The sound of Evy Duskey´s voice is a refreshing one. Her song is a mixture of many ingredients, which read contradictory on paper, but are rich and flavorful when cooked together. Her tone is simplistically sweet, while the notes she hits express a complex and diverse movement. Her voice creates moments when it feels like listening to an old folk recording being played on a phonograph, most noticeable when she sings “To Tell Me”, mixed exquisitely with modern pop melodies. Her stories are imaginative narratives of old fairy tales, her delivery stripped down to the basics. All of these things are exciting discoveries to find within an emerging musician, but what is most electric about Evy is the context in which she fits into the porteño folk scene, something she and her band Bicho Feo have termed “gringa folk”. It is this mixture of a very northern approach to singing and composition paired with the very southern sound of the charango, two sounds that have yet to hit the BA stage, until now. We met up with Evy at the Lago de Regatas in Belgrano, where we talked about her opening up to this fusion of musical worlds.
Where are you from originally?
Cleveland suburbs. West Side (laughs). It's an important distinction.
How did you end up here in Buenos Aires?
I've had a strange, psychic pull to this city from a young age...just an impulse really. So when it came time to study abroad during university I decided to just follow my gut and go for it. Then I met someone (Leandro) my second week here, and well, just fell in love with everything at once.
What are the things that you like about Buenos Aires ?
I love it's grittiness - in both senses of the word. People complain all the time about the dirty streets, the noise, the congested public transit, the heat. And then you have it's history...this city has been to hell and back. But above it all, the buildings are still standing, and the people are still telling their stories. This city is human. It's raw and unabashed and strong in a very real way.
How did you meet your bandmates?
Well, it all started two weeks into my study abroad experience. I accosted Lean at the Imaginario Cultural in Almagro while on my way out to some clubs with my housemates at the time. He and his band at the time had gone straight there from band practice, so they had their instruments with them. Between that and my radio background I figured I had a good enough excuse to practice my broken Spanish on someone. And we just connected.
You and Lean are a pair, and Mauricio how does he fit in?
They are old friends, they were in punk bands together in high school. McFly was one, haha, I really like the name. Now they both work in media, Mauricio for MTV LA, and Leandro in advertising.
And the boys in the band are both from here?
Yeah, Lean and Mauricio are from Los Polvorines - out in the northeast provincia. They’ve been in lots of bands before…but mostly punk rock, ska, death metal, alternative, some reggae fusion stuff. We’re from very different backgrounds, the two of them and I.
How do the guys fit in, going from playing punk to pop-folklore?
You know, they're both pretty eclectic - it's something I've always appreciated. We try to approach every song on an individual basis, not get too stuck in the genres. And before I met Lean, I never really considered singing in public, let alone being in a band. So I've been trying to open myself up to different sounds as much as possible.
Do they help in the writing process ?
I’d say 60% of the songs were things I came to him with the barebones, the music and lyrics, and then Mauricio and Lean add terrific things to them that I’m not musically adept enough to do.
Having a band is great for that. I need all the guidance I can get. I would even go so far as to say that Leandro is the real band leader. He keeps us on task during rehearsals, makes sure we record and write down what we need to. He has a lot more “band experience” than me.
What do you normally write about in your songs?
A lot of my songs lately are old fairy tales, but kind of twisted. It’s something from my childhood and upbringing. We have one song called “Glass Mountain” that’s based off an old Polish fairy tale; my great-grandmother was from Poland. The rest of the songs have a lot of nautical themes. I grew up on the coasts of the Great Lakes, and everything was connected by family and the water. Ships and the like.
What about the song “Dancing Shoes”?
I liked the idea of the old Grimms fairy tale, about 12 dancing sisters who lived in a castle. They’d disappear every night and in the morning their shoes would be tattered to pieces and then there’s a challenge by their father, of course, for some man to come in and sleep in their room to see if he could find out where they went. So I kind of took that and made it a little more my own. I liked how when I thought of these stories I grew up reading and was read, they were kind of warped in my memory by my own experiences. Some of my favorite musicians are wonderfully cryptic lyricists but I guess that’s not my style, not right now at least. I think that has to do with being here.
I started writing songs and singing and playing charango while in my first few weeks in Buenos Aires. I found myself reduced to this infantile level of understanding. I stopped writing and speaking in a complex manner, saying things simply just felt better. It’s probably the reason I like writing about personal nostalgia. No matter how happy I've been living here, the roots of my past, my family, run deeply for me.
I really like that foreign sound of the charango mixed with these sweet English vocals.
Yeah, we’ve joked about my singing “gringa-folklore." It's funny because we're still figuring out our sound...but we're trying not to worry too much about that. Some songs are more demonstrative of my sensibilities than the guys, and vice versa. It's a fun little game of tug of war we play.
Singing, it was just one of those things. I was single for the first time in awhile and I thought, well, I might as well put all this angst (and extra time) to use. I don’t claim to be a very good instrumentalist in any way. I learned charango to sing; I just play it like it’s a super-ukelele. There are some really interesting strumming and picking patterns one can achieve on the charango that I don’t have the hang of yet. Sofia Viola does some great stuff on the charangón (larger, lower-pitched relative of the charango) that I’m totally envious of.
Your first show was opening for Sofia Viola, what do you remember about that first show ?
That show was pretty wild/exciting. It was our first time playing out as a band, and there were over 100 people in attendance. I was in awe of the crowd, in awe of the other musicians. It was all one great nervy blur. And then it was over and my knees stopped knocking together...eventually.
What can we expect from Bicho Feo in 2012?
Several more music videos, an EP, and as many shows as we can book. The recording is a priority, as we have over 8 original songs now and have yet to go into a studio. Also, we're very excited about a new addition to the band, but I'll save that for another time. The best I can hope for Bicho Feo is that we create something that people will want to share with us and each other.
For more information about Bicho Feo and where you can see them live, check out their facebook.