High drama

The glam amalgam of MEandJOANCOLLINS
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  April 28, 2009


VIDEO: MEandJOANCOLLINS, "Crime of the Century (So Far)"

It's a quintessential rock-and-roll love story. Sort of . . .

At the onset of 2007, Bo Barringer was rebounding from an expired long-term relationship with the Collisions, his previous, decisively more tumultuous outfit. Searching for fresh companionship, he placed a Craigslist ad that caught the eye of Jen Grygiel, formerly of Steel Poniez, and the two proceeded to bond over drinks at Charlie's Kitchen. Last summer they tied the knot, unlawfully, at the dearly departed Abbey Lounge, with their bass player presiding. The chances that they'll ever consummate the marriage are not good.

"We're married, but we're both allowed to see other women," explains Barringer, vocalist and guitarist, while munching fried plantains at ZuZu.

"He wore the dress. I wore the tux. It was awesome," recalls Grygiel, also vocalist and guitarist. "We made out a lot. It was gross. Then I pulled the garter off his hairy leg with my teeth."

Despite the platonic nature of their relationship, Barringer and Grygiel have sired a euphonious offspring: MEandJOANCOLLINS (apologies to copy editors everywhere), which is, in spirit, an amalgamation of sort-of-love-stories, the most pertinent being a love of rock and roll. Barringer's love of, er, harmless fascination with Joan Collins is another. As it turns out, that didn't emerge until after noise-hindered communication regarding Jim Collins (later to become MEandJOANCOLLINS's bassist) had inspired the moniker.

Barringer: "She was touted as the next Elizabeth Taylor, and that kind of never happened. Her husband sold her to a sheikh in the early '60s. Then she did nothing of note for several years but made her big stroke of fame with Dynasty, when she was, like, 50."

The existence of this band, whose line-up is rounded out by Jason Marchionna on drums, was not disclosed to Collins during a brief meeting with Barringer. In fact, MEandJOANCOLLINS is spelled all funky with an eye to ducking possible copyright issues. Also, 'cause it looks cool.

But just because the association is incidental doesn't mean the band are so very different from the actress. Both are gracefully glam. Both have a foot planted in British pop culture. MEandJOANCOLLINS's inaugural album, Love. Trust. Faith. Lust., even sounds like the title of a '80s prime-time soap opera. And like any worthwhile soap, it's chock-a-block with visceral sleaze (also a prerequisite of glam), occasional uproariousness, and heart-on-sleeve vulnerability (usually symptomatic of indie rock).

"I don't look at writing as therapy, but it becomes therapeutic, in a way," says Barringer, in a rare moment of almost-self-seriousness. "As much as you want to write, 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah,' you still end up writing about your personal baggage. The challenge is to take that stuff and turn it into something that everyone can relate to."

Many people who don't read the Phoenix might well identify with "(I Masturbate) A Little Too Much," a strutting, impish number that italicizes Barringer's dithering vocal stylings. Likewise for the darkly casual "Typical Asshole." Although bordering on too-much-information, none of this comes across as forced for shock value. Just honest.

Much of MEandJOANCOLLINS's charm stems from the co-ed harmonies of Barringer and Grygiel. They also have a complimentary, call-and-response conversation style. "I can't sit down and write a song just to write a song," says Grygiel. "I write a couple songs a year, when I've got something to communicate with people and share."

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