One way or another

Luke’s Angels don’t take orders from anyone.

by Keri Carlson

Let’s just get this out of the way. Yes, Luke’s Angels is a grrrl band, a chick band, a three-girl-one-boy drummer combo, or whatever term you prefer to describe a group with more than one woman as a member. Despite all the gender-bending David Bowies out there, and the post-riot grrrl mainstreaming of punk women, gender is still a prevalent issue in rock, and maybe it always will be. Girl bands are still a big deal.

“More girls are doing it,” guitarist and vocalist Jennie Kalpin said. “It’s just not as common. It’s still not 50-50.”

As Luke’s Angels have recently exploded onto the local music scene, they seem to have emphasized the girl group thing even more than usual. Much of that has to do with the fact that Luke’s Angels are definitely influenced by some of the most important women artists of the 1990s, such as the Breeders, P.J. Harvey and Throwing Muses. Their recently released, self-titled album contains similar fuzz-heavy grunge mixed with Melissa Kalpin’s calm and cool 1960s surf pop melodies. However, the Angels put even more of an emphasis on their harmonies. Kalpin and Amy Carson blend their voices together elegantly – either swirling them in a round, battling back and forth or falling perfectly in sync.

But perhaps all the gender attention has more to do with the Twin Cities being starved for female bands. Despite the insane number of bands in these parts, there’s a lot more testosterone onstage than the overall make-up of the scene would suggest. Luke’s Angels is exactly what music goers have been missing.

What makes Luke’s Angels such an infectious band is that their long history with one another makes their songs click together that much tighter. The Kalpin sisters and Carson grew up in St. Cloud, Minn., and played in the high school orchestra together before they grabbed electric guitars and began playing covers of their favorite bands. While St. Cloud had a bit more to offer than many other small towns, like a serious independent record store and the college radio station KVSC, the group never played shows in town and they would come to the Cities to see concerts.

After high school the girls went their separate ways but three years ago they all ended up in Minneapolis for jobs and school. (Jennie is a University dental student.) They met drummer Jamie Bollman who played in a band with Jennie’s husband, who also had a practice space. With those connections, it was easy for the group to reform and begin playing again.

Their new songs range from sharing dreams to falling in love to eating beef jerky – the kind of songs you would write with your closest friends.

Luke’s Angels definitely deserve more than to be pigeonholed as a girl band. All anyone has to do is listen to their music to know their sex is not what makes Luke’s Angels a great band. But paying some attention to the fact that they are women playing music is not a bad thing at all. Maybe they will inspire a new crop of local women to pick up guitars.