MEET THE BAND: Shawni Marks (vocals, keyboards), Beth Kille (vocals, guitar), Jen Farley (vocals, the occasional tambourine, egg shaker)
A SPECIAL THING: About five years ago, the three women in the Madison, Wisconsin-based alt-country act Gin, Chocolate & Bottle Rockets met through some mutual friends. Since they were all musicians, Kille, who hosted a singer-songwriter night a few times a year, thought they should all sing together. Once they did, they "clicked," as Farley puts it. "After that showcase, we decided to form a band, and it's been going strong ever since," she says. "I had no idea it would be so good, and there are still moments now when we're performing that I just can't believe how good it is. We'll get lost in each other's voices, and it all just blends together. It's a pretty special thing."
A VARIETY OF INFLUENCES: The band put out their initial EP in 2014 and started performing live. The group draws equally from rock, pop and country. "The three of us are so different," says Farley. "We each take influences from different things. Beth is more in the Americana realm. Shawni grew up in a Baptist family and she's very musical, and I'm from Cleveland, so I love classic rock. There's some Wilson Phillips and some Andrews Sisters. It's this weird meld of different types. We had to introduce Shawni to the Bangles. She only sort of knew who they are."
A COLLECTIVE EFFORT: Some of the songs on the new album, Lean, have been ones the band has performed but never recorded. The group's cover of "Sweet Dreams," for example, has been a staple in the live sets since the band's early days. "This album was more of a collective effort," says Farley. "We could each contribute and write. As a result, it goes all over the place."
WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR THEM: Lean's title track features pitch perfect harmony vocals and driving guitars and sets the tone for the album which veers from Melissa Etheridge-like rockers ("Flesh on Fire") to semi-acoustic ballads ("Shine"). "'Lean' is about leaning into the tough stuff, even if it's bad," Farley explains. "You have to push into it. We have a motivational speaking presentation that we do, and that's one of the songs we use. It's about not being afraid to talk about the hard stuff. If you push into the hard stuff, you can feel the good stuff all the more deeply." The band's five-city mini tour concludes with a date at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights.
WHERE YOU CAN HEAR THEM: ginchocolateandbottlerockets.com
WHERE YOU CAN SEE THEM: Gin, Chocolate & Bottle Rockets perform at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28, at Nighttown.