By Samantha Bambino
Philly-based country-western band Mandy Valentine might only be about a year old, but this five-piece is already delivering a rootin’, tootin’ good time to the area music scene thanks to a double debut single and weekly residency at Tin Can Bar, 2537 E. Somerset St.
Comprised of vocalist, guitarist and lead songwriter Missy Pidgeon, drummer and production wiz Mattie Klauser, bassist Jay Johnson, vocalist and tambourine player Abbey Heier and lead guitarist Sam Perduta, Mandy Valentine celebrated the release of Sugar Baby and Oh, Baby, jointly referred to as Baby!, during a special recent show at Ortliebs, 847 N. 3rd St.
In a post-show interview with the Star, the band expressed its excitement over a successful, jam-packed gig, and also having some of its original music finally available for the world to hear.
“It feels good that we can actually recommend our songs to people now and have a place where they can really listen,” Pidgeon said.
Baby! draws heavily from Pidgeon’s love of Elvis Presley, Hank Williams and other mid-century country icons, with inspiration also taken from the catchy pop tracks of The Shangri-Las and other female groups of the ‘60s.
Sugar Baby was penned by Pidgeon shortly after returning to the east coast from a farm internship in California. She said, “I came back and I was just whistling a tune.” Lyrically, the song is heavily influenced by Presley. Similar to how he croons “Oh yeah, if you wanna be kissed, well, you gotta kiss me, too” in One-Sided Love Affair, Pidgeon sings, “Give me a little sugar if you love me, too.”
As for Oh, Baby, the goal of this song was to produce a “roadhouse honky tonk” tune. The final result is largely thanks to Klauser, who thought the original version’s tempo in the swing sounded too similar to other tracks Mandy Valentine was working on. Therefore, Klauser implemented a Billie Jean-esque drum beat, but a little lazy, allowing it to have that perfect roadhouse style that’s “more jerky, less swingy.”
The idea behind a double debut release, rather than just one song, was to emulate the A-side and B-side typically found on old records and cassette tapes. Klauser reflected on how, if a release had two songs of the same band, there would be an uptempo track and a longer, moodier one. This is exactly what Mandy Valentine went for with Baby!.
Klauser, who engineered Johnson’s solo project Four Quartets, took steps during the mastering of Baby! to let the finished product sound as simple and reminiscent of its influences as possible. Additionally, Andy Clarke, audio engineer at Retro City Studios in Germantown, mastered Baby! to tape, which further transports the music into the ‘60s realm.
The release of Baby! arrived just in time for Mandy Valentine’s residency at Tin Can Bar, which continues weekly through the month of March. This opportunity, said Klauser, is also reminiscent of artists from years’ past.
“Until the ‘80s and ‘90s, residencies were the thing that every band did,” they said. “They would perform once or twice a week at the same venue, in New York, Nashville. That’s how a lot of the bands we know got to be these superstars, playing the same room over and over again. It’s a treat to have that to look forward to.”
It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a free show. If audience members enjoy Mandy Valentine, they know exactly where to find the band each week. If not, they didn’t put forth any financial investment besides an Uber or parking.
Much to Pidgeon’s surprise, landing this gig was extremely easy. After being approached by a booker from Tin Can to play one show, Pidgeon suggested a residency instead. This suggestion was happily obliged.
“In my head, I thought I was going to have to pound the pavement and proposition a bunch of bars about hosting this residency,” she said.
Each week, Tin Can-goers can expect to hear Mandy Valentine’s double debut single, as well as covers from country and rock and roll legends, from Buddy Holly to The Beatles. When asked to explain what a typical Mandy Valentine show is like, Pidgeon proudly described it as “rootin’ and tootin’” and just an all-around fun time.
“Jay’s definitely trying to bring some gags to the stage,” she said.
“I rode a horse on a stick while playing bass,” chimed in Johnson.
Looking ahead, Mandy Valentine plans to release an EP before summer and perform more shows, including a festival in central Pennsylvania that sees the rockabilly music community unite. There aren’t any major, long-term goals at the moment, just a drive to keep playing shows, releasing music and, above all, having fun.
None of the band’s members are strangers to the local music scene. In fact, Pidgeon and Klauser have been part of several projects together over the years. Still, all agreed that there’s something unique about Mandy Valentine that they hope resonates with the masses.
“I think this band is a beautiful, beautiful thing and one of the nicest groups of people I’ve ever played with,” Klauser said. “It’s always a really good time and I hope that people can be a part of that as they learn the songs and come out more regularly to see us. We’re more worried about having fans who have a good time than having fans who help us get famous.”
“It’s a really fun band and I think that comes through,” said Johnson. “There needs to be more fun in the world.”
Keep up with Mandy Valentine at mandyvalentine.bandcamp.com and on Instagram @xomandyvalentine. ••