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Six White Russians & A Pink Pussycat
With an album title that refers to colourful cocktails with a bite, Room Eleven has certainly come up with the most cheerful album title of the year. One that makes you curious of their music, and it has to be said: the fifteen songs exceed all expectations. Six White Russians & A Pink Pussycat is a spicy cocktail of bossanova, folk, blues and pop, performed by a jazzy rhythm section, funky guitars, lovely trumpets, and the distinctive voice of singer Janne Schra. The light-hearted album title makes you forget that life can be tough.
But Room Eleven isn’t as light-hearted as the title suggests. Underneath the lively, jazzy music is a wide range of emotions, articulated by singer-songwriter Janne into poetic lyrics about love and other major and minor events in her life. According to Janne, this album “has softened the blows. Whatever depression I was in, I always sought out the comfort of music. Whenever there’s tragedy in my life, I try to turn it into something positive, how hard it may be.” As a result, her songs radiate optimism and joy, whether it is enjoying a beautiful song on the radio (‘Listen’), fantasising about someone you’d like to do the dishes with (‘Could That Be You’) or coming home from a rainstorm, soaking wet (‘It’s Raining’). Disastrous relationships are a source of inspiration as well, but expressed with a healthy sense of humour (‘Flavor’, ‘Greenest Grass’ and ‘Sad Song’).
Room Eleven sounds playful, melancholic, funky and nostalgic. The band seems to switch effortlessly between a diversity of styles. Music, vocals and lyrics support and reinforce each other, and Janne’s voice shifts between fragile, powerful, seductive and vulnerable. The end result is diverse and intriguing. The album starts off with the dreamy track ‘All Right’, first single ‘One Of These Days’ and ‘Flavor’ are both funky and jolly, whereas ‘You Made Me See It’ is a melancholic pop ballad. The jazzy song ‘Come Closer’ is exciting and sexy and ‘I Wanna Be Your….’ has some country influences. And that’s just a small selection of what Room Eleven has to offer. Their cover of George Michael’s classic pop song ‘Faith’ is representative of the band’s versatility: a very laid-back version in which the seductive voice of Janne gives the song a sensual touch that the original lacks.
Six White Russians & A Pink Pussycat is produced by Dutch DJ/producer/ composer Floris Klinkert, with whom the band felt completely at ease. “He understands us very well and lets us do things our way. It is a true collaboration. And, very importantly: he follows his heart, just like we do,” explains Arriën. It was a conscious decision to keep each small irregularity, every unintentional joke on the record, sick as the band was of all the smoothly produced albums nowadays. For example, Janne recorded the short intermezzo ‘It’s Raining’ on her personal mp3 player. As she says herself: “to re-record it, would break the spell.”
Room Eleven was formed five years ago, after Janne put up a ‘wanted’ sign at the Utrecht Conservatorium, hoping to find a likeminded soul to write and play songs with. Guitarist and composer Arriën Molema responded and during their first meeting, the mutual creativity already flowed lavishly. Musically, Janne and Arriën were clearly on the same page. Arriën: “I usually start composing from a certain vibe that I try to put into chords or a groove, whereas Janne starts with a lyric or a melody.”
In 2004, the line-up of Room Eleven was complete. The band currently consists of keyboard player Tony Roe, contrabass player Lucas Dols and drummer Maarten Molema. According to Janne, the band name doesn’t have a specific significance, and it is up to the listener to decide what it stands for. “We love people who use their own imagination, so we invite them to interpret the band name as they see fit.”
Room Eleven made their live debut during the Amsterdam Uitmarkt and quickly became a popular act in small venues. On stage, the band is like a breath of fresh air because of their spontaneity, interaction with the audience, improvisational talent and love of experimenting with musical genres and styles. Trumpet player Diederik Rijpstra, who sometimes joins the band on stage, certainly contributes to the party mood with his passionate and exciting jazzy trumpet solos. Their live performances soon created a buzz and the band name began to spread like fire through the Dutch music scene. Finally, it was DJ Maestro who introduced them to Universal Music. The album will be released on 9 June.
Room Eleven will introduce Six White Russians & A Pink Pussycat to a large and mixed crowd on Saturday 15 July at the world-renowned North Sea Jazz festival amidst national and international jazz legends. It’s the perfect platform for them, for this festival represents the same mix of musical genres Room Eleven combines on their debut album. Without a doubt, the bittersweet temptation of Six White Russians & A Pink Pussycat will conquer the hearts of many music lovers and bon vivants alike. Cheers!