When we meet at Allyn's Cafe, the band members of The Trojan Rabbit (TTR) are restless. Stirred up. Peter Underhill, lead guitarist, points at TTR's female vocalist, Bebhin Blank, and says, "At least we don't have to deal with male-lead-singer egos."
Blank laughs and responds, "I have the least amount of drama here."
"I'm the real drama queen," Underhill admits.
Then they bash Thomas Curran, the bassist, for being late.
Drummer Brian Kitzmiller says, "Thomas' motto is 'I'm on my way.' "
Behind the newly formed TTR, a jokey camaraderie lurks, and this mix of depth and humor leaks into their music as well.
At their debut Mad Frog gig, it's past 1 a.m., and the crowd is thin by the time TTR takes the stage. Blank is slender with auburn pigtails a shade darker than her red Ibanez.
Underhill sports a T-shirt that reads, "Phyllis is 50." Curran grins behind his bass. Kitzmiller, also grinning, takes the drums. At the mic, Blank announces, "In case you wondered, we don't do covers."
Blank's voice, bluesy and clear, holds an unashamed depth. In a lanky dance, she sings loud and smooth, throwing a harder vibe into her crowd play. Between songs, she belts out, "I'd like to be on the cover of Elle someday. No, Hustler!" TTR songs go from bluesy Rock to Bluegrass, creating an upbeat groove mixed with Funk. Blank says her influences are broad, ranging from Grace Slick to the Ska band Hepcat.
By 1:30 a.m., stragglers from the bar's other side snake closer to the stage and the crowd thickens. Late or not, TTR appears relaxed and awake, as if sharing an inside joke.
Back at Allyn's, wry smiles all around, they poke at each other, stabbing at sarcasm. But behind the flirty jabs, there's the hint of genuine friendship.
"Thomas is the gum chewer who wants to save the world," Blank says, wearing a camouflaged Aerosmith T-shirt. "Brian's quirk is that he only gets mad in private. Peter doesn't drink, and he's crazy. As for me, I'm a man trapped in a woman's body. I like to smoke, drink and play video games."
As in their music, there is a strange complexity under the surface, one that is evident in the story behind the band's beginnings. Blank, singing by the age of 6, "got sucked into Jazz bands and started playing bass." Later, she picked up rhythm guitar, joining the band Foxy McCoy as the frontwoman. There, she met Underhill.
Underhill started guitar lessons at 14, and describes his teachings simply: "Somebody showed me how to get around it." After joining Foxy McCoy, he called Blank, suggesting they start a side project. Last winter, Underhill got a job selling Christmas trees. Kitzmiller, formerly of Ray's Music Exchange and Heavy Weather, was taking a music scene break. But he needed a Christmas tree. Soon, Underhill sold him a tree and a new band.
When they put out an ad for a bassist, one response said, "That's me. I'm it," with no name attached. The stranger was Curran, the bassist from local band, Life Without Balance. Smiling wide, Curran sarcastically brags, "I've joined 17 bands that broke up before the first practice." Learning his style from his father's "basement-band, hippie atmosphere," and despite numerous tattoos and 5/8 gauge ear holes, Curran has a loose, excited edge. His influences, including Smashing Pumpkins and Bootsy Collins, add Funk.
"Really, it's the love of Monty Python that brought them together," Blank comments. (In fact, the band's name comes from a scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
Underhill's "side project" evolved into The Trojan Rabbit. Blank says, "I'd like to keep the same people together for a long time, to commit and take it beyond Cincinnati. And trash a hotel room. I mean, really trash it."
The other three agree to commit to trashing.
THE TROJAN RABBIT (thetrojanrabbit.com) play their "Coming Out of Our Hole" party Nov. 11 at Jack Quinn's in Covington.