2222 San Diego Ave., San Diego   »  Neighborhood: Old Town
(619) 501-0522   »  HomeandAwaySD.com

by Mikey Beats

In this edition of Beats & Eats, I meet up with local frontwoman Birdy Bardot at a local bar in Old Town on San Diego Avenue called Home & Away.

Mikey Beats: You are Birdy Bardot.

Birdy Bardot: Yes.

MB: So let’s start from the very beginning. Where are you from?

BB: New York.

MB: How did you get your start in music?

BB: My parents always encouraged the arts but I always gravitated toward singing at a young age. I saw musicals and that’s what I wanted to be about, so my parents gave me singing lessons when I was 4 or 5 starting with classical music opera but over time learned everything I could about as many styles of singing as possible like jazz, blues, pop and traditional choir. I loved going to singing lessons, competitions and I learned operatic singing at a young age because I wanted to know everything about how to use my voice, and in the best ways. I dabbled in other instruments, guitar lessons and piano but voice was where I felt most expressive so I always put most of my time and efforts in there.

TJ, one of the owner and operators, walks up to us and drops a couple drinks: Penicillin (scotch, lemon, ginger, honey and Laphroaig Islay Mist whiskey); and The Old Town Old Fashioned (mescal, honey, Angostura bitters). Birdy gets the Penicillin and I get the Old Fashioned. With drinks in hands, we both cheers and say in unison, “Oh yeah!”

MB: This Old Town Old Fashioned is super smokey. It tastes like smoking a corn cob pipe with a blow pop in your mouth, it’s got a light sweetness to it. I’m a fan. How’s your Penicillin?

BB: It’s just what the doctor ordered.

MB: What brought you to San Diego?

BB: When I came out to San Diego, I took a job in the financial industry because I wanted to build a career. I always wanted to do music but I never really believed that I had what it took. Coming from New York, you’re very critical about what you can do versus the rest of the world that might be more talented, so I had that chip on my shoulder. When I came out here, something clicked. I started branching out, started getting connected and plugged into the music scene and I found the right people. I have a 9-to-5 job, or 7-to-4, but it works for my schedule because I can do my day job, then I can go out to support local music, be involved in other projects, do stuff on the weekends, and every chance I get in the evening during the week.

We swap drinks and I take a taste of the Penicillin.

MB: That Penicillin is outstanding! Very refreshing. I am glad I can come to Old Town and get prescribed Penicillin and not have to go all the way to Mexico. How long have you been in San Diego?

BB: I’ve been here 10 years and have never been to Mexico.

MB: Wait. You’ve been here 10 years and never been to Mexico?

BB: I’ll have been here 11 years in June.

MB: I do feel if you’ve been here for over 10 years, you could be considered a local, but the fact that you haven’t been to Mexico and you’ve lived in San Diego, a border city, you’re not a local.

BB: OK, scratch that. I was in Mexico once, just for a night. I was here for a year or so and some surfer friends we were hanging out with said, “Hey, let’s go to Papas&Beer in Rosarito.”

MB: That was probably not your scene.

BB: No, but I would love to go back and visit.

TJ returns to lay down some wings tossed in a teriyaki and buffalo sauce along with a grilled cheese with provolone, brie and gruyère cheeses, roasted tomato spread and fresh basil on sourdough. I pause the interview to get my eats on, but I don’t flock to the wings like Birdy, instead I focus on a pickle.

MB: This is the best pickle I’ve ever had in my mouth. Hey TJ, what’s up with this pickle?

TJ: That is a local pickle and the company is Farv’s Pickles. It’s actually the recipe of one of my good friends from college’s family, which has a history of pickling. He brought it to San Diego and it’s in a couple local places like Home & Away.

MB: Birdy, when you got to San Diego, what was your first music project?

BB: I found gospel. I always want to keep learning, finding different things to challenge myself.

MB: Where did you find gospel?

BB: Believe it or not, I was living in Mission Beach and I looked on Craigslist and there was a gospel choir audition in one of the churches called San Diego Multicultural Gospel Choir. I never would have thought I would have been in a gospel choir, but that’s what I was used to when I was a kid; branching out in music, find a choir or find a project like that. I was so challenged by that group and they were such great people, I loved it.

MB: After the gospel choir, when did you start playing in the local band circuit?

BB: When I started the New Kinetics, with the best guitar player that I know of, my husband Brian Riley. We didn’t want this to be a husband and wife team up, so we started this project and wanted it to be a serious project, so we auditioned for a drummer, got a bass player and started that in 2010.

After putting down several wings each and then mauling the grilled cheese, we both get treated to a couple beers from Thorn Street Brewery.

TJ: We have a Chile Cobra Pale, a chile-infused pale with a shit ton of chiles in it, and we also have the Relay IPA. It’s a very classic IPA.

If there is chile-infused anything, I will swallow it, so I gulp down a few swills and am thankful for my veteran hot sauce stamina because this has some fire!

