*** THE DEFINITION ***
evangelical: characterized by ardent or crusading enthusiasm; zealous.
genitals: the organs of creation; the sexual organs; the private parts.
*** THE SHORT TRANSMISSION ***
The Evangenitals were once a fictitious band - a fib on a phony website born to amuse ourselves and maybe a few friends. On a whim, founders Juli Crockett, Lisa Dee, and Brett Lyda (who all worked at the same sex toy company in L.A.) brought the ghost to life and debuted a handful of "hillbilly truck-stop lullabies" for Arlo's open mic at the infamous Mr T's Bowl. The crowd response was fanatical and the path was then clear. Remarkably, in just a few short months the Evangenitals emerged as bonified headliners, packing houses and making converts, young and old, every inch of the way. The addition of bassist Jeff "gimme some sugar" Jones ratified the divine balance of Evangender- two dudes, two singing chicks, 3 nylon-string guitars, and a whole lotta loving! Then they went one step further, and beyond, with the addition of master skin-beater George Bernardo, and sometimes-genital Dave "Salad" Salardino on the banjo and mandolin. The eclectic life mix of this mad band is delicious: Juli is an undefeated professional boxer & ordained minister, Lisa Dee a trained opera singer, Jeff Jones a skateboarding ping pong master, Georgie can make you smile with a wink of his eye, and Brett... well, we call him Mr Fantastic.
Ladies and gents... this is the goodness.
*** THE BIG BIOGRAPHICAL ***
Formed in December, 2003 by Juli Crockett in the wake of an injury-aborted pro boxing career (3-0, two KOs in the 135 lb. lightweight division), L.A.'s Evangenitals provide certain proof that, in creative matters, the shortest distance between two points isn't necessarily a straight line. As the group's principal songwriter and lead vocalist, Juli's exhaustive performing schedule has coincided with her attentions to ongoing careers as a playwright, stage director, an advanced graduate student in philosophy and a position as webmaster within one of the world's largest independent distributors of sex toys and related erotic paraphernalia. It's a busy life.
It was within the offices of the sex toy distributorship that the Evangenitals were formed (and, in an oblique way, where they acquired their name). JT's Stockroom in Silverlake ("the crème de la crème of online sex toy shopping... all orders shipped discreetly.") harbors a sizeable number of musicians among its workforce. When Juli's boxing career was unexpectedly derailed by leg and shoulder injuries suffered during training, she began experimenting with her guitar and found herself surrounded by experienced performers. One particular pair of co-workers shared her leanings toward the style of "urban hillbilly truck-stop lullabies" that have become the group's signature sound. In short order, the line-up of the Evangenitals took shape.
Lisa Dee is a trained operatic soprano with an extensive resume in both classical music and experimental jazz. In addition to performing with the Evangenitals, she currently exhibits her experimental talents with Killsonic and Las Panchas. Brett Lyda, formerly lead guitarist for L.A. indie band Judithstar, is a veteran guitarist and vocalist who also performs as a solo artist.
The band's distinctive sound derives from the nylon-string acoustic guitars on which the three accompany themselves, augmented by a subtle rhythm section comprised of indie favorite Ukefink's mandolin playing drummer, Dave Salardino and space-bassist Jeff Jones.
The music is tuneful, steeped in irresistible vocal harmonies and shimmering guitar arpeggios. The tempo of the songs veers from quietly introspective to balls-out raucousness in the blink of an eye. The overall timbre of the voices-Lisa Dee's trained soprano, Brett Lyda's steady tenor and, in the lead, Juli's heartbreakingly vulnerable, almost tentative contralto, lends a hypnotic quality to their performances. Lyrics are key: Juli's meditations on love and sex and the meaning of the universe are witty, often outright funny, simply-put and as lean as a welterweight stepping down in class.
Juli explains her approach to writing lyrics: "I always want to pare it down, to see how honest I can be while revealing the squishiest of emotions and allowing myself to be really dumb. Because in everything else that I do-the directing, the playwrighting-it's an exercise in being hard, smart and philosophical. But music is very different: it's an experiment in being simple. I know that I'm a complex person, but with my music, I want to see how basic I can get."
As performers, the Evangenitals manage the trick of fostering an atmosphere of energy and rowdiness while seated demurely, almost shyly, in a semicircle on stage. There's an intimate magnetism about their performances that has, in remarkably short order, attracted a loyal following in the mercurial eastside Los Angeles music scene.
Despite the sedentary pose, the band's performances have a quiet intensity that bespeaks a high degree of energy and commitment. "When I gave up boxing, I thought the thing that I was going to miss the most was the sense of heightened living: that moment of putting it all on the line in front of people. I didn't think I would ever be able to have that feeling any more. But when I first got up in front of people to sing, I felt almost exactly the same thing. It may be lower impact, but the nakedness of the experience is very similar."
Just over a year since forming, the Evangenitals have recorded their first indie collection, "We Are The Evangenitals" with Blair Lamb, whose credits include engineering work with Sheryl Crow, producing with the band.
Alabama-born and raised through her teenage years in Central Florida, Juli moved to New York to earn a bachelor's degree in theater at NYU, then out to Los Angeles for a master's degree from Cal Arts. She continues to pursue ventures in directing and playwrighting (one of her productions helped inaugurate the new Redcat Theater at Los Angeles' celebrated Disney Concert Hall), and is working on a doctorate from the European Graduate School's Media and Communications program.
The primary focus of the band these days is on playing shows and writing songs for additional recordings. For Crockett, the writing comes in inspired bursts of activity. "Part of what I understand about being an artist is that you're afflicted with this strange compulsion to confess feelings, perceptions, the process that's working inside yourself, to take what's inside and put it outside," she says. "It's always imperfect and that's OK, because it makes the process continual. I always wonder if I could accurately articulate my own inner experience, would I be done? But I know that I'd have some new feeling and I'd want to tell everybody about it."