With an ode to Gatsby-era debauchery and smoke-filled jazz joints, Leftover Cuties will steal your heart and thrill your soul. In between albums, the band decided to release an EP of covers to serve as an appetizer while they finish recording their sophomore effort. With Departures, the band picked six eclectic songs and put their own twist on them. Though they’re known for “Game Called Life,” the theme song from the Big C, the Shirli McAllen-led outfit is ready to show the world that the Cuties are here to stay. On the eve of the EP’s release, we had a chance to chat with McAllen, and here’s what happened.
What's more fun: playing house parties or venues?
Without a doubt: venues. I think that any artist who writes their own music would take a listening room over playing background music at a house party. My favorites are medium sized theaters. We recently played at the Warfield in San Francisco and at the El Rey in L.A., and we loved every minute of it. The audiences were so engaged and warm and it's so nice, especially as the front person, to know that people are there to listen and appreciate music.
Of the zillions of songs written in the world, how did you decide to cover these few that encompass the Departures EP?
"You are my Sunshine" and "Poker Face" have been a part of our live shows for a while and came to be some of the crowds' favorites. So those two were no-brainers when it came to picking the songs. "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor was actually suggested and voted on by our Facebook fans. When it came to picking the last few songs, it was much harder then we thought. We went through hundreds of songs looking for a one we knew we can make our own. Bob Dylan has been a huge inspiration in my life and I always wanted to sing one of his songs, so we decided to give "Don’t Think Twice, It's All Right" a shot, and it stuck. Coldplay's "Trouble" came up on my iPod one day when I was driving and I thought it would be an interesting choice. We couldn't be happier with the result, we are really proud of it.
How are songs by Bob Dylan and Lady Gaga transformed into Leftover Cuties songs? Is there a common link or was it completely random?
This EP is very eclectic. It's sort of strange to see Dylan's name next to Gaga's, I know, but the one thing linking all these songs is the way they we've transformed them. Our sound and approach is what make them all work together.
Is the EP going to serve as an appetizer to a future full-length that's in the process?
Yes, we are working on our second full length that we are planning to release in the Fall. We've been writing a lot and we just can't wait to get in the studio and lay the new songs down.
Are there plans for any gigs?
We are celebrating the EP release at Hotel Café on 5/16. Next, we are headed to San Diego's Soda Bar and there are a few more dates in the works.
What's more badass: playing the Hotel Cafe or at the Cosmopolitan in Vegas?
These are night and day, but they are both badass for different reasons. We just got back from Vegas and the Cosmopolitan was so fun! We played three nights in a row and we had a blast. It's cool because Vegas is the city of huge productions and it's nice to win a crowd with simply your music. We definitely gained some new fans out there. Hotel Café is a great listening room. It’s intimate and it's a great place for your fans to come see you and really hear you.
Which bandmember has the worst driving skills? What happened that led you to decipher this?
That would probably be me. I get nervous when I have people in the car with me and my driving skills go down the drain. Luckily, the guys always drive, so it's a non-issue. Out of the guys, Austin, our ukulele/bass player likes to take the most chances; he's sort of a wild card.
Who wins in a fight: Borat or The Dictator?
I have no idea. But I love Borat.
What do you hope fans get from this EP?
I hope they get a kick out of some songs and I hope they are moved by others. The song selection on the EP is not really a representation of the band's roots; rather the interpretation of the songs is more representative of where we come from and what we like. We hope our fans enjoy that.
Of all the places you have yet to play, what place is number one on your list and why?
Venue-wise, I would absolutely love to play at the Orpheum in LA, simply because its a beautiful old theater and I've seen great shows there. City-wise, we are all dreaming of Barcelona. It's such a beautiful city, and we'd get to eat tapas every day and play for Spanish fans.