Sultry, spacey lounge act Opi Yum Yum consists of local music vets

Out of the ashes of two of Cincinnati's premiere AltRock bands rises Opi Yum Yum, a velvety smooth quartet that's part proto-lounge act, part experimental Jazz combo. Frontman and horn player Da

Mar 21, 2002 at 2:06 pm
Leigh James

Opi Yum Yum

Out of the ashes of two of Cincinnati's premiere AltRock bands rises Opi Yum Yum, a velvety smooth quartet that's part proto-lounge act, part experimental Jazz combo. Frontman and horn player Dan McCabe (formerly of Roundhead) and ex-Radiolaria members Jane Jordan (bass) and Carrie Reynard (drums, vocals) have been defining the group's unique sound since its formation close to two years ago. A recent addition, Shannon McGee (of the Fairmount Girls) replaced original lap steel player Jenn Wintrow, and the resulting mix has McCabe starry-eyed.

"I think what Shannon has done with the lap steel defines the Opi Yum Yum sound," McCabe says. "Shannon makes it sultry. We've had people at our shows mention that our music is sexy. Not the band, the music. That thrills me to no end. Carrie's vocals also have a lot to do with that."

The concept started with conversations two summers ago between McCabe and Jordan (who also plays with McGee in the Fairmount Girls).

With Radiolaria and Roundhead losing members and playing their last round of shows, the opportunity seemed right for McCabe.

"Jane gave me a call and filled my head with dreams of a Lounge/Pop experiment," he recalls. "No guitars, lots of horn, simple and dreamy."

That's a far cry from the members' previous musical incarnations which found significant critical success with fuzzy, post-modern Guitar Rock soundscapes. Opi Yum Yum is a touch more delicate and less sinister on the surface. Gone are the chortling, caustic guitars only to be replaced with sparse instrumentation, dreamy lounge-scapes, evocative slide work and Jordan's melodic bass propelled along by her former bandmate's powerful, rhythmic playing.

"Opi Yum Yum's secret superpower is the rhythm section from Radiolaria," McCabe explains. "I've never heard an approach to the drums and bass like Carrie and Jane. I'm very happy they've continued to play together. Also very lucky. We all come from very sonic, wall-of-sound type bands. Opi Yum Yum is something of a luxury for us. Each individual has a stand-alone sound in the band. It's much more fun to then sync up with each other."

Notwithstanding his obvious affection for his current bandmates, McCabe's role as frontman is equally surprising for those familiar with his previous turn as vocalist/cornet player for Roundhead, whose sonic layers were usually topped with McCabe's edgy lyrical delivery. Leaving his circus barker megaphone behind, McCabe has lovingly embraced the new role of glass-hearted crooner. Shifting from lilting melodies to falsetto cries, his voice is the cherry on top of Opi Yum Yum's rich and dreamy sound.

"I have a very vivid (imaginative) 4-year-old son named Dominic," McCabe says. "He has caused me to embrace optimism. That could be the root difference between the music of Opi Yum Yum which actually builds the occasional love song, and Roundhead where I wallowed in the cynicism of the '90s."

One new song, "Love. Imagined," is unabashedly a love song, with McCabe coyly offering: "Until the sun don't shine or until you're mine/Keep up your man hunt, hope it's me you'll find." McCabe is unashamed of his new role.

"It's been fun getting a little sappy" he laughs. "The discovery of love is always surprising and never what you imagined. Carrie came up with a great chorus on that one that ends with 'not at all what I imagined.' We both are lucky enough to be in love."

He quickly adds "Not with each other (though)."

Even though McGee and Jordan continue to make music with the Fairmount Girls, McCabe insists that the new group is not a mere side project and will continue to forge ahead on all frontiers.

"I and the women of Opi Yum Yum are committed to making music," he says. "We do work around a very busy Fairmount Girls' schedule, making our appearances a bit precious."

Those appearances have included live shows at less traditional venues, including last month's gig at the newly christened Plush Lounge (located above trendy eatery, Carol's On Main). The lounge's warm lush colors, Dali-esque murals and eclectic lighting are the perfect compliment to the band's music — picture Blue Velvet meets Looking for Mr. Goodbar. McCabe, former booker for Sudsy Malone's, says he likes the challenge of non-traditional music venues.

"We've had a lot of fun redefining smaller rooms that may not typically host live music," he says.

With band members drawing on their own varied musical experiences and combining such unique instrumentation, it's a wonder where the influences that inspire Opi Yum Yum are derived. McCabe admits he has been digesting everything from Smog, Lee Morgan, Chalk, Mercury Rev and old Iggy Pop as of late. However, figuring out the origins of Opi Yum Yum's unique sound may not be as tricky as imagined.

"I listen to music in my 1975 Pontiac LeMans" McCabe offers. "That may be an influence unto itself."

OPI YUM YUM will perform Thursday at Cody's Café, April 3 at Plush and at Top Cats on April 27 with Candy Afterlife. For more information, check out