The Reformed Whores are something of a wonder in modern music. They have the sound quality, instruments and professionalism of a regular band but they’re very playful. Like Tenacious D, Flight of the Conchords and their other contemporaries, The Reformed Whores are based in music but allow for comedy to flow from their work. They talk about all manners of life, mostly sexual, and it works especially well given the subject matter.
The bands’ leads, duo Katy Frame and Marie Cecile Anderson, are able to craft believable personas who are larger than life. They sing songs about online dating, eating out , and the woman’s hoo ha all to great effect of deeper innuendos that both men and women can enjoy. The Reformed Whores have a new album called Don’t Beat Around The Bush: Songs That Hit The Spot that perfectly captures everything their stage act has been trying to do. On top of that, this album is filled with an all star backing band including a guitarist that works with Reba McEntire and Johnny Cash’s bassist. I recently had a chance to talk to Marie and Katie about their path and how the album came to be.
Marie you got started when you were five years old in a production of The Little Mermaid. And Katy you got into sketch and improv in college.
Katy: Yeah I was doing theater in high school but I didn’t start doing sketch and improv until I got to college. And that’s kind of mind blowing.
How did you two end up forming the Reformed Whores?
Katy: We met at a party of a mutual friend in Brooklyn. We didn’t know anybody else at the party except for the host. And we just hit it off over a table of hor d’oeuvres and talked about boys and stuff. And Marie mentioned that she played the ukulele and I was like “Oh, I play the accordion!” She was like “Let’s start a band!” And I was like “Okay, I’m coming over!” So that weekend, I came over and we had our first rehearsal and the rest is history!
Marie: That’s how you make a band!
Katy: We just did it.
Marie: Meet up at a party and you start a band. I think the cool thing about our story is that so many people say that they’re going to do something and don’t actually do it. I think the great thing about us is that Katy was like “I’m coming over!” And I was like “Okay, yes!....stranger come to my house.” And then she did. She showed up with my accordion and started singing and it was like a freaking Disney Princess singing. It was a beautiful voice. And I was like “cha-ching!” And our voices just happened to – my voice is more of an alto and she’s a soprano and our voices just mixed so well together. We started writing the songs with each other that made us laugh and then we quickly learned that they make a lot people laugh. We’re very, very, lucky. We definitely fell ass backwards into it.
So why country music? We have Tenacious D with hard rock, Garfunkel and Oates with folk rock and the Lonely Island with rap. You guys chose to go a different route.
Katy: It kind of naturally fell into place with the country music. Marie is from Nashville originally and she’s got country music in her blood. Also, country music is sort of naturally designed for humor. It has a history of humor in terms of, not just songs, but during the open Grand Ole Opry set up, they have comedic banter between songs and the songs themselves can be funny as well. So it’s kind of naturally the stuff we want to talk about. And also country music is about love and heartache a lot of the time. Some of our songs are kind of about that but with a real twist.
With the comedy, you guys make a lot of sexual references with your songs and even the title [of your album] is sexual in itself. Why the decision to go with “The Reformed Whores?” Why the decision to go completely over the top sexual?
Katy: One of the reasons why we were driven to talk about that stuff is that there’s a common misconception that women are not as sexual as men or that women aren’t allowed to be sexual. And if they are, they’re sluts. That whole bullshit. We definitely weren’t on board with that mentality so we kind wanted to play with some of those ideas and that definitely motivated us a lot. And you know we experience…A lot of the songs are based off of stuff we’ve experienced in our lives on one level or another. Maybe more exaggerated but we’re writing about what’s moving us.
I particularly liked “Willie For A Day” with that vocal breakdown of you guys having a back and forth about Katy’s boobs.
Marie: Yeah! [laughs] That song is very near and dear to our hearts because we actually started writing that song for an ode for the transgender community. And to start to understand their changing their body to feel more like [themselves]. We struggled writing that song because it’s a heavy handed topic and we certainly didn’t want to offend anyone. Then we really realized “What does this mean to us? What are things we want to change about ourselves?” The boob stuff kind of naturally came up in one of our rehearsals very casually. The song, when we were writing it, to us out of something transgender and turned into a song about everyone loving themselves. That was how it started. That’s the song writing history of that song.
What was the decision to make it a long form radio broadcast? That’s super different compared to, say, Garfunkel and Oates – they’ll just do a straight up album of songs. But you guys decided to make this a story arc based album.
