In a year filled with surprise releases, one of the more pleasant among them has been Buckle Bunny, an accidental creation of Birmingham’s Kaydee Mulvehill that sounds like nothing that has come from Birmingham in quite some time.
The six-track EP, Pet Speak, is reminiscent of the female-led indie rock that has dominated rock over the past couple of years. It’s aggressive and it’s raw. It can’t remotely fit under the umbrella of “Americana” that has been where most Birmingham and Alabama artists have sheltered for years; the loosely-drawn “genre” title that has grown to make everyone cringe, one that Mulvehill’s own solo project would be lumped into. No, this happy accident of Mulvehill’s “pandemic art” period is rock and roll.
Now 30, Mulvehill began playing in a band with her sister when she was 15-years-old. When her sister got married and moved away, she began her own solo project. She took some time off to have children, and she got back at it a few years ago.
“It took me a long time to feel like I could do it without her,” she said. “We had never not done that together, and it took me a minute to find my footing.”
She and I spoke more about how Buckle Bunny happened and her hopes for it.
Did you always want to return to the idea of a “band,” or were you more attracted to staying solo?
Buckle Bunny was kind of an accident. Adrian Marmolejo plays bass for Early James and the Latest, and he also plays bass for me on my solo stuff. We’re really good buddies. Ryan Sobb is a Nashville-based musician, and he’s also friends with us. For a long time, I would write songs and send them to them to get feedback.
Quarantine had just happened and everything was shut down and I wrote “Lizard Brain.” It’s a very different style from my solo stuff. I sent it to Ryan and Adrian and they said, “This is a really cool song. We should just record it as a single – just a fun quarantine project to put it out.” So we started doing all of that in GarageBand.
Adrian was trying to figure out how to create the drums on Logic, because we didn’t have any drums. He was having a hard time with it because he’d never done it. We all know Les Nuby [producer, longtime Birmingham musician], but he and Ryan are really close. So Ryan said, “Let’s just call Les and pay him to mix and master some drums on it and we’ll just release it.”
We sent it Les, and Les freaked out about it. He said, “We’re recording an album.” So we recorded an album in a week. He said he wanted to be part of it. He played drums on the whole thing.
We all recorded our parts from separate places because of the pandemic. Ryan’s guitar parts were literally recorded on his phone. Les has often joked that this is “the band that would have never happened if quarantine hadn’t happened.” I had my entire year booked. Ryan had a bunch of shows booked. Adrian was supposed to be on tour with [Early James] and Les was booked with studio stuff. We just all happened to have time at the same time.
So you guys have never even really played this music in the same room before?
When we return to some kind of normalcy, is it something you’d want to take on the road with those guys? Or would that be impossible with everyone involved in other projects?
Yeah, we’ve talked about it. Les is older than us, and he and his girlfriend have kids. He’s said, “If this takes off, y’all need to find another drummer.” [laughs] But we already have a show booked in April. That’ll be our first show that we play together.
We definitely want to take it wherever it goes. It’s a lot of fun.
This sound has been having a moment for the past couple of years. If it does take off, would you maintain the solo thing you’ve already had, too? Or would that be put on hold?
I like being busy. I like doing this. Even when I was recording the Buckle Bunny album, I was still recording the solo album, too. It would just depend on what was needed. It’d be cool if it took off, either way. I love that band. When you enjoy hanging out with the people you’re playing with, it’s a big plus.
You mentioned how different this is from your solo thing. How did this come out of you? Were you shooting for something?
I had gone through a really rough year. I think I had all this anger and frustration and disappointment and shame – all these feelings – and music has always been an outlet for me. That’s when I started writing all of that stuff. Everything had shut down.
I don’t want to cheapen anyone’s experience with Covid-19 because it’s been awful to a lot of people. A lot of people have lost their jobs. It’s been very stressful, and it was very stressful for me, too. The world is falling apart and it’s hard not to feel it in some way. But it was also really good at showing me what I wanted out of life and what was really important. I felt a lot more clear coming into this new year, and it gave me the time to sit down and write that I hadn’t had before. I was able to channel all of those negative feelings that I had into these songs, and it was kind of my, “I don’t give a fuck” moment. I didn’t think anybody would hear them. They were more for me. If I had gotten a different reaction from Adrian and Ryan when I sent them that song, I probably never would have played it for anyone else. It was just me needing to get all of that out.
Structurally, the songs aren’t that different. A better guitar player than me could come in and play a different guitar part. It’s still my voice. But having Ryan play guitar gave the songs a different personality. They were also the most high energy songs I had ever written. Most of my stuff is more lyrically driven; more chill. These were coming out hot.
Pet Speak is available where you get your music. There might still be a few tickets to Mulvehill’s set with Will Stewart at The Nick on Friday. Tickets are $5 and available online.