DISPLAY, POINT LINE PLANE, THE CHARMING SNAKES
Crocodile Cafe, 206-441-5611, $7
9 p.m. Sun., Jan. 12
THE ANNALS OF pop are teeming with sister acts, from vocal outfits like the Andrews and Boswell Sisters to R&B mainstays the Pointer Sisters. Musically, Brooklyn trio the Rogers Sisters land nearer to the familial funk of Bronx ensemble E.S.G. than any of the aforementioned, but in spirit, their closest kin are the Partridges; the trio's 2002 debut disc (on Troubleman Unlimited) may be titled Purely Evil, but their peppy music— which teems with taut, trebly guitar lines, joyously dissonant vocals, and rumbling garage rock drums—screams, "C'mon, get happy!"
Things weren't so cheery growing up, however, according to guitarist Jennifer Rogers. "We fought all the time," she admits of her early relationship with her younger sister, drummer Laura. But just because the two weren't harmonizing around the kitchen table doesn't mean music was absent from their suburban Detroit digs. "Our dad owns a record store, so he used to bring home records for us," says Jennifer. "I had a collection of Top-40 singles when I was 2."
Jennifer and Laura became much closer after the former went off to college in New York. A few years later, Laura followed, and the two wound up playing together in indie-rock outfit Ruby Falls. The all-female quartet, which also featured bassist Cynthia Nelson of Retsin, released two albums, plus a handful of singles and EPs, between 1992 and 2000. But by the end of Ruby Falls' run, the Rogers were desperate for something different. "Our tastes diverged from our other bandmates' a lot," recalls Jennifer. "I had been wanting to play more punk and rock music for a while.
"We just wanted to have fun and be like teenagers in our first high-school band—the one we never had—and play music that made us laugh and have a good time," she continues. "It just seemed like there weren't a lot of bands having fun in the '90s. Music got so serious and dramatic and slowed-down. And I thought, 'Let's just play the fastest thing that we can and jump around.'"
"When I first joined the band, the primary thing they said to me was they wanted to play dance music," confirms Rogers' bassist Miyuki Furtado. Even though bass isn't his primary instrument ("I'm actually a drummer"), Furtado faked his way through an audition-cum-band-practice well enough to secure the gig. "We learned eight songs that night and then went out and sang karaoke together," he remembers. "The next night, we played a party, and that was it."
That devil-may-care spirit has served the trio well, even as the rise of groups like the Liars, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Radio 4 has heightened the media attention on Brooklyn—a topic the Rogers address on "Now They Know (XOXO)"—and their neighborhood, Williamsburg, in particular. "We didn't set out to be a professional band and have a career," insists Jennifer. "We just wanted to have fun. More than half the songs we played originally were covers, and we played mostly at parties in neighborhood warehouse spaces."
Which isn't to suggest that Purely Evil is completely devoid of serious subject matter—the raucous opener, "Zero Point," tackles environmental disasters and global warming. "We respect bands that have a lot of fun but also think," says Jennifer. "It doesn't have to be two different kinds of bands, serious or mindless. You can have fun and still craft an intellectual aspect of what you do, lyrically and musically."
The Rogers' West Coast tour, which kicks off with their Seattle date, marks the trio's second excursion outside the safe confines of New York. Their first jaunt, a string of late 2002 dates through the Midwest, went surprisingly well, despite their low national profile. "A lot of the shows didn't have many people at them, but we really felt like [the tour] was a success," admits Jennifer. "Everywhere we went, whether there were two people there or 50, everyone responded enthusiastically. And we definitely developed more recklessness in our stage performance, which is a good thing."
And despite Laura and Jennifer's concerns to the contrary, moments on the road when the siblings got caught up in some memory from their shared past didn't get on Furtado's nerves. "It's pretty hilarious," he confesses. "I feel like I know all their high-school friends." Besides, Furtado's practically been assimilated into the Rogers clan. "Our last tour sort of stopped in Detroit, and it became this weird Twilight Zone where we were on vacation together and I was assimilated into the family, like, 'This is our adopted Asian son.'"