A Word With Leftover Cuties’ Shirli McAllen

Posted: May 15, 2012 by Esteban in Interview, Loud Music

       Leftover Cuties are the only band to ever come out of LA with a ukulele, stand-up bass, drums, and accordion line-up (The accordion player is also sick with a piano and trumpet). Despite whatever imagery that might conjure up for you, they create unique soundscapes and have been since 2009. So unique, in fact, that they decided to do a whole album of other people’s song in their own style. It’s called Departures and you can find it at places that sell music on May 15th. The lovely and talented Shirli McAllen, Leftover Cuties’ singer and all around sweetheart, tells me about it and then some.

 At what point did Leftover Cuties come to fruition? Was there a moment when you all realized you could take this band mainstream?

I think it was a few years ago when we were playing at farmers markets and street fairs and we would sell a ton of CDs. The crowd reaction made us realize that something special was going on. There is nothing better than that instant gratification of seeing a complete stranger like our music enough to buy a CD right then and there.

You have a new EP called Departures and its all cover songs. What made you decide to do a cover album?

We thought it would be fun to record a few of the covers we’ve been playing for a while. We liked seeing people’s reactions to the spins we put on those songs and we wanted to gift our fans with a small collection of them and include a few new surprises.

Where does the term, Departures, come from?

It’s our way of saying that we’ve departed from the original versions of these songs and made something of our own with them. It also expresses that we’ve departed temporarily from our own original music.

What was the process of choosing what songs got put into the album? Was there a large pool of songs you originally had in mind?

The easy choices were “You are My Sunshine” and “Poker Face” which we’ve been playing live for a long time and have become some of our fans’ favorites. “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor was suggested and voted on by our fans on Facebook, which was a great choice. “At Last” snuck in sort of last minute as a tribute to Etta James and to make all of our mamas happy. The last two took a while to pick out. We went through a ton of songs and finally I found the courage to dare with a Dylan song that I’ve always loved – “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. Coldplay’s “Trouble” caught my ear one day when I was driving, and I knew it would be killer to do something with it. I think these last two tracks are the biggest surprises on this EP, and they show a different side of the band that we are all excited to share.

How does this new album stylistically compare to your debut album?

I think we always sound like us no matter what we play, but we are always growing and experimenting. Being in the studio again felt really natural, we all felt more comfortable in that environment because of the experiences we’ve had in the past and I think that you can hear it in these songs. There’s a little bit more light heartedness when you are working on covers, we seem to be a bit more intense when we work on our own material and that can get in the way sometimes. We are very proud of our debut album, but we can’t wait to record the next one with this new ease we’ve grown in to.

How do you feel your style of music is influenced by your hometown of Los Angeles, California?

Most of us live by the beach in Venice. It’s a very relaxed neighborhood with a lot of creative energy.  I’ve heard people call our music “beach music”, and I guess that’s why. Aside from that, there’s a lot of competition in LA and there nothing like that to keep you on your feet. The city motivates us to get better and to maintain uniqueness at all times.

Do you have a particularly funny or shocking moment while recording this?

We were sort of laughing and joking the whole time but I can’t remember what it was about.  At some point Austin (ukulele) and Stuart (drums) had a large cider bottle each and they got pretty wild. Not really a shocker though.

What did you enjoy most about recording this album?

We all love working with our friend and producer Jake Sinclair. He put us all in the same room without any dividers and we recorded live. My favorite moment was when we recorded the Dylan song. It was delicate and magical, and it even made me tear up a little.

Have you considered doing a music video for any songs from Departures?

We did. We made a video for “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”. It will be up on YouTube May 16th.

Where can people here songs from Departures and upcoming tour dates? Do you have any songs available for free download?

You can buy a limited edition physical copy in our webstore at www.leftovercuties.com, and of course you can also find it on all the digital music stores like iTunes, Amazon, etc.  We are playing our EP release show this Wednesday 5/16 at Hotel Café where we will have the physical CDs available for sale. All other dates can be found of our website at www.leftoverCuties.com

Do you have original content lined-up for your next studio album? What direction are Leftover Cuties taking from here?

Yes, we’ve been working on some new songs that we can’t wait to record. The new album is going to have some gospel-ish and bluesy elements to it. We are planning on releasing a new album in the Fall this year and follow it with a tour.

When the tour is over and you’re done with band practice, what do you all respectively like to do in your spare time?

That’s when I write! But other than that I like riding my bike, reading, altering vintage clothes, catching up with friends. Mike (Horns/Piano) aka Smokey, likes to BBQ, garden, and loves skiing. Austin likes to snowboard and to work on a sunburn whenever possible. Stuart likes to hang with his beloved dog, Kingsley. He takes great pictures and is fascinated with old finds. He also loves watching drumming YouTube clips into the night.

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