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Illinois Entertainer- Review- October, 2007
While the musicianship is rock solid on "Beware The Foot, Vol. 1," the real standout is Rachel Katzman's sultry voice. A former student of sacred Hebrew music, her Bonnie Raitt-like vocals enliven nearly every cut on this soul/funk jaunt. "Back In time" and "Who Knew" are especially sweet, but all 10 songs are across-the-board appealing. (www.happybutterflyfoot.com)
“HBF is a seriously talented band with a timeless sound... (OaktonOCCurrence 10/3 2005)”
Imagine a sound informed by the artistry and groove of the Funk Brothers, beneath a voice reminiscent of magical, bluesy Bonnie Raitt and coy, sultry Norah Jones. The result is the soulful rock of Chicago’s Happy Butterfly Foot.
After 15 years of playing in great bands that featured members of Mars Volta, Califone, Robbie Fulks, Kurt Elling and Exo, and teaching great young guitar players who went on to form The Changes and The Hue, Aaron Weistrop (guitar) launched Happy Butterfly Foot in 2004. Happy Butterfly Foot was meant to be a Midwestern, instrumental version of The Meters. That plan went out the window after Aaron, Jeff Kelly (drums/producer) and Jim Cerceo (bass) heard Rachel Katzman (vocals) at an open mic. “What really stuck with me,” remembers Jeff, “was the way she nailed so many notes in that pitch-perfect way that makes my ear say to my brain, ‘DING! That’s it!’”
Once the line-up was established, the band quickly developed an identity.“Each song has that HBF sound due to the four of us,” said Jim. “I can honestly say that if you replace any of us, the band would sound totally different.” Happy Butterfly Foot is booking gigs throughout the Midwest anticipating the July 6, 2007 release of their debut CD, “Beware the Foot, Vol. 1.” Early reviews from garageband.com are glowing. “Wow....it’s the complete deal.”“Singer is phenomenal.” “... has got real radio appeal.”
Songwriting is a strong suit for the band. When only 25, Aaron won a coveted Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Composition. Jeff and Jim scored projects for 20th Century Fox and A&E respectively. Rachel recorded original material for an independent label fresh out of high school.
Strong willed, and talented individuals often fuel ego-driven band disasters, but that hasn’t happened with HBF. “We all really enjoy each other’s company,” said Jeff Kelly. “We laugh, make fun of each other, make s’mores. It’s that kind of thing. I honestly and deeply respect the talent each member of this group has. There is no weak link.”
Happy Butterfly Foot ready to take off
July 4, 2007
By LILLI KUZMA Contributor
"You know, butterflies listen with their feet, they pick up vibrations," said Aaron Weistrop of Chicago.
A guitarist with the band Happy Butterfly Foot, Weistrop is explaining the origin of the band's name, which also has something to do with lead singer Rachel Katzman's tattoo. Whatever the reason, the name seems to fit the band's hip, groove-rock sound, and Katzman's unique vocals, which are pure, yet sultry, soprano with soul.
The band is completed with Jim Cerceo of Elmwood Park on bass, and Jeff Kelly, also Happy Butterfly Foot's producer, on drums.
The band will celebrate the release of its first studio CD, "Beware the Foot, Vol. 1" at Martyrs' in Chicago on July 6. The CD is available on www.cdbaby.com and through their Web site, www.happybutterflyfoot.com.
"This is the first band with an original project that I feel can make it all the way," said Cerceo, who has a degree in electric bass performance and owners Cerceo Music & Productions. "We have the same mentality. We love melody and lyrics, and want that to come out, but are able to improvise without getting in each other's way."
"We are jazz musicians who started to play pop music, too," said Weistrop, whose composition excellence earned him an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. He has toured all over the U.S., and is also the founder of jazz group, Spazztet.
"We're never going to be a jam band," Weistrop continued, "but we all have a very improvisational background, and what we want to do is have a feel that's loose and spontaneous."
Mad for Motown
Cerceo attributes the band's distinct "groove" to all the member's love of vintage Motown, R & B and jazz. For him, growing up listening to his parent's Motown albums was a huge influence, and he recalls being taken to the Mill Run Theater and watching the musicians play.
"I thought it was the coolest thing, and I decided to become a player," said Cerceo, who now also produces music and events, and has composed for Arts & Entertainment Television.
Weistrop's influences include the films "Dream Girls" (sic.. the musical Dream Girls.. and that's embarrassing enough) and "Standing in the Shadow of Motown."
"Stevie Wonder really clicked for me right away," he said. "I was intrigued by the skill and community of the Motown players, the studio players."
Band members had originally planned to be an instrumental funk band, until the three guys heard Katzman perform at an open-mic in Wrigleyville.
"What really stuck with me was how she nailed so many notes in that pitch-perfect way," Kelly said.
Katzman, 27, began recording right out of high school, and has produced two albums for Smelly Cat Records. She also is a visual artist.
"Rachel has her own voice, that you can identify immediately," said Cerceo.
Weistrop did most of the original writing for the debut CD, but is quick to note that everyone in the band writes music, and that future writing will be more of a group effort.
"We're dedicated to playing originals," he said. "This band, Happy Butterfly Foot, these are the people I want to play with, they are my friends, the people in this band are unbelievably good. . .this business, you know you can't do this business half-way, one foot in, one foot out."
