Some bands create music that you want to listen to with your headphones on at night, sitting back, closing your eyes and focusing all your attention on the intricacies and subtle melodies that come up. Penny Louis fits this category wonderfully. With touches of keyboards, strings and tight, almost jazzy guitar lines, this western Queens group writes songs with many layers to unveil.
The five-piece has slowly evolved since its first two members, vocalist/keyboardist Pauline and percussionist MC, started jamming together in 2012. The two were friends before they were collaborators, a situation that was true for most of the group’s origin. MC was friends with a violinist, May, who joined Penny Louis. While John, the bassist, discovered the band through Facebook videos in early 2013, he too had run into the band when they played a restaurant during his dinner. Guitarist Nikholai is the latest addition to Penny Louis.
For Pauline, Penny Louis challenged her both on stage and off. She said she struggles with her stage presence during live concerts as well as with creating a sound that stands out from the thousands of bands already in existence.
“Personally, it would be the parts where I’m not singing or playing the guitar or keys. My band would tell you that I was horrible at talking to the audience and outside of thank you’s and how are you’s, I’m just pretty much speechless,” she said. “Another thing would be creating an original sound that sets you apart from other musicians who are already out there.”
Despite these challenges, Pauline said she loves playing live and getting the audience’s attention with the band’s songs, no matter how the crowd chooses to experience and enjoy the music.
“Ironically, I do love being on the stage and singing my songs, swaying my hips a little, nodding my head, closing my eyes and feeding off of the crowd’s energy,” she said. “Whether they’re dancing like a looney or as quiet as a church dweller, it’s amazing to have an audience.”
Penny Louis also pushed Pauline to write more often, using time at work on the train to create sounds in her head that she can bring back to the band for them to build on.
The group is working on its debut EP/album, a process that has been both frustrating and inspiring for Pauline. She compared the nature of writing and recording a song to an oil painting. The final product is not discovered or noticeable at the beginning of the road.
“I have learned so much because of it. I am more attentive, I am more open-minded and I can pinpoint what I wanted to add or tweak,” she said. “I also think that the band improved after we started recording – we are more aware of what we are playing and how it would sound together.”
Penny Louis will play at Choga Restaurant in Manhattan on Sept. 24 and The Bitter End in Brooklyn in October. For the latest from Penny Louis, visit www.wearepennylouis.com.