“When I moved out here in ’04 it was actually to be a part of the surf culture.”
Emily Reilly. It’s a name you might not naturally associate with San Diego’s music scene. And yet, she’s one of the busiest in the biz, lending her vocals to no less than three bands: Birdy Bardot (her stage name), the New Kinetics (a garage-rock band she formed with her husband, Brian Reilly), and the Rosalyns (a ’60s girl group). Following a set with the New Kinetics at Soda Bar, Bardot sat down to answer some questions about her quirky pseudonym, retro music influences, and the follow-up album to her well-received, self-titled debut.
...from Birdy Bardot's self-titled debut album
What’s the story behind your stage name?
I was taking guitar lessons and had an assignment to come to class with an original song. I was close to forming the New Kinetics at that time and toying around with the idea of going by a stage name. For a while my mom had called me her little bird. As I was writing a riff before class, I murmured something about Birdy Bardot and thought it had a good ring to it. When I mentioned it to my teacher, she was, like, ‘Yes! That’s perfect!’ From then on I was Birdy Bardot.
You came to San Diego from New York. How challenging is it to make it as a musician here?
When I moved out here in ’04 it was actually to be a part of the surf culture. Completely immersed myself in that for years. I didn’t start exploring the San Diego music scene until 2010, when I started going out to venues to see local musicians. I was fortunate to meet so many other San Diego musicians who influenced me. This coincided with the start of the New Kinetics, my first band. We had our first show at the Soda Bar in November 2010.
What do you get out of playing with The New Kinetics and The Rosalyns that you don’t as a solo artist?
It’s a completely different experience with each band. I’m lucky I get to do all three. I can be extremely volatile with New Kinetics, I get to pay homage to ’60s girl-group garage rock with the Rosalyns, and I can take it down to a more cerebral vibe with Birdy Bardot.
What can we expect from The New Kinetics and The Rosalyns this year?
The New Kinetics will release new music later this year. The Rosalyns may also press a new record or tour, hopefully to Europe.
You received a lot of praise for your Birdy Bardot debut. Do you feel any pressure to top it?
I’m thrilled people like the record! Especially knowing all the hard work that went into each song by everyone involved, particularly Al Howard and Matt Molarius. I’m looking forward to discovering what we can bring out in the next record.
Do you have a favorite song from the album, One that is particularly special to you?
I’m fond of “Dirge.” I love the spooky feel of that song. They brought in strings and a harmonium, so it sounds like what it would feel like to walk through a dark fog. But when we were first tracking vocals for “Dirge,” something wasn’t clicking. Originally the vocal part was higher, and I think the song was almost scrapped. I wanted to try doing the whole song really low in my register and it made such a difference! I’m so glad that one came together.
Are you currently working on the next album? How will it differ from your debut?
We’ve been writing throughout and have some good new tunes. A few darker songs, like going further down the rabbit hole...a couple sounding more on the pop side. But it’s still in the very early stages at this point and usually the songs don’t really take shape until they’re being recorded. I think we’re slated to go into the recording studio mid to late this year.
You clearly have a strong ’60s influence in your music. Which female singer of that era has had the greatest impact on you?
This question is really hard. I like the playful nature of Sugar Pie DeSanto...Tina Turner’s power slays me...Jacqueline Taïeb is just plain cool. I remember the first old record I bought when I was younger was Etta James’s Greatest Hits. That had a pretty big impact on me. I loved how Etta could be just as powerful in her soft ballads as in her upbeat tracks.
Other than onstage or in the studio, where is your happy place?
Hiking and camping are my new favorite things. I’m really new to it, so I’ve only been on a few hikes. Torrey Pines is a great one, and Cuyamaca campground is fun for camping. I’m looking forward to camping in Jacumba.
What’s one thing about you few people know?
I hate interviews.