She Keeps Bees
She Keeps Bees is a three-piece rock-and-roll band formed in Brooklyn, NY in 2006 by Jessica Larrabee and Andy LaPlant, with Adam Eisler joining later. Larabee is a singer-songwriter and guitarist and LaPlant is a recording engineer and producer. The two are now married, and have recorded four albums out of their Brooklyn apartment. Their newest album, Eight Houses, was released September 2014.

Joy Formidable
A Welsh alternative rock band made up of “Ritzy” Bryan, Rydian Dafydd, and Matthew James Thomas. Formed in 2007, Joy Formidable has released two albums and three EP’s and is currently based out of London.

Sharon Van Etten
A singer-songwriter and guitarist from Brooklyn, NY, whose plays and sings solo under her name, Sharon Van Etten. She has recorded four studio albums since 2009, and is known for the range of emotion covered by her vocals and poetic yet raw lyrics.

Cat Power
Stage name of Charlyn Mary Marshall, a singer-songwriter, musician, and sometimes actress and model, who adopted the name of her first band to refer to all of her music projects. Her sound has evolved from a mix of punk, folk and blues, to incorporate soul and eventually electronica.

When I meet Larrabee and her boys at our Silverlake office, it’s a hot Sunday afternoon and she is playful and warm, jokingly referring to herself as a diva as she hides in the car for a quick vocal warm up.

The two-turned-three piece band, made up of Jessica Larabee, Andy LaPlant, and newcomer Adam Eisler, began in 2006 after a serendipitous meeting of bartender and patron. Fresh out of college and new to Brooklyn, LaPlant was a regular at Larrabee’s bar, and when their conversations turned to music, the two uncovered an undeniable likeness. Fast-forward a few years and several drum-lessons from Larrabee, the duo quit their day jobs and set out for London to see where the bees could take them. Today, four albums later, the band has toured with Joy Formidable and Sharon Van Etten, and drawn numerous comparisons to the White Stripes and Cat Power, mixing rock and roll with blues. Their most recent release, Eight Houses, for which the group is currently on a cross-country tour, takes a softer direction with a slightly restrained version of Larrabee’s fiery vocals.

There is an air of melancholy within the band, though, namely between Larrabee and LaPlant, who have spent the last three years living with and caring for her recently deceased father. As they work through their grief, the band has found encouragement in some unlikely places – at their Seattle show, halfway through their tour and with a broken guitar, they were gifted one from a fan. It is on this guitar that we hear two singles off their latest album, Owl, and Feather Lighter. On the back in sharpie it reads, “Keep the bees a-buzzin dammit.”

Rachel Ellison: How has your tour been so far?

Jessica Larrabee: I just lost my dad. It’s been difficult. It’s so recent. So I’m like a little bit not knowing that I’m dealing with grief and I’m trying to tough-stuff it. My dad’s drum set is what we use so it gives me comfort, like he’s here with me. But it is strange.

RE: Did you consider calling off the tour?

JL: I don’t think so. He was a musician, that was his wish, and I think that he would’ve been sad if I had stopped doing what we worked so hard to do. But it’s kind of like the universe knows these things and let it happen all at once. So I’ve been sorting that out. I don’t mean to be so candid about it. That’s sort of what’s happening.

RE: So that’s how you first got started in music?

JL: Yeah totally, he was a drummer and we’d be dancing to stuff and he’d be playing drums, so it was always a musical family. [My mom] likes to say she is music. She’s like “Your father was a musician, I was music.” She was just a wild child. They both were living in D.C. for a long time but then he was in Nashville for a little bit too, playing drums in bands and stuff. And then in DC he was a session guy.

RE:When did you transition from drums to other instruments?

JL: I always sang and I didn’t realize that I could do both [drumming and singing]. So when I was 17 or 18 I was like, I’m going to learn guitar. I was in bands playing drums but that just happened very naturally in terms of rhythm.

RE:Do you still play drums?

JL: I do a little but not as much now that Andy does everything. I’m probably pretty bad nowadays. I haven’t done it in so long.

RE: When were you in your first serious band?

JL: I guess in college – that was a band, but it was very democratic. That was a good experience just to get to know how to play with other people and that kind of chemistry.

“It wasn’t until we
went to Europe for the
first time that we were
allowed to be like,
‘Ok we’re doing this.’”
— Jessica Larabee

RE: Where did you go to college?

JL: Drexel in Philadelphia. It was an engineering school but it also had an art program. And so I was studying film and all sorts of stuff. And then I moved to New York and that was more solo stuff, kind of going through a journey and finding my sound. When I was doing acoustic I was interested in the electric guitar because the electric allowed me to have more nuance and you could be real loud if you wanted to or hold off.

RE: How did you and Andy meet?

JL: I was bartending and he was an engineer. I found out about his music tastes and we both liked a lot of the same stuff. And when I found out he was an engineer I was like, oh good. We became friends really fast and, you know, you have to kind of keep things professional. You don’t want to get in trouble. Like, does this guy like me or is it just because he’s drunk.

RE: You taught him drums, right?

JL: Yeah, well he taught himself.

RE:What made you want to collaborate with him rather than an established drummer?

JL: I tried to reach out to some people and then it never really formed. One guy, he was super professional, and then he just went quiet on me and that sort of hurt my feelings and it made me a little shy to find people. It was definitely a Craigslist thing. Sometimes you’re just like, ah who am I meeting, what’s happening. So I was more like, ok I’ll just do this myself and if the right people come along then they will.

RE:You [and Andy] are married?

JL: Yeah. We were really fast friends. You know when someone just allows you to be who you are? It was immediate with Andy, even though he is a little younger than me, I felt completely at ease. And the more that we worked together musically I saw how much he would just support the music instead of “Watch how fast I can do this,” you know (laughs). He just wanted to support me completely. And it just grew from there. We both had day jobs and it wasn’t until we went to Europe for the first time that we were allowed to be like, “Ok we’re doing this.” And we stayed in London for four months.

RE:That’s when you committed to music as a career?

JL: Yeah, we had saved some money and got the plane tickets. It was great because over there we were more of an exotic bird. It was nice to feel appreciated. In New York there are a million other bands and [in London] they’re like, “Here’s your sandwiches” and we’re like “Oh my god we get sandwiches!” And the festivals over there are kind of amazing.

RE: How would you describe your music?

JL: I always say rock and roll. I think that it has definitely become more of a soul embodiment because of the way I sing, I like to sing from the depths. It’s not really a fashion thing for me, it’s like this medicine that I need. Music is definitely sacred and I feel like the community that it nurtures – it is really important for me to keep it not in a place of ego. I really want to generate feeling so I hope that that happens.