When Anonymous Willpower's Suzie Willpower takes on a song, she sinks her teeth in and devours it. Once inside it joins her searing soul and guts before getting belted back out in a blast of psycho-sexual seduction and wail. The instruments behind her lay out a frenetic r&b shag and groove that's white hot and blue. The band is extraordinary on stage, what with Willpower's animation and voracious vocals, keyboardist Don Anonymous' frequent piano forays to The Crescent City, bassist Harry Roberts' casual sashay and stroll, the backbone of drummer Greg Andrews' solid beat, and the rhythm/melody cocktail of Chris DiStasio's guitar. This band puts on a relentless show. And it has recently unleashed the equally relentless CD, "Anonymous Willpower's No Obligation Information Kit." This 11-cut disc is hot; it'll steam the wrinkles out of your shorts.
It's the kind of sexy soul both Willpower and her husband/partner in crime Anonymous have gravitated toward for years. They first explored it via Joyfinger at the end of the last century, and then while members of The Earl Cram Revue and Velveteen Fox throughout the early 2000's. It's not that these bands didn't tickle, tease, and satisfy, but the duo's vision wasn't being fully realized until now.
Although both title members of Anonymous Willpower worked together in these earlier groups, it was hardly collaborative. Each musician did his or her own material. "I'd just do my own songs," says Anonymous. "And she'd sing her own songs. I never thought of having somebody else do my songs. I always heard my own voice when I wrote."
That has since changed with the advent of Anonymous Willpower in late 2010. "Leaving Velveteen Fox," says Willpower, "Don said, 'You know, if we're going to do something together, we have to write music with plenty of love songs and stuff that's in line with sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. That holy trinity notwithstanding, Anonymous in particular was determined to keep the soul."
"I prefer in this band to do the songs in a soul/r&b style," Anonymous says. That includes covers, like the band's fire-down-below take on Dee Dee Warwick's 1969 song "Foolish Fool." "Even if they didn't start out that way. I want that to be the initial style of the band," he says.
But it isn't always a smooth endeavor. There's a dynamic push and pull between the music, Anonymous' subdued deadpan demeanor, and Willpower's boundless energy and vocal range.
"When I was younger," Willpower says, "I was a blues singer even though I wanted to be a punk-rock chick and scream. When you're a stupid teenager you don't realize you have this talent and you want to do something else. Don and Sam [from Earl Cram Revue] finally sat me down and said, 'Look, this is what you can do. Now do it.'"
Anonymous Willpower is truly a collaborative affair. Where Anonymous was more of a self-described word man before, he's focusing more on the music, with Willpower left to tell the story. And they'll go back and forth on songs like "Mr. Fix It," a slow Broadway boogie shuffle number with an underlying New Orleans mambo.
"I said, 'Let's write a song praising the guy for hitting that spot that no other man could, and for doing all the right things,'" says Willpower. She had some trouble with it and handed it off to Anonymous, who put his own salacious slant on it.
"He completely re-wrote it," Willpower says. "And I was like, 'This is about a vibrator.'"
As they did to produce "No Obligation Information Kit," Anonymous and Willpower will be back in its basement studio to grind out another album by this fall. And again they'll test their limits and the limits of the music. Willpower seems limitless...except for yodeling.
"I'm not a yodeler," she says. "I'm a growler. I like to growl."