Review Fix Exclusive: Q & A With Leftover Cuties Lead Singer Shirli McAllen
Review Fix: What would you say makes the band different from other bands?
Shirli McAllen: I think we have a lucky combination of talents in the band that allows us to shine through songwriting and a sound we can call our own.
Review Fix: I love your voice. What you say makes you stand out from other vocalists?
McAllen: I guess I have my own style of singing that I’ve developed through the years, and I think the fact that I’m not a native American (speaker) makes my phrasing choices a bit different.
Review Fix: What exactly is noir pop music?
McAllen: Well, when we use that term to describe our music we are trying to say that our music is influenced by classic music, but is also modern in its pop sensibilities and originality. It’s that combination of old and new.
Review Fix: When was the second you knew you wanted to sing?
McAllen: I wanted to sing and was singing since I can remember myself. I was a walking radio when I was little and it would drive my mom nuts because I didn’t have a great voice as a kid, to say the least.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite song on the album to sing? Why?
McAllen: I like singing all of them, but if I had to pick one I would say Movin’ On is my favorite. it’s sort of a mantra-like song, and it puts me in a good head space. It also sits at a very enjoyable place in my vocal range.
Review Fix: What one song you love, but can’t sing because it’s not in your range?
McAllen: Most of the music I love is not extremely challenging in a vocal range sort of way, but more so in a tone and performance sort of way. You can always change the key of a song to helps with range, but there are songs I can’t sing simply because the original is too good to touch. Like anything Nina Simon sings. “Feeling good” is a great example for a song I love but wouldn’t dare to touch.
Review Fix: What was SXSW like for Leftover Cuties?
McAllen: It was so much fun. We were running around from one gig to another and even found time to play on the street for a little while which was one of the highlights of our visit. It felt really good to be apart of all that creative energy. It’s easy to get lost in the sea of bands out there and feel very small, but we managed to avoid that sort of thinking, the response was great and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I love Austin; it’s such a great city.
Review Fix: Please tell us about the forthcoming all-covers EP. How did you select the songs to cover?
McAllen: Yes, we are releasing a cover EP titled Departures on May 15th. There are a few songs on it that we’ve been playing live for a while now and at this point almost feel like our own. “Poker Face” was one suggested by a friend a while back. At first we weren’t thrilled about the idea but once we started to work on it we knew we were on to something cool. We managed to put such a spin on it that it became one of our favorite covers to play. “You Are My Sunshine” is another one that we are very proud of and almost always include in our live sets. “Fidelity” by Regina Spektor is a newer one that was suggested and voted on by our Facebook fans. Generally picking a song can be a very long process, we went through so many songs and ultimately what stuck is the songs that had lyrics that moved us and a melody that we knew we could do something interesting with and make it our own. I think the biggest surprises on this EP are Coldplay’s “Trouble” and Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”, They both show a new side of the band and we’re all really excited to share that.
Review Fix: Are you in contact with any of the artists that you cover?
McAllen: I wish. It would be a dream to know any of these artist personally, especially Bob Dylan. We did get a shout out from Lady Gaga on Twitter about our cover of “Poker Face.” She even added a link to our YouTube clip of it- that was really sweet.
Review Fix: What bands / singers have been the most influential on you growing up
McAllen: Growing up in Israel, I listened to a lot of Israeli music, and as a teenager I was really into rock bands like the Cranberries and Radiohead. But the one artist I’ve been the most inspired by is Bob Dylan. He is simply brilliant. As an adult I listen to so much different music and different artists inspire me at different times. Surprisingly to some people, I didn’t grow up listening to classic music. Oldies is something I got into after starting Leftover Cuties, when I heard people’s comments on our sound. In a way I’m really glad it happened this way because I could appreciate this music so much more then I would have as a kid.
Review Fix: How do you think the band can improve? Pretend you were your harshest critic.
McAllen: Unfortunately, I am my hardest critic. I would like to see us switch instruments more and really showcase the versatility we have in the band, we are definitely going to work on that. I also think there are a few sides of the band we haven’t shown yet. The cover EP is a step towards that, but I’m excited to see how that developed even more on our next album.
Review Fix: Where do you see the band in five years?
McAllen: In five years, I see the band headlining world tour with at least 3 albums behind us and one more on the way. Fingers crossed.
Review Fix: How do you want to be remembered?
McAllen: I’d like to be remembered as an inspiring songwriter, and as someone that brought joy to people through music.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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