Marie: It’s just an ode to the Grand Ole Opry [and the] live broadcasting that they did way back when. And it really lends well to inserting your jokes and setting up the songs.
Katy: It’s definitely and ode to these old radio programs where they would have the host for the day. There’d be a sponsor. We played on that batch of ideas. Also the concept of a concept album is fun and you don’t see much of that anymore. People are just so into selling singles. It’s the half of a full, key experience. It’s also kind of an old timey concept in a way, too, because you don’t see as much of it anymore. We had thought about that. We were a little bit inspired by [others] and how they have so much banter between their song play. It’s almost like a play. It has a beginning, a middle and an end and all that stuff.
The interview segments with Thurston Dallas, were they heavily scripted or did you get a chance to riff with him at all?
Katy: A little bit. We definitely did a lot. One thing we were trying to achieve was getting some of our stage stuff in the album. So some of that stuff is the stuff we talk about on stage already. [Thurston] kind of brought some of it to life in his character which is really fun.
Marie: We had lots of takes. He gave us lots to work with. It was fun to go through and edit; to find which ones to use and which ones to play on a Friday night with friends.
I was reading the credits to the album. It says that you guys worked with a lot of other country musicians. How was that?
Katy: We had the incredible opportunity to go down to Nashville and record at the RCA Studio B. Everybody you can think of has recorded there. We could afford two days. We worked very hard in two days. We tour with Les Claypool and Bryan Keyhoe, [who] helped organize our bands in Nashville. We had Reba McEntire’s guitar player (Jeff King), American Country Music’s’ steel guitar player of the year (Mike Johnson) playing with us, and this guy that used to play with The Civil Wars (Ken Lewis). Incredible musicians. And their studio guys, they played in bands – oh, and Johnny Cash’s base player (Dave Roe Rorick) by the way, he was there – and it was because our good friend was able to organize this thing from afar (he’s in California). In the studio, these guys – because they are studio musicians also – they look at King as band leader and thought it was a Christian Rock album. They didn’t know! They just showed up and Jeff King was like “Um no it’s a little different.” We started recording with and the boys were like “What?! This is incredible! This is not your normal work day in Nashville.” And they loved it and we had so much fun with them.
Marie: We had a lot of fun. Yeah.
Since it was a two day record, did you feel any stress come upon you for the 48 hours you were there?
Both: Oh yeah. Totally. Sure.
Marie: The other thing is that we were in the studio for two days of our recording but we only had the musicians for one day. That’s all we could afford. They had to do all their work. And they are so professional that they would [have] two takes and they got it. It was crazy. And then it was up to us to come back and nail everything on the next day; fix things that need to be fixed and all that stuff. It was definitely stressful and there’s a lot of work to be done but it’s so fun. It’s a cool studio and the engineer is Ben Folds’ engineer and he was so fun. It was a good process to work with him. It’s because there’s such a professional [place] things worked so smoothly. They made our lives much easier.
Do you guys get a chance to perform a lot of the album stuff live?
Katy: We perform some of it live.
Marie: Normally it’s just two of us playing. I play this ukulele and she plays the accordion guitar. But for the album, at least, it was a full band. For the record release show on March 17, we’ll have a full band also.
How is playing for The Improv or The Meltdown versus playing for something like PBS or something that’s not a comedy based crowd?
Katy: Probably the best comparison is The Improv and Meltdown versus… actually, The Improv and Meltdown are already different sides. But then those compared to something a little less playful [like] a rock show, that’s a very different vibe. They’re both very cool. It’s obviously very fun to be in a rock venue singing our hearts out to a rock and roll venue to hundreds of people. That’s pretty neat. There’s something really great about the intimacy of a comedy club when people are there to see you and they’re sitting down. And they’re probably a little drunk but not as drunk.
Marie: We’re really good when you’re drunk!
Katy: Yeah, we’re amazing when you’re wasted.
Katy: I think the hardest crowd we’ve ever had though is the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally crowd. It was bikers. They were all bikers. Biker ladies and dudes. And then we played a music venue while were there and we also played a comedy club. [We would experience] the extreme in one day – we would do two shows a day. At the end of the day, what’s funny is funny; the proof is in the pudding. If they laugh, they laugh. They think it’s funny. If not, then pack it up and go home.