Los Angeles’ Leftover Cuties are on the verge of releasing their sophomore LP and critics are still not entirely sure what to make of them (Not that that’s a bad thing.) They’ve been characterized by phrases like “noir-pop,” and “jazz-pop.” Their sound includes upright bass, accordion, and the ukulele (among slightly more conventional popular instruments), in addition to Shirli McAllen, likely the “chanteuse” most true to the term that I’ve ever chatted with, much less written up. She oozes sensuality, but with an assured sultriness leading you to believe that she would be the one calling the shots. They’re a sunny lounge act of sorts, who hold no influences back, imbuing their sound with bits of Americana, Doo-Wop, and 1950s Rock’N’Roll balladry. Their second full-length, The Spark, The Fire, is due next Tuesday, July 23rd, and they’re currently in the middle of an extensive US tour, which goes into September. While they don’t have any Philadelphia dates, they will be in Bethlehem for Musikfest on August 4th, where they’ll be performing alongside Pearl and the Beard and Southern Culture on the Skids.
I recently got a chance to chat with Leftover Cuties’ frontwoman Shirli McAllen and when I ask her about the band’s latest work, she proved my assessment that the band “hold no influences back.”: “It was an evolution in our sound in some ways… but, we’re always going to be Leftover Cuties. Some songs draw a little more from gospel music and there’s a little more edge, but we never really limit ourselves, in terms of the sounds we’re going to come up with.” She also tells me, “Some of the lyrics are a little darker on this one. This was a little more personal. Not that the last one wasn’t, but I took more from things I observed in other people on that one.”
Considering the band’s blend of sounds, I asked McAllen her musical influences… but her reply really left me with more questions than answers. The Israel-born singer tells me, “I grew up listening to Israeli music, but then, later, I got really into Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and grunge, but I got into them much later in my life. Now I listen to anything from Arcade Fire to Bon Iver, but I always go back to the ‘oldies.’” She also admits to having a lot of non-musical influences: “I could be inspired by a movie I see or a book I read or a conversation I have with someone, anything really. Basically ‘life,’ but it’s hard to put my finger on any one thing.”
For the rest of the year the band are planning on writing some songs for their next record, and a short European tour after the US tour wraps. “I’m excited to be going back to Israel and coming full-circle, since coming to America,” McAllen tells me. Leftover Cuties also recently released a music video for their single, “One Heart” (which you can see below), and are offering a free MP3 of the track on their website. For those who get a chance to see the band live, McAllen tells me, “People should expect to smile a lot and be moved. It’s hard to describe. You have to be there,” but says, “The people who have seen us swear the live show is where it’s at. I love performing live and I love sharing the music.”
Finally, I had to ask Ms. McAllen about how the band came about their hyper-quirky moniker. Apparently it was a combination of a nickname and the fact that their first songs were in the works for quite some time: “A while ago I worked as a bartender and I had these co-workers I really loved and my friend Josh said to me and my friend, Maria, ‘You guys are leftover cuties.’ It was kind of the perfect name. I mean, the songs were kind of cute and were leftover for a while.”