The Bitter Elegance ushers in the next new wave
Local music veterans unleash a darker, heavier pop
The Bitter Elegance promises a full-blown rock adventure at every live show, with a punky, prom night aesthetic.
At the Fair Oaks-based collective’s debut record-release party, guests will need to sign a waiver before entering the underground venue. Between the digital screens, massive sound and dazzling light show, some people might experience motion sickness. And the onslaught of bubbles and fake snow could damage clothing.
Unfortunately for those seeking tickets, the show completely sold out last week, but there will always be a next time.
“It’s going to be like a show at Oracle Arena, except it’s only for 62 people,” says guitarist Jeffry-Wynne.
“I have to have a parasol for some of the songs, so I don’t have my makeup destroyed,” quips singer Merlot, who anticipates looking like “a gothic princess.” Like the rest of the band, she prefers to use her stage name.
And, actually, the Bitter Elegance wants to be called a “songwriting collective” rather than a “band” in general. That’s because of the particular way the group operates, which stems from the implosion of three of its members’ last band, the Kimberly Trip.
The Kimberly Trip’s new wave pop garnered a huge fan base in Sacramento over the course of 12 years, releasing several of its eight albums on Sony imprints. After a falling out a couple of years ago, the singer, Kimberly Prince, promptly left the band. The remaining members, Jeffry-Wynne, drummer Bractune and bassist Michaelandrew, continued to write together—though, out of the local spotlight, and primarily for national television shows and movies. Eventually they recruited Merlot, a local vocal instructor, and the Bitter Elegance was born.
“It’s been freeing in a lot of ways to not have the pressure of a tour or a label or anything,” Jeffry-Wynne says. “We’re just writing what we want to write and seeing how it develops.”
Along those lines, the Bitter Elegance plans to continue to produce its own music and keep the group completely independent— a lesson learned from the Kimberly Trip days.
“Once it becomes a business first, all the fun is immediately sucked away,” Jeffry-Wynne says. “No fun has been sucked away from this.”
In many ways, the Kimberly Trip’s demise wound up being a blessing. Jeffry-Wynne says his collaborators got to evolve musically with the Bitter Elegance in a way that wasn’t possible before.
“When you’re a band for so long … you get locked into expectations of what the band is,” he says. “We were having trouble breaking out of that.”
Though the Bitter Elegance also carries some ’80s influence, its brand of pop leans more dark, heavy and gothic. Still, it’s totally catchy. Think Muse meets Evanescence meets the B-52s.
The debut record, Painting Over Your Ghost, drops on Saturday, June 11. According to Jeffry-Wynne, it’s “75 percent downer, 25 percent happy.” Chalk that dreariness up to Merlot’s influence.
“When I write songs, everything is about the darkness inside me,” she says. “The happy stuff has been interesting.”
An example: “UnSuperHero,” a decidedly fun take on the explosion of superhero-related entertainment.
“Two people find each other and they don’t have any super-powers but they’re still perfect for each other,” Jeffry-Wynne says. “They can be each other’s unsuperhero.”