Lake Worth is the perfect place for a cereal musician. Open mics aplenty and the great music culture have helped transform this little city that could into a hotbed of new musical acts. Whether you are playing solo, starting a band or headlining Propaganda on a Saturday night, there is room for you in Lake Worth. The aggressively talented Luke Pennell has been on every side of the coin and it looks like he's hit the musical jackpot with his new band Shotgun Betty.
Pennell, along with Alexis Lawson's sweet vocals and Erin Helton and Lee Fight, comprise the core of the band. They hit the scene quickly and with praise, opening for Koffin Kats at their first official full-band gig and attracting the likes the Janglin' Duo and Surfer Blood members to help back them on stage. Now they are headlining one of the three stages at Propaganda's hotly anticipated New Year's bash, and rightfully so. To get the scoop on this rising foursome, we talked with Pennell about being a nomadic musician, the events that lead up to forming Shotgun Betty, and what sets their sound apart in a town full of music.
New Times: We first got to know you as the bass player of the in the Killbillies, but were you solo before that?
Luke Pennell: Yeah, I've played in a handful of bands on and off but I had been doing solo stuff for a few years when I met Ben and Micah and they were like "We like you, we want you to play in our band, we don't know what you would do though," and then they proposed the idea of upright bass and I was like "Alright, I guess I'll buy one and learn how to play it."
And then that didn't work out.
You know everything kind of works out in its own way in its own time. It was a great year and a half with them an we are still friends and by all means they are doing phenomenally now.
Then after Killbillies you kind of went back to solo for a while?
Yeah, I have been on and off writing. Picking up a gig here and there doing solo stuff. I was just kind of frustrated; it wasn't coming together. Everything I was writing was more like actual writing and not music oriented.
Since I have lived in Lake Worth, I have run into a handful of musicians and everyone is kind of in the same boat: You are either in one of the Lake Worth supergroups or playing open mics. There really is no other way around it. About a year ago, I met Alexis and her and I are both musicians and really kind of recently we were like, "You know we should just sit down and actually try to write." Neither of us were doing anything individually musically, she's got a killer voice and I know I can play so it was just a matter of finding someone that I played well with and we just kind of hit it off.
In your bouts of playing solo, do you feel the innate need to create with other people?
I guess it kind of depends at any given moment what I am going through. There have been times where I basically go into hermit mode and don't want to deal with anybody. So when I am writing and playing that way, I am fine with not seeing another person until I go and play a show. But there is always that desire to play with other people because there is stuff that they can bring to the table, whether it's different styles of guitar playing, an instrument or another voice that counterparts, there is always that desire to do more because there is only so much one person can do.
How long has Shotgun Betty been a band?
Alexis and I started playing together probably around September. Our first real show was the last weekend of November and that was just a duo. Our first show as a whole band was opening for Koffin Kats at Speakeasy on December first.
It feels like Lake Worth would be the best place to do what you are trying to do.
You know, I am not sure. Obviously we are kind of falling into the same vain as our good friends in Everymen and Janglin' Duo. We dig that style, but we are also kind of a little bit more Americana style music, more vocal based and really rootsy stuff. It fits well but is also still different enough and I think that's kind of why we are getting the response that we are. It stands out.
What's it like being in a band with a bunch of girls?
I'm the luckiest guy in the world. Are you kidding me? I am the envy of any other male musician in South Florida.
What are you hoping to do next? Record, tour? All the things?
A little bit of everything. We pretty much everyday, right now are getting contacted by people to have us come play. New Year's Eve we are playing at the block party headlining the Coastars stage. Things just keep dropping in our laps. We put out a handful of calls and the next thing you know, we are getting gigs. We are trying to schedule time to record. There is talk of us possibly doing some stuff with some of the Wayward (Records) bands. Planning a tour in March, not sure if that is going to work out but we are hoping. Trying to stay busy as much as possible while maintaining normal life.
How's it feel being part of the stacked New Year's Eve lineup?
Yeah, my mind is kind of blown. We have gotten some good response every time we played Prop so far, so I am happy we got asked to play. For them to put us as the headlining act on the Coastars stage is just amazing. That's a huge honor.
New Year's Eve J Street Block Party on Tuesday, December 31. Gates open at 5 p.m., Propaganda, 6 South J St., Lake Worth. Entrance is $10, $5 before 7 p.m.