If the Bellevederes isn't Baltimore's best soul/R&B band — and it just might be — it's certainly the biggest.
There are 10 people in all, including a horn section and a hype man known as Velvet Johnson (aka Justin Metzger). Technically, they're a cover band — but unless you're a music nerd, you'd probably never know it. Members of the Bellevederes spend hours digging up obscure songs from the '60s and '70s to play at their shows. They're a live band through and through; they've recorded an album, but aren't sure if it makes sense to release it.
Two women — Kelly Butcher and Denny Finnerin — share the lead vocals on songs traditionally sung by men. Occasionally, they don't update the lyrics to reflect that, which makes for some head-turning moments at their shows. That will most likely be the case at their New Year's Eve gig at the Windup Space in Station North on Monday. The Bellevederes will perform with Baltimore funk mainstays the All Mighty Senators. Things might get sweaty.
We caught up with the Bellevederes not long before the big gig to talk about their love of unknown soul tunes and their history as a band. They got together about four years ago, and spent time playing with fellow retro-sounding Baltimore musician Bosley.
How did you guys get together in the first place?
Denny Finnerin: Ryan [Finnerin, the guitarist] was the mastermind. Ryan's thought was, "I want to do something that is a good time, technically challenging for us," but he pulled together all of his favorite people to play with. We thought if it was a good time, we'd keep doing it, and if it didn't work, it didn't work. It's kind of continued to work.
You guys have played with the Baltimore musician Bosley in the past, right?
Finnnerin: He came up to us at a show and said, "I really like what you guys are doing, can I come out to some rehearsals?" We became friends and he played with us for a while. We ended up being the backup band — all of the instrumentalists were the backup band for his album that he has out right now. We've played with him off and on for a while. We don't play with him as much now.
Ryan: He's pretty ambitious.
Kelly Butcher: And we're pretty lazy.
Ryan: This is a nice hobby for us. I pulled [Bosley] aside one time, after we'd had a big run of gigs where everybody was worn out because, you know, we have kids and day gigs. I said, "You need to find a group of hungry young kids that want to go tour." We didn't hear from him for a while. Then he resurfaced with the band he has now, and I think it's great he was able to take that advice and run with it.
Where do you find some of these songs you play?
Butcher: Youtuuube! Hours and hours of digging. YouTube, iTunes, Amazon, record stores, WTMD. There have been instances where I've heard a song on WTMD and I go, "What is that song?" and then it will start us down the wormhole of Internet searching.
How often to people come up to you and say, "Oh my gosh, that was such a great song," and think it's your song?
Butcher: It's happened quite a few times. And then it's like the sad trombone: "Nah, it's not [ours]."
Denny: The intention has always been to write our own stuff, it's just, when you're in a band with 10 people, who all have other jobs, other bands, other issues. And it's really hard to live up to that really good soul level that we want to attain.
You've recorded songs but haven't released an album yet, and may not release one at all.
Finnerin: We feel like, to an extent, you come to a Bellevederes party as much as you come to listen to Bellevederes music. You're coming to dance, you're coming to have a good time, you're coming to let loose. I think the live experience is as much a part of what we do as the music itself. We're trying to put on a good show, which is why we've got Velvet Johnson, our MC, who comes with us to every show and brings a certain level of performance — which I don't know that you would get on an album. Are you going to sit in your living room on a Thursday night and listen to it? I don't know.
This New Year's Eve show sounds big.
Ryan: It's the big to-do. We're going to share the stage with the All Mighty Senators, Baltimore's funk legends and grand masters. We're very fortunate to be able to follow in their footsteps. I know everybody in the band has seen them at least half a dozen times. We're really excited about that. It's fantastic. … It will absolutely be the funkiest party in town.
If you go
The Bellevederes and All Mighty Senators perform at 10 p.m. Monday at the Windup Space, 12 W. North Ave. $15. Call 410-244-8855 or go to thewindupspace.com.