San Francisco’s popular comedy festival, SF Sketchfest, is expanding further into music. Now in its 13th year, the two-week-long festival features 12 “music meets comedy” events. At the top of the bill is the return of Maya Rudolph’s Prince cover duo, Princess, while actress Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men), also a Sketchfest veteran, is bringing her harmonizing trio, The Girls.
The singing group, which includes actresses Cyrina Fiallo and Julianna Guill, and is backed by New York bluegrass band Jones Street Station, performs two shows at Yoshi’s on February 1.
“(The Girls) is a fun thing for us to do together; it’s a great excuse to hang out all the time and rehearse,” Brie said. “Also, it’s empowering for us. As actresses, you’re not always in control of where your next job is or what kind of job it is. Through making this music together; it’s fun to dictate what kind of stuff we want to work on together.”
The three singers met seven years ago while working on a web series called My Alibi. They became close over a love of music and singing, among other shared interests, and both Fiallo and Guill went on to guest on Community, where Brie, 31, stars as prudish, driven Greendale Community College student Annie Edison.
The Girls formed, more or less, on a whim, Brie said, but there’s a backstory. Community co-star Danny Pudi was a good friend with Jones Street Station, and when Pudi took her to a show, the band asked the two to come up and sing. After the show, and a few drinks, the band encouraged Brie to come to another show and sing with them again.
“Now, looking back, I think it may have just been enthusiastic drunk-speak,” Brie said.
Yet, at the same time, Brie, Guill and Fiallo had been kicking around the idea of recording a pop song with multiple harmonies and posting a video online for people to discover.
“Then we just never would; we had no follow-through,” she said. “When this (Jones Street Station) idea came up, I brought it to the girls.”
So she asked if they were interested in going to New York to open for, and sing with, the bluegrass band. They were thrilled at the idea.
“So then it became a game of chicken to see if anyone would bow out, and no one ever did,” she said.
Brie and her band mates have varied musical tastes. Their live sets, which feature mostly three-part harmony covers, include everything from Springsteen, to the White Stripes, Robyn, Weezer and Dolly Parton. Brie’s favorite band to see live is easily Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, however.
“I’ve seen them a few times, and I always love their music,” she said. “(Singer) Alexander (Ebert) is such a great presence on stage.”
So while some of the songs The Girls cover may be pop, Brie clearly has a taste for folk – that, and rap. Community co-star Donald Glover has built a secondary career for himself as Childish Gambino. Brie makes it clear that while Glover is a professional musician, she just views music as a hobby. That’s why her trio has yet to record a few original songs that Fiallo penned, or the ones Jones Street Station wrote for them. An EP is still a goal, but not an immediate one.
“I would never presume to put myself in the same category as (Glover). If anything, I try to rap from time to time, and I like to get his input on that. (It) is generally negative,” she laughed.
February 1, 2014