Two of an unlikely kind

August 09, 2007|By Sam Sessa | Sam Sessa,Sun reporter

Indie rock duo Georgie James is looking to make a lasting career out of an unlikely musical partnership.

Though the Washington-based band's debut album has yet to come out, singer/guitarist John Davis and pianist/singer Laura Burhenn are already working on new material for a follow-up. Starting this weekend, they set out on a string of dates opening for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, including a Recher Theatre gig Saturday. A European tour will follow, and the acclaimed Saddle Creek Records releases their first album, Places, Sept. 25.

Last week, Georgie James hunkered down in Washington to see whether they could reignite the spark that fueled the first album.

"In my experiences working in groups, songwriting in the past actually got harder with every band I've been in," said Davis. "We're going to break that cycle."

Two veterans of the Washington music scene came together in 2005 to form Georgie James. Davis drummed in the critically acclaimed punk rock trio Q and Not U, and Burhenn turned heads as a solo artist.

Based on their previous projects, it might seem like they had little in common, but the two shared an interest in the songwriting of the '60s and '70s. Their initial collaborations yielded songs with lush harmonies, pounding rhythms and complex melodies made to sound deceptively simple.

In February, they released a three-song single featuring the tracks "Need Your Needs," a guitar-driven rocker, the politically oriented "Cake Parade," and "El Condor Pasa (If I Could)" their cover of a Peruvian tune done by Simon and Garfunkel in 1970.

With Georgie James, Davis plays multiple instruments including guitar, drums and bass. Burhenn handles piano. They share lead vocals, sometimes trading verses or adding harmonies. Some lyrics are straightforward, others are more esoteric. In the album track "More Lights," Burhenn sings:

All of the rooftops crowd the infinite

Block out the stars and shoot the sun

The street lamps line the street in victory

The nouveaux constellations

In May, Georgie James signed to Saddle Creek Records -- home to Bright Eyes, the Faint, the Good Life and a number of other renowned indie rock acts. It was an easy decision, Davis said.

"They're really dedicated to the music, and their musicians," Davis said. "We're fans of the label. It was definitely the best label, the best fit for us. We are just really, really happy to work with them."

On Places, the amount of collaboration varied from song to song. Some were 75 percent complete and just needed finishing touches. Others were spawned in jam sessions, hammered out at live shows and finalized for the album.

For the next album, Burhenn would like the two to write more tunes from start to finish. Davis said he likes the variety of songwriting methods they used for Places. But both are excited by the possibilities a second album brings.

"With the first record, we both kind of felt like we were just getting our feet wet," Burhenn said. "There's so much music we've been exposed to over the course of a lifetime. We've just scratched the surface."

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Georgie James opens for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists at the Recher Theatre on Saturday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 410-547-SEAT or go to ticketmaster.com.

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