The Debutante Hour sounds like Tom Waits and Bjork singing harmonies together at a 1910 variety show. Susan, Mia and Maria are the eclectic trio who perform everything from singing public service announcements to theatrical reinterpretations of Sumerian mythology. The ladies recent release, “The Birth and Death of Meaning,” is a bouncing, old-timey album with a heavy helping of sarcasm. The songs alternate an accordion, cello, piano and baritone ukulele. The girls share songwriting assignments, so each track has a different personality. “For Myself” is a smokey tune for a lounge singer, while “Scheherazade” is like a bubbling, wry Frank Zappa track. The Debutantes lyrics and phrasing are quirky like Weezer but their buttery, close harmonies abate the humor with a barber-shop edge. Now on tour in eastern Europe, look for them in this city later this fall.
How did you meet each other?
Maria: We met in an all female accordion orchestra called The Main Squeeze Orchestra. We started The Debutante Hour in November of 2007.
You guys have some entertaining Public Service Announcements on your You Tube Channel. How did those come about?
Maria: We had already talked about a Debutante Training Video. One fall went to Warwick, New York to see Susan’s friend who is a drummer because we wanted him to teach us snare drumming.
Susan: Plus his wife is an actress and we wanted her to play our boot camp trainer person.
Maria: Then, I don’t know, we were in Warwick and it was the fall. I think I ate a doughnut and we were walking through an apple orchard and we were like: we should make a public service announcement. We played at the farmers market and then it just happened.
Susan: We wrote the song for “Eat Local” on the way somewhere in the car. It was the first song we wrote together. Mia came up with the cockle doodle-doo part.
You guys also have one called “Neighborhood Vigilance.”
Susan: All three of us had assignments to come up with PSA announcements. I wrote I rap about not using plastic bags and Maria wrote one…
Maria: About how pedestrians are people too.
Susan: And the “Neighborhood Vigilance” was one that Mia wrote.
Right now you are touring where?
Maria: In Kiev.
Susan: With a theatre production from the Yara Arts Group called “Scythian Stones.”
Maria: They’re based in New York. Susan and I were in the performance that took place at La Maba in the East Villiage. The director was able to get money to bring us all to Kiev and next week we’re all going to Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan. The production is part of a theatre festival called Gogol Fest.
What’s the performance like?
Maria: We play the denizens of the underworld. The whole piece is based on an ancient Sumerian epic about the goddess, Inana’s descent to the underworld. In the production there are these girls in a traditional society and they descend into the underworld where Susan and I…
Susan: We turn them into stone.
Maria: We turn them into stone eventually. First we make them watch television.
Will Debutante Boot Camp eventually be open to the public?
Maria: You mean, Debutante Finishing School?
Susan: In Debutante Finishing School you learn things like how to carry an accordion and a drum set in high heels.
Maria: And how many martinis you can drink before you have to play the accordion in public.
Susan: It depends if you have to do a solo or not.
Maria: It depends how late your dinner was.
Three rules of thumb for aspiring debutantes?
1. Never skip a meal
2. Never bail on a gig if possible.
3. If there is one thing you need on stage, it’s eyeliner.