ourselves up.
Banshee in the Kitchen plays at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 23 at Boulevard Music; 4316 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City; 310-398-2483; $15.