The Lovely and Talented creates a New American Fable of its own

The brainchild of multi-instrumentalist JT Nolan, the Lovely and Talented seems eerily similar to fellow Denver outfit DeVotchKa. After all, both gather sounds from a similar pool of eras and genres, and Nolan has even appeared on stage with DeVotchKa — not to mention the fact that that group's drummer, Shawn King, makes a guest appearance on the Lovely and Talented's new full-length, The New American Fable.

Similarities aside, though, Nolan takes his band in an entirely unique direction, mixing in more contemporary alternative rock with a grim, gritty singer-songwriter bent. The recent addition of vocalist/accordionist Kate Shoup, plus a Tom Waits-esque reworking of the Pixies' "Subbacultcha," has only made Nolan's sprawling, sepia-toned vision more compelling and distinct. We spoke with him recently about a number of things, including how the band has progressed since forming and who came up with the idea to cover Frank Black and company.

Westword: How has the project evolved since the release of your first album in 2006?

Ladies and gentlemen, the Lovely and Talented.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Lovely and Talented.

Details

The Lovely and Talented, with b.sous and Horndribble Puppets, 8 p.m. Friday, March 19, hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, $10, 720-570-4500.

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JT Nolan: Mostly that first album was just me and my friends. I was playing in a wedding band at the time, just doing covers, but I had all these original songs. I just wanted them recorded, so I got some musicians I knew together. It took forever and a day, but when I finished it, I thought, "Maybe I should play this music out." So I started to put a band together. About a year ago, the four core members of the current group came together.

How did having that core band make this album different from the first one?

In a lot of ways, I'm still the main writer. But when I'm collaborating with people more, it's easier to cover up my weaknesses [laughs]. I can get Kate, who's a really strong singer, or get one of the other guys to play a certain part. It's a stronger project than I could have done myself.

The band's look and instrumentation is retro to a degree, but your sound mixes in a lot of contemporary and multicultural elements. Was that contrast a conscious one?

I'm always looking for something new. For better or worse, I can't not be all over the board. I'm always trying to find a different style or rhythm I haven't tried before. Like that second song on the album, "Angelitos" — it's a huapango rhythm, almost like a mariachi rhythm. I teach guitar and singing, and one of my students, he was twelve, played in a mariachi band. He was learning these things and showing them to me. I just absorb things from everywhere.

Where did the idea of the Pixies cover come from?

I've always loved that song. I love the vocal phrasing; it's so different from any song I've heard. But hopefully, I can confuse people enough that they don't really know they're listening to a Pixies song. Thievery is how I write [laughs].

 
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