Screamin’ Rebel Angels Bring High-Octane Rock & Roll to Café Nine in New Haven

Laura Palmer from Screamin' Rebel Angels (Courtesy of the artist)


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Hailing from the Big Apple, Screamin’ Rebel Angels have a way of making listeners to move around and feel something, in that way that is timeless Rock & Roll.

For folks in New Haven, they can experience it for themselves at Café Nine on Friday, March 1. Boston rock phenoms Diablogato kick the night off at 9 p.m.

I had a chance to talk with multi-instrumentalist and lead vocalist Laura Palmer ahead of the show about the band having a changing lineup, it being five years since Screamin’ Rebel Angels’ last full-length release and plans for a new album in the near future. 

RD: While leading the Screamin’ Rebel Angels, you alternate between an upright bass and a Gretsch guitar. Which was the first instrument you learned how to play between those two?

LP: The first instrument that I started to play in the band was the guitar. Originally when we started out as a trio, I was on lead guitar with an upright bassist and a drummer. From there, I wanted to fill out the sound a little bit so we grabbed a fourth player and it was two guitars for a while. Then as the band progressed a bit, it was harder and harder to find an upright bass player who played in a rockabilly slap style, so we wound up doing a lot of rehearsals with the band where it was two guitars and drums. During that time, I was like “You know what? Why don’t I just learn how to play upright bass?”, so it was just kind of out of necessity that I started to learn how to play the instrument.

As soon as I started to play it, I just absolutely fell in love with it. I love playing both instruments, but there’s something about being on stage these days with the upright bass that I really, really love. Sometimes we’ll switch instruments on stage with the current lineup, so I’ll play a few songs on guitar while Jorge Herrada will sometimes play upright bass. We’ll just do a swap.

RD: Do you feel that the upright bass adds to the Screamin’ Rebel Angels performance in the sense that you can move it around more? I know Lee Rocker from the Stray Cats plays one and he’s famous for dancing with it a little bit.

LP: Actually, when I play upright bass I feel like I can’t run around on stage as much as I would with a guitar. When I was on guitar, I could jump around, run over and still be playing, but with the upright bass it’s just a really giant extra band member that’s not quite as mobile. I do feel like it’s a fun and interactive instrument where physically I’m able to do a little bit of a dance with it. It’s really kind of emotional because it is such a huge instrument, I’m slapping it super hard and it takes on the energy of the songs.

RD: That’s wicked cool. This year marks the five year anniversary of the release of the band’s sophomore full-length Heel Grinder that came out back in January of 2019. In a reflective sense, what do you think of the album in terms of the evolution of the Screamin’ Rebel Angels’ rock & roll sound?

LP: First off, I can’t believe it’s been five years already. That absolutely blows my mind, time has moved completely differently since this album came out. I was really, really super proud of Hell Grinder because as you can kind of tell, having a steady lineup of this music has always been difficult. My drummers were constantly moving out of the state or out of the country and for upright bass players it was always hard to find someone solid. With Heel Grinder, I just decided that instead of waiting around for that perfect lineup, I was just going to make this record.

I feel like this album signified a turning point within the band where I really grabbed more of the ownership of everything and I realized that this responsibility is on me to make this happen. At this time, Brian Hack was still in the band and he wrote three songs for the album while playing lead guitar. I played upright bass, keys, rhythm guitar and acoustic guitar along with getting into the mixing while working with the engineer. I was really, really proud of how that all progressed and I feel like from a sonic standpoint, I’m really proud of that record. In the past five years, I’ve wanted to take that ownership just a little bit further when it comes to sound responsibility.

When I listen to that record, there’s points where I wish I had done it a little bit differently or I wish I had more time, so really over the past couple of years I’ve been working on my own audio engineering. I’ve been taking a lot of classes while really practicing. I spent a week last summer with Boz Boorer in the mountains of Portugal for a workshop and I was absorbing everything he knew about recording and engineering. From there, I’ve been slowly working on some new music and the difference is that it’s really great to not be constrained by the amount of money that you have to make time to get in the studio. It’s really about working to get that sound a little bit more cohesive like what I hear in my head and not feeling completely rushed while having the time to sit with it, come back to it and make tweaks here and there.

I’m excited for where that’s going to go and there’s still a lot of challenges that come with not having a full-time band that’s touring around all the time. Life gets in the way, but I’m excited for where the next album is going to go. I’m also excited that this is the five year anniversary of Heel Grinder, for everything that was accomplished with that and I want to use that to look forward to the next.

RD: That’s a great perspective to have. What are your thoughts on kicking off the month of March with this show at Café Nine? Being from New York City, do you play Connecticut a lot?

LP: I absolutely love Café Nine. Café Nine has been super supportive of us over the years and I love New Haven, it’s just such a fun town. Also, my favorite ramen restaurant is there so I’m definitely going to make an effort to go there a little bit earlier. The venue has become iconic in the sense that it has all of these really big shows with bands that are able to perform in such a great space. They recently had the Reverend Horton Heat, who usually performs in front of 1000 people or so, and that place is still able to have the energy of a big rock & roll show for music lovers.

Every time we’ve had the opportunity to play New Haven at Café Nine, I’ve absolutely loved it. It’s only an hour and a half drive from New York City, so we’re really super happy to be there.

RD: It’s a great spot. Going back to what you just mentioned about working on some new music, what can we expect it to be as a result? Do you plan on releasing singles throughout the year and have them build up to either an EP or a full-length record?

LP: I still don’t have the full plans for the release because right now I’m just working on new music, I want it to be something really special and really different. I don’t want it to just be rushed. I feel like with my other albums, I’ve had deadlines and that’s the biggest difference between the past records and this record. I’m not being constrained by time, so I’m going to wait until I have all the music finished and then I’m going to figure out a strategy afterwards. I might release some teasers here or there later in the year to kick off some tours, but right now people are just going to have to follow me and see what I do.