Female-fronted band plays rock

BY RILEY UBBEN | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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mp3 sample: Company of Thieves

"Modern Waste"

The powerful, fiery voice of the rock band Company of Thieves doesn’t bring to mind “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” But according to vocalist Genevieve Schatz, that’s where her music career started.

“I saw The Wizard of Oz when I was about 2, and I was just arrested by Judy Garland in that movie,” she said. “It really touched me, and I’ve been singing since then.”

Company of Thieves will perform with the Envy Corps at 8 p.m. Friday at the Blue Moose, 211 Iowa Ave. Admission is $10.

Schatz’s taste in music eventually expanded to punk, ska, and of course, the Beatles, a band, she said, that she and guitarist Marc Walloch first bonded over. The two were introduced by a mutual friend on a train in Chicago, and they immediately got to know each other.

“The train was crowded, so we had to sit together and just talk about music,” she said. “After that, we started to hang out once a week. We would watch old movies, listen to the Beatles, and we kind of just started to write a bunch of songs over time.”

Starting out as an acoustic act, Shatz and Walloch used open-mike nights in Chicago coffee shops for their initial gigs. The two developed a following in the singer/songwriter community, which inspired them to add two more members to the band as well as put together an album.

“When we had our CD release show for [our first record] in May of 2007, we sold out the Beat Kitchen in Chicago,” she said. “I think that was a big moment for us, because we kind of did everything backwards. We made an album before we ever did our first show [as a full band].”

The group’s unconventional route inevitably took a toll on the band members’ bank accounts. Releasing the début, Ordinary Riches, on their own, the musicians were forced to make some tough decisions.

“We financed it ourselves,” Schatz said. “Some of the guys had to drop out of school, and some of [the record] was financed with student loans. I was working full-time in the city and had to use a lot of my money.”

She said she is happy to have taken the risk. The album’s unique, female-fronted approach to alternative rock earned the band a deal with Wind-up Records and a wealth of new listeners.

University of Iowa student Kelli Nuehring became a fan after learning the band would play in Iowa City with the Envy Corps. The freshman was immediately drawn to the energy that Shatz brought to the table.

“Her voice is so great,” Nuehring said. “Female-fronted indie rock bands are really something lacking in the genre, so if you find a band with a strong female vocalist, it is really something special.”

Shatz believes her singing, as well as the band’s musicianship, got stronger on Company of Thieves’ sophomore album, Running from a Gamble. The songs come with a newfound confidence that the singer doesn’t feel was represented on the début.

“That [first] record was a time when everyone was really young and green and had never really recorded an album before. So we were a bit shy, to be honest,” she said. “I feel like [Running from a Gamble] is more us than ever before.”

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