MB: That’s amazing! Dare I say as good as the Sculpin Habanero from Ballast Point?

The whole bar goes silent with a gasp while one old man in the corner claps his hands firmly. OK, I am embellishing, but you get it.

MB: When was the persona of Birdy Bardot created?

BB: When I started with the New Kinetics in 2010 and I came up with the idea of having a stage persona. I didn’t have anything at the time. My mom would call me her little bird when I was a kid, so Birdy Bardot was created. It sounded like it made sense.

MB: What spots have you played with the New Kinetics?

BB: We started with Soda Bar, Tin Can, The Eleventh Club, which is now called the Hideout and playing that North Park-ish circuit. We got a following, got into the Casbah and support from Tim Mays and everyone else. We branched out and met other musicians. The New Kinetics were pulling a lot of steam. We actually ended the band because we were moving back to the East Coast, me and my husband, for a job opportunity, then I got another job opportunity to come back here, took it and never looked back. We came back and re-formed the band and are still actively playing. We love being in San Diego, it feels like my home.

MB: So you came back and joined another act?

BB: Yes, the New Kinetics re-started and then I branched out to join the Rosalyns, a formation of other female musicians in town. It was started by Anja Stax from The Loons on bass and Lety Beers from the Schitzophonics on drums. I really enjoy being with other female musicians who are stellar in what they do. It’s ‘60s garage rock, strictly homage to any ‘60s songs of ‘60s girl groups that go unnoticed. The Rosalyns have a week of shows coming up in August that we’re gearing toward.

MB: Where have you lived in SD?

BB: All over like PB, OB, Mission Beach, North Park and I’ve also lived in Mira Mesa. I feel like I know San Diego as much as I possibly can.

MB: You get around.

BB: My favorite place was North Park before, but I’ve acclimated to OB and I do like being here now.

MB: OB has a great music scene and it’s not just reggae.

BB: That’s exactly how I got plugged into The Redwoods music scene. I moved to OB, met Al Howard at Cow Records, an amazing fella, and got plugged in with Matt Molarius, who is my neighbor. In OB there are all these great musicians who are living there, collaborating and working on stuff.

TJ comes back and lays down the 22 Burger: one-third pound of beef, caramelized red onions, roasted tomato spread, Nueske’s bacon, provolone cheese, brie cheese, gruyére cheese and another pickle. I give Birdy the pickle priority this time and she appreciates the gesture. We both simultaneously reach for a half of the burger and take bites.

MB: Birdy, how do you feel about it?

BB: The best burger I’ve ever had. Just sayin’…

MB: That’s a bold statement.

BB: I’ve learned what gruyére cheese was when I had a French friend back in gospel choir. That’s where it’s at, right there.

MB: There’s a sweet special sauce on it. Oral orgasm for sure. It’s like a burger with a pancake in it. OK, back to the Beats. One of the other bands you’re in is Birdy Bardot.

BB: Right, when we came back from the East Coast and before the New Kinetics had reformed, I met up with Al Howard and we started collaborating in writing. We wrote some songs we really didn’t have a home for and he brought in his group of all-star musicians who he knows like Matt Molarius from Transfer, Jake Najor, Jason Littlefield and Daniel Cervantes. They are bunch of great musicians who came together and wrote the instrumentation behind these words and melodies that Al and I were coming up with. The Redwoods was also kind of in the formation; that’s the local label that started backing the Birdy Bardot project before we had a name for it. The Redwoods were fronting all the recording costs, all the time, the engineers, the photographers, everyone that went into it.

MB: So you had a project, but you didn’t have a name.

BB: Right, we didn’t have a name and we were like, “Let’s call it Birdy Bardot.” This record is really soulful with the melodies that we hashed out. It’s a nice piece and I’m super glad to be a part of it. I’m glad to be part of The Redwoods.

MB: Describe the genre or sound of Birdy Bardot.

BB: Garage psych, haunted lullabies and California soul. We have our record release coming up at the Casbah on July 3; it’s a full-length, self-titled album.

MB: You also will be at Oysterfest on June 13 at the Embarcadero Park North with Thievery Corporation, Little Hurricane, The Young Wild, Through The Roots and Rebecca Jade. You and Rebecca share Jake Najor, who is a great drummer.

BB: That is true, he is a great guy and great musician.

MB: You’re in three bands right now, so you’re very diversified, as many working musicians in San Diego are. You also have a full time professional career. Can you describe the challenge of paying your bills and exercising your passion for music? Do you ever sleep?

BB: (She laughs.) Sometimes I go without a little bit of sleep, but it’s a labor of passion. I love singing. I love being involved in music. If I lose a few hours of sleep because I have a show and then I have work the next day, I am not regretful at all. I think the arts are a great pursuit. I think it’s important to keep the arts alive and to do as much as you can to support other musicians and to create something yourself that you can stand behind and inspire others.

MB: Well put. Thank you for your time, Birdy, I can’t wait to hear you live.