PCA Playlist: The Return of Kelly and the Kellygirls

Kelly and the Kellygirls are back! (left to right) Cathy Marchese, Alison Young, R. Kelly Clipperton, Yeshua Ragbir, Marie Goudy and Holt Stuart-Hitchcox.

Hey music lovers.  Get ready  because one of the sexiest and most colorful performers in music today is returning to the pop culture radar this summer.  No, I am not talking about the new Katy Perry documentary.  I’m talking about the one and only Kelly and the Kellygirls!  Fronted by “man of all seasons” R. Kelly Clipperton, Toronto’s Kelly and the Kellygirls are one of Toronto’s most original and entertaining groups, merging together jazz, ska, soul, Latin, funk and pop in a sexy and stylish high energy showcase.  After three years out of the spotlight, Kelly and the Kellygirls are back with all new songs, a new EP, a new video and are bringing a new series of shows throughout Canada all summer long!

“Club des Femmes” is a five song preview of R. Kelly Clipperton and Yeshua Ragbir’s upcoming concept album scheduled to be released in 2013.

Forming the original Kellygirls in 2003, Kelly Clipperton has been called “a Toronto gay icon” by the Toronto Star and has become renowned for his many artistic endeavors including music, photography, theater and fashion.  His latest EP, Club des Femmes, is just a taste of a larger project that he and musical collaborator Yeshua Ragbir have been working on since 2011, which has not only lead to his latest series of performances, but has seen Kelly reinventing The Kellygirls for a third time.  The new group, which merges the last line-up with a few new faces, includes Cathy Marchese on drums, Alison Young on saxophone, Yeshua Ragbir on guitar, Marie Goudy on trumpet, Holt Stuart-Hitchcox on bass and, of course, the charismatic and glamorous Kelly Clipperton on lead vocals.  Together, the new group has just released a video for their latest single, Nightsweats, and will be appearing at clubs and various Pride events throughout Canada in the weeks to come.  The return of Kelly and the Kellygirls is truly something to celebrate.

I always enjoy talking with Kelly Clipperton.  Not only is he one of my favorite Canadian performers, I find him to be as delightful off stage as he is on.  Picking up where we left off with our last interview in 2009, Kelly spoke to me about his new musical project and left me with promises of things to come.

CONFESSIONS OF A POP CULTURE ADDICT PRESENTS

CLUB DES FEMMES:  

THE RETURN OF KELLY AND THE KELLYGIRLS

Sam Tweedle:  Last time we spoke, which was right after Modernism was released, you told me that you were taking a break from music for a while.

R. Kelly Clipperton:  I did.

Sam:  So what have you been up to during that break?

Kelly:  I’ve been hibernating a little bit, and [eventually] I started writing.  Then last summer I called Yeshua and I said “I have all these ideas coming to me, and I don’t really want to do it by myself because I’m feeling lonely and very very isolated, so what do you say?”  So we got together once a week, all summer long, and just wrote.

Sam:  And that lead to your new EP, Club des Femmes?

Kelly: Yeah.  Well, the idea was to do something much bigger than an EP.  We’re working towards a concept album which we will have out hopefully next year.  But the narrative of it was getting really complex and I [thought] “I can’t wait to do this.  I need to be back on stage.”  I just kind of got that butterfly thing.  I just want to perform again.  I want to perform and I’m not the kind of person that just hits the road, because hitting the road wears me out.  So I thought “We need to have new material, so why don’t we just do a small chunk of songs, like four and five” and [Yeshua said] “Perfect.”

Sam:  So tell me about the “concept” part of the upcoming concept album!

“I’ve always been really attracted to water, and I’ve always been a water baby. I could swim probably before I could walk. I’ve always loved it, and every time I’m around water I feel more relaxed and more at home.”

Kelly:  Well it’s always developing and moving forward, but the overall arc is about water, and about drowning. Not drowning in the sense of finality, but drowning in the sense of “change of location.” I’ve always been really attracted to water, and I’ve always been a water baby. I could swim probably before I could walk. I gravitate towards cities that are on oceans. I write about L.A. a lot. I’m always fascinated about water, So I started thinking about this, and looking back at the songs that I’ve written [I realized that] there are so many lines about water.

Sam:  I’ve noticed that you’ve tweaked the Kellygirls line-up once again.  You have a smaller group now.

“The new stuff tends to lend itself to a 60’s jazz feel. The concept record will be pushing in that direction a lot more.”

Kelly:  We have just six members instead of seven.  I was going to go with five, but that changed.  We have an all new rhythm section.

Sam:    How different is the new Kellygirls from previous line-ups?

