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Cover Story

Kaleigh Baker is back in town

She's got a new backing band and a more mature sound, and she's bringing it to the Beacham to play a show with Thomas Wynn and the Believers and...

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

"I'm a big, happy sponge," she says, without the smile it might imply. "You can use me to sop up the biggest mess or the best wine. I'm everywhere; I'm everywhere and in between. Since I met these guys, I've gotten a lot of rock & roll in me."

By "these guys," she's mostly referring to NEM's Jeff and Erin Nolan, Orlando's own power-chord couple – she of the Little Debbies and Potsie, and he of too many bands to count, dating back to I Love You in the late '80s. The Nolans were enough to lure Baker and Anderson back to Orlando after a seven-month relocation to New York City, where Anderson scored studio time for the two of them by building "acoustic treatments" for music hounds. Baker, who hails from western New York, wasn't completely taken by the Manhattan transfer.

"It was a good spot to get our name out and meet some people," she says. "We did some groundwork up there that is going to end up benefiting us, but it's all about the band and we came back."

The band's newest addition, LeBrane, completed the stylistic puzzle after a short round of auditions, and Baker's next chapter was born. You can hear the beginnings of the full-throttle assault in the new collaborative tracks: "Shoot Down" bounces with a pinup-in-a-biker-bar psychosis replete with call-and-response backup chants and hand claps climbing atop surf-punk keyboard punches; "Devil's Advocate" shapeshifts into a downcast soup of minor-key, horn-fed dissonance befitting its "Hollywood," "nothing's for free" insinuations. Every song has its own yarn to spin and mood to make or break.

"Everybody in this band has a musical preference," Erin Nolan explains. "Jeff likes Motorhead, Chris and I love Prince. I love hip-hop. Nate likes jazz. Everybody has their thing and it's kind of incorporated all over the place."

"We hit a club or something, there's five of us," Jeff Nolan adds. "We show up with a horn, five vocals, two keyboards and a rubber chicken [Ed: It makes screaming noises]. There's a lot to balance here. I've been in groups that have a lot of elements going on and it trainwrecks often in a club. This band has yet to trainwreck in a club for a technical reason. Yet."

But what about on record? So far, Baker and NEM have worked up 20 new songs for an alleged 10-track CD to be released early next year, but for now they're sidestepping traditional rack-job impulses in favor of more compulsive marketing strategies. Baker hopes that by releasing songs online – first via a few scalding live performances they've already recorded with web-minded DeLand outfit Off the Avenue – the band can expand its internet presence and drive people to its shows. The notion of breaking it big via standard A&R means (Baker claims she's refused to appear on The Voice twice, citing the obvious stigma that comes with prepackaged performance stunts) doesn't quite suit the overall premise of the band or Baker's ridiculously acrobatic delivery.

"Like I said, [the band] is a train carrying an atom bomb, and I think if we're careful it won't blow up in our face," she laughs. She adds, slightly serious for a hot moment, "I do feel like I have something to offer. I'm not willing to dumb it down for a seven-year contract. I'm not willing to compromise. I'm really not. Not yet."

A drag of a cigarette and a toss of her long locks later, her eyes come back. "Talk to me in six years when I'm touring with a Janis Joplin show."

with Thomas Wynn and the Believers, Roadkill Ghost Choir

6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20
The Beacham
46 N. Orange Ave.
$12-$15 (for $15, attend both this show and the Reptar show happening at the Social)

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