The dashing retro packaging of the new, live, self-named and self-produced double-CD/DVD by The Goodies! whiffs strongly of a rich future for the band.
Then again, the trio of singer/guitarist Holiday Childress, bassist Patrick Kelly and drummer Michael Allen has been busy not making it big for more than 10 years now.
Tricked out in cabaret attire, the band theatrically blends glam, funk, punk and jazz into songs with hard hooks and diabolical energy. Lyrics discuss masochism, credit cards and a serial-killer butcher — always intriguing topics.
So it seems odd that a group with such fierce charisma and downright originality would be so long denied a national following.
“We’ve never really pushed it in New York or L.A.,” neo-vaudevillian Childress said recently, talking with Xpress from the home he shares with his wife and 4-year-old son.
“We’ve always wanted to make it,” admits the wax-mustachioed singer, an old-world soul with twinkling eyes (think of a carnival entrepreneur who’s just acquired a three-headed walrus). “It’s just never been the right place/right time, or the right recording.”
At least finding the right players has never been a problem.
“It’s always been a family thing,” insists Childress. “Mike and I have played together since we were 11.” The inspiration, he says, began with a tennis racket and a trash can.
But after high school, glam set in like a paisley plague. Childress became the front man and Allen the drummer for Sik Dik (out of Atlanta), the ultimate spandex-clad tribute band. Their high-school friend, Robin Fink, took up the guitar position (Fink would later go on to play with Nine Inch Nails, and is presently working with Guns N’ Roses).
“We were taking the glam-feminine persona to the weird part,” remembers Childress. “We had nose pierces … goth girlfriends and tattoos.”
Despite the plastic attention, Childress began to crave his old confidante. “I wanted to play the guitar again,” he says. “I had a burning desire to get back to the source.” The band, he says, “was like a big art project.”
And the crucial stroke came courtesy of Liza Minnelli’s swan song — the high-glitz, Oscar-decorated film version of Cabaret. In particular, the movie’s notorious master-of-ceremonies character.
“I rented Cabaret one evening and I totally flipped out on Joel Grey,” Childress reveals. “We decided that’s what we wanted our image to be — a gypsy/vaudevillian style.”
Allen and Childress then recruited Patrick Kelly for bass duties, and the shows (beginning in 1993 and based in Atlanta) immediately drew favor for their debauchery, carnival-tainted lyrics and unlikely instrumental prowess.
Real life, though, became an issue in 1999 — Allen went to Hollywood, Childress prepared for becoming a father, and Kelly went back to school. So the band took an extended break — until fan requests spurred them to do a reunion show in Asheville in 2000.
The reunion is four years old now, but distance remains a hindrance. Childress lives in Asheville, away from his mates, who are both back in Atlanta. Marketing woes also play a major part in the band’s lack of widespread success. The Goodies!’ blessing — and curse — is their utter lack of a genre.
“Record labels are always wondering how they’re going to sell something,” laments Childress. “Marketing is usually about selling one identifiable product.”
But, fat new album aside, the prime indicator for The Goodies!’ future success may be confidence — a trait the group struts in spades.
“We were never worried that our band wouldn’t work,” says Childress. “We had no doubt that what we were doing was killer.”
He pauses, then adds with a rueful grin: “All we’re concerned about is world domination.”
[Freelance music writer Hunter Pope is based in Asheville.]
The Goodies!’ CD/DVD-release party for their eponymous new live album starts at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, at Stella Blue (31 Patton Ave.). The Rebelles and Taylor Davis Jazz Trio will open, and an after-show party will be held in Stella Blue’s new downstairs space. Tickets cost $15 (the show is a benefit for Manna Food Bank). For details, call 236-2424.