But perhaps with both feet grounded, listening, while aiming to fly and reach for the stars.
Tea in the Yahara
Chicago's Happy Butterfly Foot is set to play the Klinic tomorrow night, marking their first foray into the Madison music scene. And when the band's guitarist, Aaron Weistrop, got in touch with me a few weeks ago to see if I had any interest in interviewing the band in advance of their show (and getting a free copy of their new CD, Beware the Foot, Vol. 1, to boot), I was of course more than happy to oblige.
decided to take the opportunity to introduce a new, randomly re-occurring feature here at Tea in the Yahara, which for the moment I'll be calling The Deal. The plan is to ask bands, artists, "personalities," or other people a few easy, open-ended questions to see where they'll go with them, providing a glimpse into their personalities, ideas, obsessions, opinions, and/or whatever else they may feel like talking about. Pretty simple, really, so let's get to it.
So what's the deal with Happy Butterfly Foot, anyway?
Happy Butterfly Foot was formed in 2004. The mission statement of the band was to be in the spirit of the great R&B and soul bands. But the mission statement was never clearly expressed to all of the members of the band until late 2006.
We are based out of Chicago and we've got Rachel Katzman (vocals), Jeff Kelly (drums), Jim Cerceo (bass) and Aaron Weistrop (guitar). Our individual bios are too long and weird to get too deep into but to give you a taste... Band members have played with, produced, recorded music, video for, and/or fought off advances on their girlfriends from 20th Century Fox, Tom Dreesen, The Detholz, A&E American Justice, Moutin Reunion Quartet, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Ted Wulfers, Jeff Kelly's Monorail, The Today Show, and many more.
"Happy Butterfly Foot," eh? What's the deal with the name?
The name "Happy Butterfly Foot" came out of a discussion on how English language T-shirts are popular in Japan, but the words on the shirts don't really have any meaning. "Happy Butterfly Foot" were the words we decided to go with if we were ever going to market a T-shirt in Japan.
We certainly have gotten a lot of flack for the name. My favorite was the person who asked why we didn't name the band "Angry Moth Knee."
It has been fun trying to come up with an explanation for a name whose origins are completely random. Mostly people buy whatever we tell them. Which is almost never the true story.
In my imagination, if there were a butterfly out there with a foot, it would be a kind-hearted creature with an evil limb it can't control. The beauty of the butterfly sucks people close but soon they find themselves running from fear of the foot. If you change "running" to "dancing" and "fear" to "joy," you've got a good description of what we are going for musically.
What's the deal with the band's latest CD? It's called Beware the Foot, Vol. 1, which obviously suggests that there may be a "Vol. 2" forthcoming.
Well... I thought it would be wise to just keep making albums with the same name but different volumes. The artwork would be the same but different colors. We could just crank these things out without incurring a large graphic design expense or have to have group brainstorming sessions.
The rest of the band does not see it that way... So... There will be more CDs, but there will be no Volume 2.
I notice that your lead singer, Rachel Katzman, has a tattoo of what appears to be a butterfly. What's the deal with when she got it -- and why she got it where she did?
I'll let Rachel handle this one:
Well, when I was 18 (9 yrs. ago) I received a concussion in a car accident and decided to go to my tattoo appointment anyways. I said, "Put the butterfly over my heart but in the middle." I'm a fan of change and growth and cleavage.
In your band's press release, it describes Happy Butterfly Foot as a "blues band." Does that description really do your sound justice? What's the deal with your influences, anyway?
We love the blues, but "blues band" does not do our sound justice. Or our sound doesn't do the description "blues band" justice -- one or the other. There are a couple of songs where we could almost pass for a blues band. "Prey" has a Robert Cray feel (at least to me) and "Who Knew" is a straight up 12-bar blues.
It is funny to talk about the band's influences, because what goes in isn't necessarily what comes out. The main influences of the band are The Meters, The Funk Brothers, Booker T and the MGs. Or, I should say, those are the influences we all agree on.
But somewhere in the course of composing the material for the band those influences collided with a love for Mark Knopfler, Led Zeppelin, Pat Metheny, John Scofield, The Police, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Warren Zevon.
Rachel loves the Motown, blues, and soul singers, but doesn't share the love of the people mentioned above. She gets into Mazzy Star and loves certain Israeli singer-songwriters who have a mellow vibe and an ear for Middle Eastern scales.
When Jeff composes a song, it really hits his intended target. "Back in Time" is just a great soulful and bluesy tune. When I write a tune, it can miss by a mile. "Smack Talker" is supposed to be a tune that would fit on Thriller. But apparently I am the only person who thinks that, and I still don't know why.
And you're playing in Madison this weekend, right? What's the deal with that?
We will be making our first Madison appearance this Friday, June 22 at The Klinic (520 S Park St.) around 10 pm. We are starting to peek our heads out of Chicago in support of our debut CD, Beware the Foot, Volume 1 which will be on sale at the show.
Anything else you have to say for yourself? Or for Happy Butterfly Foot, for that matter? What's the deal?
We are thrilled to be playing Madison. We hope you can make it out to the show and tell us what your deal is.
If you can't, but are interested in learning more about the band, or would like to write us to let us know what your deal is, please visit our MySpace or our website.
Our CD, which was produced and engineered by our drummer Jeff Kelly, is available for purchase online and will soon be available on iTunes.