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Beyond awesome

 Gertrude Atherton's EP was worth the wait
By CHRIS CONTI  |  May 22, 2013

 0524_local_gertrude.jpg
MAKING AN IMPACT Le Corre, Lagace, and Fuest. [Photo by Kylewilliam Campol]

The new EP by PVD trio Gertrude Atherton, Isle of Lost Skulls, is a gnarled beauty of a debut and proves to be well worth the wait. I have been eagerly anticipating this record since catching drummer Melanie Fuest, singer/guitarist Shannon Le Corre, and bassist Nicole Lagace in action a dozen or so times over the past year. The EP is available for download right now (just $5 at gertrude atherton.bandcamp.com), or pick up a copy next Thursday when they return to Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket. Call it whatever you like (insert convenient "post-punk/riot grrrl" tag here), but rest assured Gertrude Atherton will rget your attention onstage and on wax.

The band's moniker is a salute to late-1800s-mid 1900s American writer Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton, and the Isle of Lost Skulls EP is a title derived from one of Atherton's short stories, all inspired while browsing an antique store.

"I found one of her books, so we Googled her and discovered what a badass she was, so we decided to write songs about one of her short stories," said Le Corre. "It wasn't the plan, it just came together organically!"

I inquired as to whether or not it was more difficult to conceptualize lyrics for songs geared around a particular piece of writing.

"I actually found it easier to draw from a written piece rather than making things up from scratch," Le Corre told me. "There are so many subtleties to Atherton's writing that we could probably write 300 EPs based on one story."

The three met while volunteering for Girls Rock! RI and quickly clicked.

"We were all looking to play music with people, and decided to get together," recalled Fuest. "It just ended up being awesome."

Totally fucking awesome, in fact. The trio's first song written together, "Yellow Fire," opens the EP and is a personal favorite; the first 90 seconds could pass for a Stevie Nicks Sound City session — until Le Corre's ringing chords (both guitar and vocal) roar and soar.

"Going into the recording process, we knew that we wanted the EP to sound much bigger than what we could produce in the live setting," said Fuest. "And on 'Yellow Fire,' we wanted that wall of sound to hit you in the face."

The gnarled guitar riff on "Ghastly Tramp" (song titles are found throughout the short story's text) will not leave my head, and the stoned groove of "Seek No Woman's Smile" makes for a killer centerpiece.

One of the most memorable shows of the year thus far took place about a month ago at Machines with Magnets, where Gertrude opened for Screaming Females and kindred local ladies Whore Paint. Lagace admitted to some nerves before the show, and the threesome were concerned about being able to pull off those sonic layers and overdubs added during the Lost Skulls recording process, which was mixed and mastered by Lagace's husband, Ian Ross, at Boolean Studios in Providence. ("The plus side of that is we had the luxury of taking our time and getting things just right, but the minus side is that we took a really long time to finish it," noted Lagace.) Those pre-show jitters disappeared as soon as the trio kicked in, with Fuest and Lagace locking onto Le Corre's soaring vocals and charred riffs.

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