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Two Paths, One Journey: Dri and Suzannah Johannes, February 13 at Huckleberry’s PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Wednesday, 13 February 2008 03:03

dri.jpg Although singers/songwriters Adrianne "Dri" Verhoeven and Suzannah Johannes both call Lawrence, Kansas, home, their styles and their paths to musical careers couldn't be more different.

Verhoeven has been involved with a wide variety of music her entire life, while Johannes just discovered her love for the guitar in the past few years. Verhoeven works with neo-soul beats, while Johannes primarily writes with her guitar.

The two women will perform February 13 at Huckleberry's pizza parlor in Rock Island in a show presented by Daytrotter.com.

Verhoeven tried to write songs with her guitar, but she never felt a close relationship with the instrument. It was Zach Hangauer, the head of Range of Life records (which has both artists on its roster), who pushed Verhoeven in a different direction.

He gave her some instrumentals from another Range of Life band, Verhoeven recalled. “He said, ‘I think you should do music where you work over beats and samples ... ,” she said in a recent phone interview. “I never really thought that would be an option, and I started and it just took off.”

Verhoven’s creative process involves taking music and shaping it into something that’s her own. She takes one beat, and then layers it with synthesized instruments, and then she listens to it see how it makes her feel before writing the lyrics.

Growing up, Verhoeven participated in the symphony, orchestra, band, and choir, and she majored in percussion in her freshman year at the University of Kansas. Later she switched majors to music education.

Although Verhoeven is almost finished with her degree, she’s taking time off to tour and to promote her latest album, Smoke Rings.

I’m so close [to a degree] that it was a hard decision ... to absolutely pursue music right now,” she said. “But I feel like it was the right decision, and I’m most happy for it.”

Smoke Rings sounds like walking into a ’70s nightclub, with the audience swaying in unison to the sounds radiating from the speakers. Verhoeven’s lyrics play like impulsive confessions.

Inspiration,” Verhoeven’s favorite track on Smoke Rings, almost didn’t happen. She and Hangauer were sitting in the studio talking, and he opened an MP3 file of an instrumental track intended for another artist’s use, and Verhoeven found it “magical.” She wrote lyrics for that music, and it became “Inspiration.”

Imagine a doo-wap background of swooning Motown divas opening to relaxing beats that move toward the Beach Boys’ pop harmonies from Pet Sounds mixed with urban beats. And in comes this sultry, molasses-thick voice similar to India.Arie, singing, “Anytime I run away from you / All the night I made a play for you / Every time there’s nothing else to do / And the way make you me feel so right / On the drive home just the other night / Lean me down and turn off the light.”

I’m particularly attached to that tune,” Verhoeven said. “I heard the instrumental version of it that day and I recorded it [the vocals]. It was the most beautiful song I’d ever heard.”

Hot as Hades” shares the same type of funky, electronic rhythms reminiscent of an underground European discothèque.

Although “Indria” was more difficult to write, Verhoeven eventually found her own gutsy energy to shadowbox a man who wronged her. She belts out, “Every time I want you / Every time I need you / Every time I reach for you / You’re not there / Anytime all the time.” Her desperation for the man’s attention is evident in her emotionally charged shouting.

Unlike Verhoeven – who has been involved with music since childhood – Johannes has only played guitar for two years. But her chord changes and pairings of lyrics with music suggest an old pro.

suzannah_johannes.jpgJohannes’ musical epiphany came when she traveled to El Salvador for a volunteer trip several years ago.

I remember there being several nights where guitars were being passed around, and half the people knew how to play the guitar and sing a song,” Johannes said in a phone interview. “And I didn’t know how to do that, and I felt like it would [have] broken down a wall of communication.”

Johannes owned a guitar for years before but never played it. After the trip, she started practicing, and things started to click.

I feel like I tried to figure it out before, but I don’t think my heart was really into it,” she said. “This time I felt really motivated, like I had a purpose to learn it. So it came pretty easy.”

The songs she’s created so far reveal Johannes as a strong lyricist on topics of love and loss. On “Hanging On,” she sweetly sings, “You know / I need you more / Than she who holds you now / But my friend’s on the radio and said dear it’s time to go / Until we meet again.”

Johannes sings it as a lullaby, tenderly passing the words through her lips like it’s the last time she’ll ever say them. Her lyrics gently fall between her folky strums of the guitar. Johannes’ voice trails off, realizing that her man’s never coming back.

She also experiments with sampling, adding her own charming cover of “Moon River” (she calls it “Moon Moon Moon River”) to her MySpace playlist. Her version adds chimes and a scratchy, lo-fi sound underneath her vocals, reminiscent of Hope Sandoval’s voice from Mazzy Star.

Johannes’ four-track EP is scheduled for release in April 2008. The EP is partially a collaboration with friend, Hanz Bronze, who posted on his Web site a poem titled “A Song for Suzannah Johannes to Sing Sometime.” Johannes was flattered and took him up on the idea, adding her own music and singing his words.

Dri and Suzannah Johannes will perform on Wednesday, February 13, at Huckleberry's pizza parlor, 223 18th Street in Rock Island. The show starts at 7 p.m., and admission is $5.

For more information on Dri, visit (http://www.myspace.com/drismokerings). For more information on Suzannah Johannes, visit (http://www.myspace.com/suzannahjohannes).

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