The Inquisition is constantly mesmerized by the fact that The Universe will go to the ends of the earth to create great music.
Halfway across the country anyway….
Our story starts in sunny southern California, the birthplace of Ruby James. No one knew back then she would one day be Kitty CoopDeVille.
Meanwhile, back in the Fox Cities, Steve Cooper was developing some impressive sax and vocal chops, playing with stellar outfits like The Groove Hogs and The Jazz Orgy.
James went to make a major mark on the music scene in Austin, Texas, before heading to Wisco in July of 2012 as ‘The Universe’ stepped in, directing her to Gordon Lodge in Bailey’s Harbor.
“I went to Gordon Lodge for the first time in 2012 right after Steel Bridge Songfest. My best friend, Anna, took me up there two days before my flight was supposed to go home to LA where I was going to spend the summer seeing if I wanted to move back to California. I had been living in Austin for the last five years,” she said. “It seemed so crazy but I decided to stay on a whim and take the job as a bartender. I had a suitcase and a guitar…that was it. But I had been struggling with some life stuff, not inspired to play much music and I thought this was perfect. I’ll spend the summer in paradise with my best friend, ride my bike, work and meditate and not be distracted by guys or anything.”
The U also had Cooper on speed dial.
“In July of 2012 I originally went to Gordon Lodge to play a pick up gig as a side man for a band I don’t usually play with,” Cooper recalls.
“Two days before that gig, I had been playing a show in Silver City, New Mexico with my band, The Jazz Orgy. Just as I was about to leave, a very dear friend of mine, who is also a clairvoyant, stopped me before leaving and told me without hesitation that in two days I would meet a girl. THE girl! She would be from Texas, and she was going to take my world and flip it upside down…for the better! She would be the one I’d been looking for, but it was gonna go real fast, so hang on real tight.”
“Due to plane delays, I was awake for 38 hours by the time I got home,” he continued. “I woke up late on the day of that Gordon Lodge gig and tried to get out of it because I was still so tired but I was assured by the band leader that they really wanted me to come…and I’m sure glad I did!”
At the break, Cooper asked bartender James “does the band get a Coke?” and “it was love at first hair sight. We got engaged three weeks later on August 6 in Sturgeon Bay at pat mAcdonald’s birthday party,” James noted.
It was love, but not necessarily music, at first.
“I moved Coop back to Austin with me in November on a tour with Rosie Flores,” James said. “We had no idea yet we would play music together; just figured I’d take Coopy to Austin and make him famous with all that talent he has.”
“We returned to Wisconsin in February of 2013 to attend the week-long writing event Love on Holiday at The Holiday Music Motel where we wrote “Forever My Dear” together in about 30 minutes the night we arrived!”
“The light bulb went on! Wow!! Look what we can do! We also wrote “I Knew” that week and Coopy wrote, “The Get Down” with our guitar player.”
“On our drive back to Austin in a blizzard driving about five miles an hour with hardly any visibility I was pleading with Coopy for us to move back to Wisconsin,” James recounts. “I said ‘Look what we just did!! Don’t you see? We need to move back to Wisconsin and put this band together.”
“Coopy thought I was nuts at the time,” she added.
“We came back to Wisconsin in June for Steel Bridge Songfest, wrote some more songs “She Won’t Go,” and “Fall in Lovers,” and stayed in Wisconsin,” James said. “Our friends asked us to play their wedding in September and that forced us to put the band together. So it took us six months after we met to realize we should play music together and that we had something really special with those first few songs and then it took another six months after that to put the band together.”
The songwriting has become a very productive partnership as well.
“I would say we both contribute pretty equally,” Cooper said. “Generally one of us will come up with an initial idea and we will bring it to the other and try to run with it. Basically something sung into a voice recorder and we will both work on lyrics and chords and melody together.”
“We had come in late to Love on Holiday and we missed being paired off into songwriting groups so we seized the opportunity to try writing together,” He continued. “I had the initial idea for “Forever My Dear,” but that idea was mostly just chord changes and part of the melody.
Ruby really liked it so we focused in on it and came up with the rest of the melody together, including the hook, and then wrote the lyrics together.”
The success was almost immediate.
“It feels like the band took off like a rocket,” James said. “We went back to Austin in March of 2014 and played a bunch of shows during SXSW (South By Southwest). We played between 50-60 shows in our first year together. We have pretty much put ourselves on the national touring band level in just a little over a year.
2015 is shaping up to be even better.
“All the same big festivals wanting us back for this summer plus there are some new exciting developments like Jazz in the Park in Milwaukee this summer,” James said. “We are touring to Texas again in April and will play Houston, Austin and New Orleans. We are headed to Austin to play the big car show, The Lonestar Roundup, where we will open for legends Wanda Jackson and Elvis’ guitar player/ Wisconsin boy James Burton.
“We’ve also had this residency in Chicago once a month at Untitled for the past year and we were asked to kick off the Peg Egan Center summer concert series in Door County this coming June,” James added. “They only book national touring acts. Johnny Lang kicked off their series last summer, so we are quite honored to kick off the series this year.”
“The whole band is excited to finally be playing in Appleton at Mill Creek on March 6th,” James said. “Our show last month at Thelma Sadoff Performing Arts Center in Fond du Lac was incredible experience. It was sold out with 40 people on the waiting list.”
Even without James and Cooper, the players on the album, Vee Sonnets (guitar), Greg Roteik(bass), Zach Vogel(drums), Kipp Wilde(keys),Kurt Shipe(trumpet), Tommy Vanden Avond(trombone), Greg Garcia(trumpet) and Julio Reyes (baritone sax) represent a collection of top talent that would be worth paying good money to see. (Vogel is replaced by Chris Scheer or Mike Underwood for the live shows).
Cooper could front this band without James – his always outstanding vocal chops are better than ever – again, top value for your money…
But when you add James’ considerable talent, the results are electric. More importantly, it’s a lotta’ fun. Everybody in the band is having a good time. The enormous chemistry that runs hot between James and Cooper is augmented by cool band chemistry. The band is also a fun visual treat. The songs, while technically complex, nuanced at times and very well-crafted, end up being toe-tappin,’ finger-snappin’ fun as well.
Both James and Cooper are incredibly gifted and accomplished, serious musicians – Coop’s got WAMI’s – but they are also talented and accessible entertainers who push the fun to the forefront. Part of Cooper’s “brand” has always been his long black 1959 Cadillac, hence “CoopDeville” and “Kitty CoopDeVille.” It all works very well for you, the viewer.
If solitude and quiet are what you seek, WiFEE and The HUZzBAND is probably not your best bet….
However, if what you seek – and The Inquisition quotes Belushi on Bliss here – “as much fun as you can have with your pants on,” go early and grab some dance floor.