Ready for Take-Off: Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters
Photos by Mary Sweeney
There are no sisters in Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters and no one is named Ester either, but the band is like one big, happy family. Actually the entire band is related, save one member, Brad Schubert (bassist and self-proclaimed IT guy). Guitarist Adam Eder and vocalist Lyndsay Evans are married. Keyboardist Roscoe Evans is Lyndsay’s brother and drummer Dusty Hay is the Evans’ cousin. All these folks hail from small towns in northern Illinois, just across the border, or from Grashot, Wisconsin.
Eder and Hay had been playing together in Nimbus, a band they had during their high school years. Lindsay Evans met Eder in 1998 and the two casually began writing songs. They married in 2003, decided to move to a bigger city and chose Madison. This began an extended period of casual songwriting that would later bear fruit.
The couple used to sit around and say things to each other like, “You’re sexy.” “No, you’re sexier.” “No you’re sexiest.” “No, you’re sexyiester.” “Hey, that would be a great name for a band,” Lyndsay said after one of these eyelash-batting exchanges.
Later, Eder was listening to the White Stripes’ debut album and misheard a line from “Stop Breaking Down”, thinking it went “All you pretty mama sisters breaking down.” Hey, that would be a great name for a band,” he thought.
When it came time to decide on a real band name, Lyndsay hated the Pretty Mama Sisters and Eder decided he didn’t like Sexy Ester so, in true lovebird fashion, they compromised and Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters was born.
The band held their first rehearsal in January of 2008 and by March they had worked up enough of Lyndsay’s and Eder’s songs to begin recording. They enlisted the services of Paul Schluter (Muzzy Luctin/Magic 7/Last Crack) and began work at Schluter’s Megatone Studios. The match turned out to be a productive one from both a musical and business standpoint. Schluter suggested the band join up with Next Level Productions, a management and promotions company that works with other area bands including Muzzy Luctin, Cudasigh, Gladstone, Sand and Faces for Radio. “Having Greg [Greg Martin of Next Level Productions] working for us made a big difference,” says Eder. “It especially helped us to get bookings, get CDs pressed, and especially with developing our appearance and stage presence.” The band also credits their photographer, Mary Sweeney, with developing a look.
Since then the band has ceased to work with Next Level Productions, although they are open to taking on new management, perhaps at a different level. “Our goal is to be making a living playing music,” says Hay. “Not be rich or anything, but just to be able to give up the 9-5 job and to be touring nationally.” The band does seem ready to make that commitment to their music. Right now they are concentrating on building up a following in the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison area and they are making inroads in each of these markets. They also enjoy doing some “going home” shows in their home towns. This gives them a chance to stretch out as these places want four hours of music from a single band. In these cases they get a chance to play cover material that they love doing.
Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters’ debut album, Get Your Love On [read the review here], was finished in late 2008 and has received a very positive response. The band has been gigging regularly and has built up a solid foundation of fans and peers. The album is a breezy and joyous listen and was the surprise feel-good record of the summer. The opening cut, “Madison Sonny and Cher” is a nod to Madison and life on East Gorham Street. [It gets my vote for Madison theme song.] That track sets the tone for what is a sound that harkens back to the late-sixties, when music was about discovery and acoustic guitars still mingled with electric guitars. As the band pointed out, this is where many of their influences come from; the Beatles, the Mamas & the Papas, Neil Young, etc.
“All of us have different influences,” says Lyndsay. “Especially with the addition of the new members; All those influences are brought together to make something new.”
Lyndsay’s vocals are what make the band stand out. She’s got a powerful voice and a healthy range. Though she only has high-school choir training, she displays impressive control and is able to embellish the catchy melodies with effective trills and slides. Their acoustic-guitar based material was soon augmented with drums and by the time they began recording, they had a serious edge that was creeping into the songs. Eder doubled on bass for the recording sessions and it wasn’t until after the album was done that they recruited Schubert and Roscoe.
“Our sound is definitely moving into a heavier, more rock sound,” Eder says. The band has about ten new songs, which all the band members co-write, some of which are now on their MySpace page. “We’ve definitely been using the electric guitars more,” Eder continues. “Although, when we get back to the studio, I’m sure we’ll add some layers of acoustic.” Actually, the band may be back in Megatone Studios as you read this, hoping to book more time in October and plan to get a new album out by early 2010. A new single was released in August.
The band’s live show is a testament to the beefed-up sound [read a live review here]. Hay is rock steady on the drums, really nailing the snare. Eder strums furiously, cuing his lead vocalist and urging the band forward. Lyndsay is simply sensational, contorting and wailing, leaving the fans in anticipation of her next move. The look is changing, too. These are rock-stars, fully fueled and ready for takeoff.
Eder is hesitant to take credit for being the origin of the original material, deferring instead to the work ethic of the band and the collaborative approach to putting their material together. But Lyndsay notes that, “Most of the songs originate with Adam’s parts. Everything I write is inspired by what he writes. Every song is different, though. Sometimes we’ll just be jamming and something will come out of that.”
“One of our best songs just came out of nowhere during a frustrating rehearsal,” Hay says. “We spent hours trying to work one tune out and then just turned to something we had started at the beginning of rehearsal.
“Probably the quickest and best song we’ve done,” adds Eder. “I was like ‘Play that thing you played earlier,’ and in fifteen minutes we had a great new song.”
Sexy Ester and the Pretty Mama Sisters have all the elements in place to blow up. If they can continue the pace, keep working on their arrangements and live show presentation, there is no telling how far they could go. One gets the feeling that, as an extended family, they’ve all got each other’s backs. They will need this if and when they get their opportunity to tour. Another thing is for sure; these guys love Madison. This is one band we may well be saying “Remember when…” about somewhere down the road.