Catch a show at any of Midtown's indie rock venues -- Murphy's, Young Avenue Deli, or the Hi-Tone CafÇ -- and odds are good that you'll find Alicja Trout on stage: The lanky brunette plays in The Lost Sounds, The River City Tanlines, The Ultracats, and Nervous Patterns. She also pounds the tubs for Monsieur Jeffrey Evans' C.C. Riders and occasionally does studio work with Destruction Unit and The Ron Franklin Entertainers. With Jay Lindsey (her boyfriend and musical partner in the Lost Sounds and Nervous Patterns), Trout engineered some sessions for The Reigning Sound's latest album, Too Much Guitar. And, this weekend, her band Mouse Rocket is celebrating the release of its first full-length album, out on Empty Records.
"I feel this need to be constantly working," Trout says, "and all these bands have different songs, different attitudes, and different approaches. It's fun and work at the same time. Over the years, playing music has become part of my identity. This is what I need to do all day, instead of taking care of kids," Trout says.
Trout first gained prominence in The Clears, a lighthearted, Eno-esque art-rock band led by Shelby Bryant and Brad Pounders. The darker and more enigmatic Lost Sounds is the most successful of her projects; the group has released three albums to date (with a new one expected this fall on In the Red Records) and toured the U.S. and Europe multiple times. While it's tempting to call Mouse Rocket the flip side of the Lost Sounds stylistically, the band falls into the middle ground somewhere between that band and The Clears, appropriating tenets from each without sounding derivative or repetitive.
"Musically, Mouse Rocket is more loosely constructed than any other band I've played in," Trout says. She calls it "a free environment" where her bandmates -- guitarist Robby Grant, bassist Hemant Gupta, drummer Robert Barnett, and cellist Jonathan Kirkscey -- help construct the material. "It's been a good exercise for me," says Trout, a self-described control freak. "Being [in Mouse Rocket] is a little less demanding -- and a lot more relaxing -- than playing with the Lost Sounds."
Trout compares Mouse Rocket's sound with some of her earliest musical influences, which include Sonic Youth and The Mink Lungs' Tim Feleppa. "With two guitars, I can get more of that dissonance going, and, of course, Jonathan's cello adds another dimension," she explains. The classical component is most evident on the band's cover of Love's "Alone Again Or," which was originally released as a single on the local Wrecked 'Em Wreckords label. On the song, Kirkscey's cello chords take the place of the original trumpet riff, lending a deliciously baroque sensibility to the mix. Meanwhile, Grant takes over lead vocals for a few tracks, while Ron Franklin contributes organ to "Little Black Egg" and "One in Two." Catch Mouse Rocket at the Hi-Tone CafÇ this Friday, June 4th, with special guests The Break-Ups and DJs Krissy and Lacey.
Throughout the '80s and '90s, Cary Hudson was a familiar figure in these parts: He fronted Oxford college faves The Hilltops and Blue Mountain, two groups that helped put north Mississippi on the alt-country map. But when Hudson's marriage to Blue Mountain bassist Laurie Stirratt ended in 2001, the band imploded as well.
With a new wife and a baby on the way, Hudson retreated to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where he decided to woodshed for a year before coming up with The Phoenix, his first solo album. Now he's released a follow-up, Cool Breeze, which provides some much needed perspective on the events of the last 24 months. "I grew up down here, in a town called Sumrall, which is an hour and a half north of New Orleans," Hudson says on the phone from Hattiesburg. "I never intended on coming back here, but at the same time, I feel like my job [in north Mississippi] was done."
Lyrically, Cool Breeze offers plenty of insight into Hudson's life. Even the artist confesses that it's tempting to divvy up the autobiographical tunes into his past and present living situations. "A lot of the songs are about moving home and having a kid," he says, citing the title track as one example. "The rest of them are about leaving Oxford. I knew I was closing a door, and I kept thinking about what happened up there."
Hudson has an easier time describing the differences between playing in Blue Mountain and performing as a singer-songwriter. "It's been an uphill struggle for me," he admits. "When we had the band, Laurie and I split up all the chores. Now I'm realizing what all there is to be done aside from writing songs."
Hudson will celebrate the release of Cool Breeze at the Hi-Tone CafÇ on Wednesday, June 9th. n