Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Inside the Minds of The Clockwork Dolls

I have always heard about performances of The Clockwork dolls, but had never had the opportunity to see them until the Steampunk World’s Fair this year (2012).  I managed  to schedule an interview in advance with The Clockwork , but both their schedule (and mine) were so hectic, at first, that we had to reschedule, but I found the band leader Allison Curval to be so gracious and courteous about this, that even that was a pleasurable experience.  Allison, Daniel, and Chris attended the interview, and before long it seemed more like ‘hanging out with friends” than a formal interview, which permitted some insight into their character.

I found many variations in the three of them of outgoing and shy, verbal and quiet, thoughtful and funny, but the one thing I never encountered was any heavy ego.  That is one of the great things about independent bands.  Many of the members are still focused on the love of their art, and this group is no exception.

I attended their shows before the interview and considered them to be well presented, good quality, fun, definitely Steampunk, and thoroughly entertaining.  Their music often sounds like a great sweeping movie soundtrack, or a song in the midst of an adventure oriented musical, but with a classical score behind the singers.  Their singers Collette and Trinket have an excellent chemistry that was often quite funny.  While they are both fine singers, this combination made for duets that are superior to either of them separately.

We tried to conduct the interview in the cool shade under the trees of the Midway, but part way through the interview, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band decided to ignore their band’s name and marched through the middle of the area playing very happily and very loudly.  We thought that would pass, but then they went back to being stationary right next to us, so we moved to the hospitality suite.  Even that was a bit noisy and in the end we finished the interview in the hall.  I am mentioning this only to point out that through this all, Allison and the other band members made this all feel like a very fun and casual moment with old friends.

The music itself, the image, and concept of the band, Allison’s brainchild, was always intended to be to build a very visual and theatrical troupe that sang emotionally moving songs about adventure with a Steampunk Style using quality vocals and instrumentals in a variety of styles.  In other words, the concept was consistent, but the musical styles were never intended to stay static and was open to a variety of  approaches.  Their website describes it like this: “…they paint the epic musical picture of an elaborate and strange world as they tell the familiar tale of a young noble woman and her best friend battling against the odds for the freedom to be themselves. It is a world filled with pirates, dark saloons, airships, and the technology of both past and future. “Like most other “Steampunk “  bands they  use electric instruments, but blend them with older styles of instruments and music in a variety of ways.

When I asked about their early forays into the music scene, Allison confided that they owe a debt of thanks to Josh Pfieffer, the lead singer and band founder of Vernian Process for giving them support early on.  Allison sent a note of deep appreciation for the work of Vernian Process, and didn’t realize at the time it was sent from the Clockwork Dolls Myspace account instead of her personal account.  Josh tracked the message back and checked out their music.  Josh liked it well enough to book them as an opening act a few times for some of his solo performances, which naturally helped their public recognition in the Steampunk Community enormously.

They have continued to stay friends with the musicians they met on the west coast during that time and are very supportive of their various musical endeavors.  In their home turf of Baltimore, Maryland, they often perform with Eli August or with Petal Blight, and often interact with the Steampunk Community in Washington DC which is so nearby that they generally merge and function as one large Steampunk community with Baltimore.  They are also well connected with other bands and communities throughout the East Coast.  (Editor’s Note – Our friendly interaction at this event will now begin to connect them to most of the Steampunks from the Southern US as well)

As they have already been interviewed in a variety of forums, I focused more this time on learning more about the actual members of the band and how they came to join the band.  Allison Curval developed the concept and has always played guitar for the band, but has worked with multiple singers and musicians.  Allison said that she had already decided to have band members develop ornate fictional characters dressed primarily in Victorian Era attire, but she wanted to add as much elegance as possible herself on stage.  As a result, her “clockwork robotic governess” character is unusually colorful and elegantly attired.  When asked about how she spends her time when not making music, (and giving a serious answer that day) Allison admits to spending a lot of time on video games, RPGs, and “other nerdy stuff”
Collette Lovelace had been Allison’s close friend for some time before Allison heard her beautiful singing voice.  Collette was singing spontaneously one day at a restaurant they frequent, and it was so beautiful that Allison said that when she finished, you could have heard a pin drop in the place.  Naturally Allison wanted her to sing for the band.  She is engaging, friendly, funny on stage (as well as off) and gives excellent vocal skill to the lyrics.

Daniel met the band when they performed at Anime USA in 2009.  He was a big fan of their music, so he spent some time talking to Allison and the others after the show.  Daniel liked the band so much that he offered to assist the band as a staff member and has proven his worth in that area.   He has been with the band ever since.

Christopher found the band when they were asked last minute to replace the entertainment that had cancelled at a “Washington Lane & Lee Asian Leadership Conference”.  Christopher Bass met them after the show.  They seemed to have good rapport together, so when he said he was a guitarist, they asked him to audition.  Allison then brought him into the clockwork dolls as their Guitarist.

Trinket, their newest vocalist, was a very experienced performer that had been appearing as a perky and saucy singer for the Cheeky Monkey Sideshow for many years.  She was a mutual friend of Collette and Allison.  Allison had been discussing the possibility of joining the Clockwork Dolls for some years before she finally auditioned recently and created the excellent duet chemistry (and comedic chemistry) that has become almost a sideshow of it’s own in the middle of the band during performances!  Trinket is quite charming, very friendly, and has mannerisms that make it clear she is one of the old time pros that doesn’t drop character until the curtains come down, the audience has left, and all cameras are off.

I found all the band members to be people that loved their craft and simply so much fun to be around that they have become a favorite for me at events they perform at in the future.  Definitely check them out at their website and on Youtube as well.  I have provided some of the best links at the end of this article.

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