Meet our friend Alex Catarinella. He’s like a mini Michael Musto who will be bringing you his picks from the emerging music scene every few weeks. You might have seen him on a recent Britney Spears fan special that appeared on MTV; he was the only one on the show who didn’t cry. Read on for his first report from the Lower East Side…
To say that L.A. indie pop band the bird and the bee left a lasting impression on me is an understatement: I first heard and got my dance on to the syrupy vocals of Inara George juxtaposed with the cheeky lyrics of “Fuckin’ Boyfriend” on a hot mess of a night last year at Darkroom, and I’ve never been the same (and no, that’s not just because I think I got roofied that night).
Thus, I was thrilled to meet Alex Lilly, former backup singer of tbatb (who insisted that my Darkroom story had “everything to do with the interview”), and lead vocalist of the electro-heavenly outfit Obi Best, who, as she excitedly pointed out, was recently featured on iTunes.
Backup singers turned superstars are a rare case, but they do exist. (Mariah, Sheryl Crow, and Luther Vandross, anyone?) Watching Lilly’s itty-bitty figure climbing out of a taxi lugging a huge guitar in her cutest bohemian garb (she later tells me her hot pink skirt was a 99 cent thrift purchase) I was skeptical. Lilly is adorably modest — unlike many annoying pretentious pseudo-hipster acts — but she’s not perfect. She first scored the batb backup gig after “you know, lightly stalking Inara George a bit.” Easy there Glenn Close.
So how does she like things now that she’s the one in the spotlight? “It’s easier to be touring with a band when you’re not the main…’star’ or whatever. It’s a different kind of pressure. You feel the pressure to make sure their stuff comes across but you also don’t have interviews the next day. You’re just singing for an hour and drinking.”
Lilly says her experience doing backup, which she says is “the beaten path, but it’s the proud path,” has made her a better singer — if a little nutty. “Before I go on stage I tell myself ‘you don’t fucking matter, no one cares about you,'” she explains. “Because then you just don’t care or you say you’re the best person. You kind of play psychological games with yourself.” What, no drinks? “I do get drunk, yes. I usually have a whiskey before I go on.”
Career goals for Obi Best? Modest, yet again: “I wanna be able to write music and make money doing it if I can to survive without having to cater too much…or ever again.” I witnessed their awesome set at Pianos in which Lilly’s angelic, jazzy vocals soared (Feist, who?) as she played the guitar and keyboard with her equally cute band members.
My faves: “Tropical Fish” and “Green and White Stripes”.
In short, she’s drunken waif with slightly stalker tendencies and an amazing set of pipes. I’m so straight for the insanely talented Alex Lilly and Obi Best that I’m reconsidering my former goal of becoming Mrs. Ed Westwick. I know!
– Alex Catarinella