Wendy gets Bad

A little history on the ties between Wendy Lewis and the Bad Plus
By JON GARELICK  |  March 9, 2009

Covers uncovered: The Bad Plus a singer. By Jon Garelick.
Wendy Lewis's association with the Bad Plus goes back to her shared Minneapolis roots with David King and Reid Anderson. King played in Lewis's bands Rhea Valentine and Mary Nail in the '90s. "I've always had sort of a proclivity for odd time signatures, and when I started working with Dave, creatively there were leaps and bounds," she tells me over the phone from Minneapolis.

Everyone picked songs together (Roger Miller's "Lock, Stock and Teardrops" and Yes's "Long Distance Runaround" were her suggestions); the band worked on arrangements and then presented them to Lewis. Even with her taste in odd meters, "Lithium" was a curveball. "I showed up for rehearsals and I was like, 'You sons of bitches, what are you doing to me!' " But, listening to tapes of the rehearsals, she began to feel the time. "I was listening to it and all of a sudden it was like, 'Oh, it's just this kind of triplet thing actually.' At least, that's the way I felt it. The next time we played it, it was there."

Probably the toughest song of the bunch for Lewis was the Flaming Lips' "Feeling Yourself Disintegrate," which the band presented to her in what she felt was a weirdly upbeat arrangement. "I came in and was like, 'We're really going to do this this way? Are you kidding?' " She tried a deadpan delivery that she felt was true to the song. "I couldn't get the original out of my head. I kept singing it and singing it and was just like, ugh, this is not working. And then I realized, 'Oh, wait, this is an ad for death!' It can't be deadpan, it has to be joyful!' "

As for her temporary relationship with the Bad Plus: "I'm really proud of the record. I've always liked the idea of being more a musician than a vocalist or lead singer. It feels good to be tucked under the arms of everyone in the band. I feel very much a part of it instead sticking out front. For me that's very satisfying."

Related: Review: The Bad Plus's For All I Care, Covers uncovered, Avanti!, More more >
  Topics: Jazz , Entertainment, Music, Roger Miller,  More more >
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