- Beth Wawerna
- Johnny North
- Clinton Newman
- Ray Ketchem
- Eli Thomas and Elizabeth Nelson Bracy
"Beth Wawerna's involvement with rock music started a couple minutes after she was born, when her 14-year-old brother stubbornly insisted she be named for the 1976 KISS power ballad "Beth." Her parents consented – thus unwittingly sealing their daughter's fate.
Beth now fronts her own rock band, Bird of Youth, whose debut album "Defender" (out May 24) was produced by Will Sheff of Okkervil River and Phil Palazzolo (The New Pornographers, Ted Leo, Neko Case), with a cast of players that includes members of The Wrens, Nada Surf, The National, Okkervil River and the Mendoza Line.
Growing up in Atlanta, GA, Beth spent her formative years sifting through her brother's abandoned record collection. She became taken with artists like Elvis Costello and The Replacements, whose rowdy intellect fit in nicely with the Southern indie-rock she'd already been exposed to – bands like R.E.M., Pylon and The Rock*A*Teens. When it came time to leave the South, Beth got a job, moved to Brooklyn, got laid off, went to bars and stayed up late with her musician friends – drinking beer and singing songs. But she was also writing songs of her own – songs that felt both brainy and tough, thoughtful and tossed-off, vicious and vulnerable. For so long, Beth had been the consummate green-room insider, but dubious creative outsider – comfortable hanging backstage, but terrified of being on it. For that reason, she wrote for years before sharing so much as a note. But she kept writing, and the number of songs grew. Then finally, a few years down the road – armed with a collection of home-recorded demos – she mustered the courage to send them to friends, and they encouraged her to make an album.
"Defender" recalls the classic and college rock Beth grew up with, as well as the swagger of old New York girl groups and the insight and sarcasm the early new wave songwriters. Inherent in Beth’s voice is a cool stoicism – a dry, knowing wink that is as affecting in Defender’s moments of dark humor and ornate storytelling as it is in its flashes of unvarnished heartbreak. Beth's dry delivery finds a perfect match in lead guitarist Clinton Newman, whose lush, multilayered harmonies and intertwining guitar parts give this record its distinctive sound – something like Chrissie Hynde fronting Squeeze or Nico signed to Stiff Records. As intricate pop songcraft crumbles into gauzy atmospherics and literate observations devolve into boozy chaos, Bird of Youth’s rave ups and kiss offs turn indie-rock braininess back on itself with a casual frivolity.
Over the past few years, Beth has put that wonderfully unstable marriage to the test on stage, appearing with The Wrens, The Mendoza Line, Okkervil River, Roky Erickson, A.C. Newman and others. With the band's permanent touring lineup rounded out by bassist Johnny North, drummer Ray Ketchem and keyboardist Eli Thomas, Bird of Youth plan to spend the summer months of 2011 bringing "Defender" direct to the fans."
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