Kelly:  There is a shift.  This one seems to be a little less of a huge shift, but it is still a shift.  We have gotten an amazing response so far, and I’m super excited.  It’s certainly way more jazzy than anything we’ve ever done before.  The new stuff tends to lend itself to a 60’s jazz feel.  The concept record will be pushing in that direction a lot more. Yeshua actually said to me as we were leaving the mixing on [the EP] that “It’s really exciting to be part of a project that develops naturally within itself.”  He used the word “orchestral.”  He said that the new Kellygirls stuff seems even more “actualized” and more “orchestral.”  More “robust.”  It’s like you understand what it is you do well and then you really finesse that.

Sam:  So with the new EP out and a new Kellygirls line-up, are you going to be doing more live performances this summer?

Kelly and the Kellygirls performing at Niagara Falls Pride 2012: “We’re doing a bunch of old Kellygirl songs that we haven’t touched in awhile. I’m really excited to do that. It’s really fun to let things sit and then to rediscover them. It makes it feel like a brand new song all over again…”

Kelly:  Yeah.  We’ve done a couple of shows in Niagara already, and then we have a couple of shows in Toronto and London, and then we fly back to the Prairies, and then we are going to Halifax and we’ll be in Peterborough in September.  We’re doing fifteen shows this summer.  I wouldn’t say [it’s a] capital “T” tour, but we’re hitting some of the parts of Canada that seems to like us a lot.  The confirmed shows are on my web-site now.

Sam:  What is the difference between playing an out of town gig compared to a Toronto one?

Kelly:  It’s a bit different, but at the same token it’s really exciting to not be in your home town and know that the crowd is still people who really do want to see you, and not just your friends.  Your friends always turn it into something else, but it really is intoxicating being in front of a large or small group of strangers.

Sam:  What can people expect from your shows this summer compared to your previous shows?

Kelly:  We’re doing a bunch of old Kellygirl songs that we haven’t touched in awhile.  I’m really excited to do that.  It’s really fun to let things sit and then to rediscover them.  It makes it feel like a brand new song all over again, so that’s a blast.  It could have been a “best of”set list, but I went through songs that I hadn’t played forever, and I’d listen to it and go “Shit, that’s a good song. Why haven’t I touched that one?”  So it’s really trying to concentrate on songs that compliment the new songs, while at the same time, are very actualized Kellygirls songs.

“Yeshua actually said to me as we were leaving the mixing on the EP that “It’s really exciting to be part of a project that develops naturally within itself.” He used the word “orchestral.” He said that the new Kellygirls stuff seems even more “actualized” and more “orchestral.” More “robust.” It’s like you understand what it is you do well and then you really finesse that.”

Sam:  You have been successful in so many different avenues of media.  Have you been working on any other projects, or has the new album and EP been the only project you’ve been focused on?

Kelly:  Well it’s been a really really busy six months leading up to now.  I have three photo exhibits up in Toronto this summer.  I currently have an exhibit up till July 20th at the Gladstone Hotel. I’m part of the 2nd annual 10×10 festival. So there has been a lot of work leading up to those, and then Yeshua and I had to decide which of the songs we were going to record out of the thirty that we wrote, and then we got the new group together, and rehearsing them and booking the new tour.  So I’ve definitely been very focused on both my photography and my music.  I’m kind of showing off this summer by doing both things at the same time.

Kelly and the Kellygirls is, without a doubt, one of my favorite Canadian groups.  With sensitive yet whimsical lyrics, an original sound unlike anything currently in music today and a keen sense of style and attitude, Kelly Clipperton puts together a sexy and smart production.  The live shows are high energy and filled with hilarious banter and audience interaction as Kelly brings out his “inner diva.”  Kelly and the Kellygirls could be the best group touring this summer, and if you are lucky enough to be near a city where they are coming make sure to drop everything to see them in person.   Kelly and the Kellygirls confirmed shows thus far include:

TORONTO, ON Saturday June 30/12 Pride, South Stage, 4pm

LONDON, ON Saturday July 28/12 Pride

SAULT STE MARIE, ON Saturday Aug 11/12 Buskerfest

WINDSOR, ON Sunday Aug 12/12 Pride

REGINA, SK Wednesday Aug 15 /12 Artesian on 13th

CALGARY, AB Thursday Aug 16/12 The Palomino

EDMONTON, AB Friday Aug 17 /12 The Brixx

SASKATOON, SK Saturday Aug 18/12 Lydia’s

More shows will be announced throughout the summer on Kelly’s web-site at http://www.kellyclipperton.com/.  Meanwhile Club de Femmes, as well as Kelly and the Kellygirls past hits are available at their iTunes store, and can be ordered via his web-site as well.

Kelly and the Kellygirls is an experience to behold,  Make sure that you don’t miss them when they come to your town.

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