It's telling that, when Sara Celina, a young Detroit-based female singer songwriter, is asked about her future as a musician, she gives an affectionate lesson on the virtues of community. Over the past few years, while huffing it as a solo artist, the raven-haired songstress discovered that an empty stage was a nerve-wrecking place to be. She was a chick with a guitar — not the most unusual position to be in —but trying to leave a thumbprint amid the countless others who'd come before, was a unique opportunity.
The years as a solo artist were a successful time for Celina — she opened for such acts as Tegan and Sara and participated in countless numbers of jam-packed local shows and festivals — but while the local following was flattering and fun, she eventually found herself drawn to the idea of becoming a team player. Enter US vs HER, a four-person rock 'n'roll offering from what was once the Sara Celina camp.
"Partnership frees me. It amazes me how confident I feel when I have people on stage with me who I can look at and smile," the 28-year old Celina says.
There's no reason to be shy anymore.
US vs HER's debut release, Everybody La La Lah, is the confluence of a rock 'n' roller's mien and a poet's heart. Using ten songs to free up dusty tomes of journal entries, Celina's stream-of-consciousness lyrical content and Rickie Lee Jones-cum-PJ Harvey delivery can be heartbreaking, insolent, and at times… uncomfortably intimate. The songs are thick with truthfulness — an unintentional referendum on the verse-chorus-verse platitudes modern music has come to embrace.
Frustratingly sexual and overtly truthful, Everybody La La Lah is sometimes-jangly, sometimes-driving and consistently dead nuts — impressively informed for a freshman effort. The success can be credited in large part to Celina's insistence on producing the record herself. Past studio experiences left Celina out of touch with her own music and unhappy with the heavy-handedness and unnecessary slickness.
"On my solo record, I hired a producer and studio musicians. I lost too much direction and a lot of creativity. It didn't feel like me. I had to produce Everybody La La Lah myself. I needed to cultivate the songs… unfettered," Celina says.
With the collaborative help of classically trained guitarist Drew Phillips (Gryphon Sheperd); the increasingly passionate drumming of Sarah Fisher (the Grande Nationals, the Vamps); and the bass playing of Bob Wedge(Gryphon Sheperd) who happens to be the band's last and most beloved in a series of low-enders, Everybody La La Lah feels like a finished piece of work to Celina.
The title track smacks hard of a flippant and old-school Liz Phair: teasing, annoyed, enchanted and totally unafraid. While other songs like "Don't Go Away" are lilting pieces of musical prose. So few can pull off unorthodox lyrics, but Celina's believability and unabashed empathetic side show cause.
If a spade's a spade… in Celina's world … an orgasm is a right, life's a bitch, and above all, love wins. No one and nothing is off limits. For better or worse, this record is a compendium of her rawest emotions: In fact, when a friend recently recommended a lyric change to Celina, her reply was simply, "I can't." The sentiments were too personal. And while Celina's symbiotic relationship with the words is undeniable, her relationship with her band mates is air tight.
She's pleased that the record is lo-fi, like a live show. "This recording is true to each song," she says. And the only thing more gratifying than putting together a record she can finally be proud of is performing the album's 10 tracks with three of her favorite people on earth.
"Sometimes it's too fun," Celina admits. "I wanted to name the band Sara Celina and Giggles, but they refused."