The dreams and ‘oohs’ of The Bat Sisters
The photo is in black and white. It shows two murky figures, outlined by a lone spotlight as they sing and play keyboards on the Bug Jar stage. And they appear to be wearing…
Versions of some kind of Bat Girl costume?
When the photo surfaced last week on the all-seeing internet, that place from which we cannot hide, Katie Morey and Cammy Enaharo were immediately frog-marched to the WRUR-FM (88.5) studio of Scott Regan, and his weekday morning music and interrogation show, “Open Tunings.”
Morey and Enaharo, who have a show Friday at The Little Theatre, were asked to explain, please, this photo…
“Katie had these bat costumes that we decided we were going to wear to the show,” Enaharo confessed to Regan. “And so The Bat Sisters just felt right, even though we’re not wearing costumes to The Little. The name itself stuck.”
Regan was satisfied. And inspired to abandon his usual flannel shirt. “I think all the audience should be wearing bat costumes,” he said.
That’s up to you.
Friday’s 7:30 p.m. show opens with Morey’s trio: She sings and plays the Wurlitzer organ and guitar, her husband, Ben, plays bass; The Submarine School of Music on Clinton Avenue is their music school and studio. Alex Northrup is on guitar and piano. After a break, Enaharo takes over with her 1960s Martin baritone ukulele that Bernunzio Uptown Music found especially for her; it sounds a lot like a guitar, and is a lot older than she is. Ryder Eaton plays bass; Gary Lamaar, drums; and Jared Tinkham, guitar.
And Morey and Enaharo will join each other's bands on harmonies. Because that’s what they’ve been doing for pretty much eight years.
Both have flirted with scenes elsewhere, in cities that have fast and furious reputations for music. A few years ago, Enaharo went out to Los Angeles to join a pop band. They were writing music, playing gigs, shooting videos. She flew back to Rochester to pick up her stuff and complete her move to the West Coast. It was March 2020, and the World Health Organization declared we were entering something completely new. A pandemic. COVID-19.
I called Enaharo a couple of days after they’d been on “Open Tunings” and asked what had happened to her LA experience.
“By the time things cleared up, I felt like it just really didn’t make sense anymore,” Enaharo said. “And I’m really happy to be home in Rochester. My mom’s here, we’re really close. My boyfriend’s here too, and, you know, I get to make music with Katie and everybody here. It feels much better to be in Rochester than LA right now.”
For her part, Morey went to Nashville. That lasted 1½ months, but at least she got a song out of it, “Tall Branches.” When she came back here, she recorded it with harmonies from Enaharo and Mikaela Davis, another big piece of the Rochester scene:
Tall, tall branches,
Small, small me
“I was going through a really transitional time in my life,” Morey said. “It’s just about wanting to be accepted, and trying to navigate change.”
The ukulele is an intimate instrument, but Enaharo has taken it to some big venues, like Parcel 5 on East Main Street, where she and Tinkham opened for an afternoon set by the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. And she was a part of a Parcel 5 show put together by local rockers Joywave on the final night of last year’s Rochester Fringe Festival.
Along with releasing their own albums, Morey and Enaharo have had a long collaborative relationship. One of them creates a piece of a song, tosses it to the other for some work, then it comes back again.
“When it feels right, that’s when the writing happens,” Enaharo told Regan. “If it doesn’t, it’s too forced.
“This is the kind of song where,” Morey said, “as we were writing it, we became more and more excited.”
Music built “piece by piece.” As Morey noted, “We’re just like The Beatles.”
It is indeed a Long and Winding Road. The Bat Sisters’ “Our Road” is the first song they wrote together in its entirety, words exploring how their lives have been changing. It’s a gentle ballad, and one that clearly moved Regan. “That’s a beautiful song, really,” he told them. “Some songs, they don’t really have a place in blues or rock or folk. They’re sort of like dream songs, you know?”
Moving forward, takes some looking back
Our roads should connect
It’s the Wurlitzer that lends the song dreams. “It kind of reflects our friendship,” Morey said, “and kind of what we’ve been through.”
What we’ve all been through, if we’re lucky. Growing older, assuming responsibility, even acknowledging doubt.
I asked Enaharo about it. About how, when you’re young, you don’t think a whole lot about that stuff.
“We just trusted everything we did and really believed in everything we were doing at the time, and didn’t really question ourselves,” she said. “Where, as we’re getting older, I think it’s something we do all the time. We overthink things a lot and don’t really trust where we’re coming from creatively.”
Change. We all have to roll with it.
“The music industry has changed a lot,” Enaharo said. She cited new expectations, new rules. For musicians, it’s about social media. Placing music on Spotify. Gathering “likes” and followers.
“When Katie and I first started making music together, we never thought about that stuff,” Enaharo said.
It was supposed to be all about the art.
“It’s hard to not overthink it,” Enaharo said, “and just be genuine to what you want to make all the time.”
Overthinking. It’s been the death of too many promising songs. During Regan’s interrogation session, Morey had been talking about “Our Road” and how, “Cammy had a really good idea a few days ago, to add some ‘oohs’ in the background.”
Regan, himself a songwriter, agreed. “Adding ‘oohs’ is a big deal.”
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