The songs on Ein Klein Jukebox Baby, the forthcoming album from Oakland’s Everyone Is Dirty, took shape in the dreams of the band’s lyricist and violin player, Sivan Lioncub. The album title references classical music and rock, with a touch of ironic humor—elements that suffuse the 10 tunes on the record.
“The album was inspired by my grandfather’s life,” Lioncub said. “He’s a holocaust survivor, so the title is a nod to Germany, Vienna and classical music. Considering the subject matter, we chose a title that would bring a little light. It’s also fun to say.”
Chris Daddio, the band’s lead guitarist, co-songwriter and Lioncub’s life partner, agreed. “The songs reference World War II, Germany and, of course, Mozart; but it’s pop music, so we wanted a way to describe what’s on the record that wouldn’t be too dark.”
Lioncub is the daughter of immigrants—her mother, from Israel, is a trained cantor. Her father was born in Turkey. Elements of Turkish folk, klezmer and the traditional and religious music of Israel are present in the music, as well as melodies drawn from European classical music.
“Sivan and I both have academic backgrounds,” Daddio said. “I studied violin and classical music, but loved rock and roll. We have a unique, complimentary esthetic. It’s a joy to write together. It’s like having a second brain you can tap into. As a song evolves, we bring it to the band. Tyler [English] is great at coming up with bass parts and Jake [Kopulsky] is a creative drummer, so songs take shape quickly.”
The songs on the record were written over the past few years, before and after the Covid lockdown. They deal with war, chaos, isolation, violence and tragedies of Biblical proportions, but they’re leavened by the duo’s wit and uplifting melodies. They view the catastrophes surrounding us from a historical perspective. They’re less personal than the material on their 2017 album, My Neon’s Dead.
“Those songs were about my liver failure,” Lioncub said. “The dreamy feelings of waking up from the dead. I had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and almost died. They also referenced the battle with lymphoma that Chris went through. We nursed each other back to health. This time, we’re dealing with war and political dysfunction and how yesterday and today are connected through dictatorships or, in the case of our recently departed president, a would-be dictator. I couldn’t believe that my grandfather might have to live through all this again. Then, he died right as Covid hit, so he didn’t have to see the shit really hit the fan. I still cry about him nightly.”
Just before the lockdown, the whole band got together to lay down the basic tracks for Ein Klein Jukebox. After the lockdown, Lioncub and Daddio worked on polishing the tracks. “Since we record at home, we don’t have to make concessions to our creative vision,” Lioncub said. “We can keep working and let inspiration take hold, without the pressure of a clock or finances.”
The music on Ein Klein Jukebox unfolds like a suite, the songs alternating between wistful ballads and vigorous rockers. “Killing of the Firstborn Son” is an apocalyptic number, with a stomping verse full of Biblical references. A quiet chorus presenting images of the holocaust is intensified by Lioncub’s wailing, overdubbed harmonies. The lullaby/incantation of “Bad Man Who” addresses the villains who have always plagued mankind. Lioncub’s vocal and fervid harmonies are full of a subtle power that makes this prayer for deliverance extremely moving. Her singing on “Quitting Day,” a love song full of yearning, ends the record on a reserved note, with delicate vocals supported by the pedal-steel fills of Taylor English.
The band was going to put out the album on their own later this month, but a few labels have shown interest, so they’re pushing the release back a month or two. Meanwhile, you can listen to Quarantine Covers, an EP they just released on their Bandcamp page. “We started rearranging Neil Young’s ‘Old Man,'” Daddio said. “We have a cool electric organ and thought using it would take us out of our comfort zone. We were happy with the result and came up with a loose theme—having songs about the male experience reimagined and reinvented from a woman’s point of view. We did ZZ Top’s ‘Sharp Dressed Man,’ Paul Simon’s ‘Only Living Boy’ and George Michael’s ‘Father Figure.'”https://everyoneisdirty.bandcamp.com/album/quarantine-covers