“I don’t really know too many bands that sound like we do,” Bald Rapunzel guitarist Drew Doucette modestly observes. “Not that we’re better, but there isn’t much going on that could compare with the style we’re doing…whatever that style is.”
The style in question might best be pegged as unabashedly anthemic and richly melodic. Guitarist-vocalist Bonnie Schlegel’s striking voice, an expressive instrument that might, in another world, be dubbed soulful, hovers over the waltzing, deliberate layers of sound the band creates, actuating a feel akin to what Tsunami might’ve sounded like had its members grown up in the early ’90s. For the most part, Bald Rapunzel draws its music and ideological inspiration from predecessors in the D.C. scene, as well as making up its own, forging a sound that’s charming, glorious, and undesigned.
The band formed in 1996 when drummer Katy Otto and Schlegel met—though the Otto-fueled myth suggested it started with her chasing Schlegel down Route 1 in College Park near the old Planet X has yet to be corroborated. Bald Rapunzel has kept a relatively low public profile over the past year, but has been as busy as ever working on an as-yet-untitled record. “We felt that we needed to get these songs from the past couple years documented to be able to get to the next step and to work on new stuff,” Otto remarks. “We love these songs, although we want to get to a different place with our songwriting.”
After an aborted recording session earlier in the summer, the foursome decided to stick to its roots and record the songs two at a time at nearby Phase Studio in College Park. “The recording was pushed off because we really needed to tighten up a lot of songs,” admits Schlegel.
“Yeah,” bassist Mike Hitt concurs. “We weren’t ready to record yet.”
Out of that potentially band-breaking contretemps, though, the band found a new raison d’etre. “Since then, we’ve learned how to be a band and not just a group of four people,” Hitt declares. “Now, we’re truly a band. We’re putting a whole lot into this record. I think it’s going to be good.”
One of the more admirable traits of Bald Rapunzel is its respect for the ephemeral nature of music. “Our songs are never thought of as ‘finished,’” Otto explains. “They’re tools that are changeable. [With the recording,] we’ve had to force ourselves to find an end point on them.”
Also refreshing is the foursome’s noticeable lack of musical ennui, something that has seemingly served as almost a prerequisite for young bands in the area. “It’s a unique position to be in where you spend so much energy on the band that you learned to play music in, which is the case for me and Bonnie,” Otto says. “This is the band we learned to play our instruments in, and it’s like a friend from childhood.”
The nearly half-finished record, scheduled to be in stores by next spring, will reflect three years’ worth of songwriting, touring, and growing pains—a synopsis the four seem to stand behind. “We’ve truly learned a lot from this band and from each other,” Otto said. “That carries over into other areas of our lives. Part of what makes us enjoy one another and function well is that we do this to travel and experience things and to play for fun, more than looking toward making a career out of it.” —John Davis
Bald Rapunzel plays the Black Cat Saturday, Oct. 23 with Girls Against Boys and Ursula Major.