by Colin Asher
The Weekly Dig
June 4, 2008
In a shameful display of amateur-hour incompetence, I arrive 15 minutes late to interview Becca Thornblade and Susanna Porte of the Cello Chix.
The patient pair are waiting for me in Simon's Coffee Shop near Porter Square: Porte in a shirt emblazoned with "My Bush is Anti-War" and Thornblade in a decidedly less polemic pink button-up shirt, black skirt and suede boots. They tell me not to worry about being late. They smile. They're so nice I convince myself I didn't fuck up.
Since they can barely hear my mealy mouthed apology over the chatting, espresso-exhorting crowd, we quest for quieter environs.
Walking down Mass. Ave., we consider a bar, remember it's only 10:45am and resign ourselves to the cultural void that is Starbucks. Once inside, the pair explains how they get two cellos and a drum kit to produce recognizable renditions of "Sunshine of Your Love," "Purple Haze" or the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post."
"The cello sounds like a human voice," Thornblade says. "You couldn't do it on a piano."
Arranging a rock song to be played on a set of cellos is a bit like "translating a poem from one language into another," Porte says. "You sacrifice some elements and emphasize others."
The Cello Chix are Thornblade, Porte, drummer Nancy Delaney and guest cellist Shay Rudolph. They have been reworking and performing classic rock (also jazz and Latin) songs for cello since 2003. They began playing friend's parties, then open mic nights and, for several years now, making the circuit through various Cambridge venues. They just released their first CD, Under the Covers.
In the face of what could be considered burgeoning success, these Oberlin-trained musicians are sedate. They would like to play New York once, they say. A second CD would be nice. They'd like to play live over the radio and expand their fan base to include younger fans. Porte, anticipating a wave of groupies, would like someone to haul her amplifier. "I so need a Sherpa," she says.
©2008 The Weekly Dig