Full disclosure: I've known the Cathcart siblings of the intensified rockabilly group Jekkel for the better part of 20 years now; we went to elementary through high school together, and even in those childhood days bygone, it was evident that music ran in their blood. There was little Katie, barely 8 years old, obscured by a giant drum kit, blasting off the beats to Van Halen's "Panama" in the campus talent show. Years later, she'd join older brother Jim (vocals/guitar) and friend Laramie Eve (bass) at the La Quinta High School 2003 graduation ceremony, performing their octane-fueled cover of Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)." This trio had the heat - and not just because the scorching desert of the Coachella Valley is their homebase.
The three longtime pals usher me into their studio on an excessively sweaty Sunday afternoon. It's like the ultimate clubhouse - an add-on to the Cathcarts' parents' place that Katie built with her dad. (The drummer attended USC and earned a BS in music tech, and the science element of her degree is at full volume when she's in the studio. Her eyes dart as she finagles a recent re-recording of the punkish "One Way Road." The mouse on her sizable Mac is her sorceress's wand, and she's making devilishly good magic.)
Jim, whose daytime profession is in TV production out in Los Angeles, rallies his troops for a rehearsal. New recruit Jacob Miller takes a swig from his beer and saddles up to his guitar, fingers ablaze as Katie fires off pulses that would make Tre Cool jealous. Jim infuses his own panache into the jam, singing in an assured style reminiscent of Tiger Army's Nick 13. Laramie Eve plays the nonchalant George Harrison to this otherwise boisterous gang, letting her hefty bass riffs elevate her.
Smiles permeate the jam, but Jekkel run a tight ship. They've been together since 1997, and whereas the band ight have been a fun afterthought for many a year, 2012 seems to be the time for them to hunker down. A greaseboard behind their stacks maps out exact recording schedules and marketing plans (the goal is to put out an EP as soon as they can and build and audience in Los Angeles, as the senior-citizen haven of the Coachella Valley can be a constricting environment for rockers). It doesn't have to be perfect, Jim says (though his sister might disagree, as siblings are wont to do), but their passion is the most important element that shines through in their music.