Jellyman’s Daughter duo will perform at Upper Jay Arts Center
UPPER JAY — Emily Kelly and Graham Coe are perfectly capable of explaining what a jellyman’s daughter is, but they won’t. They prefer to keep it a mystery and have other people make their own theories. As far as the public knows, it’s just a moniker on which they decided while attending “uni” at Edinburgh Napier in Scotland six years ago.
The Americana duo will perform at the Upper Jay Art Center and Recovery Lounge at 8 p.m. Friday.
Kelly and Coe live in Edinburgh, a city that’s small enough to know everyone but big enough to book bands equally, Kelly said.
“Glasgow, which is only about an hour away, is really big on indie bands and traditional Scottish music,” she said, “and Edinburgh is, like, everything else.”
The two said it’s easy for artists from different musical backgrounds — funk, soul, jazz, rock and folk — to mingle and collaborate.
If you go on the Jellyman’s Daughter’s YouTube channel, you’ll find a cover of David Bowie’s 1975 “Young Americans.” It’s done “We are the world”-style where each verse is a different singer then about 20 other musicians from Edinburgh come together for the chorus.
“The day Bowie died,” Kelly said, “there was a real gloominess. It was also in January, so that didn’t help with the Scottish weather. We wanted to take all this energy and make something positive out of it.”
The cover was impromptu. Kelly made some calls and within a few hours, the music studio was filled.
“No musician is busy in January in Edinburgh,” she said. “It was real spur of the moment, and I think why it worked so well. None of it was planned, and we had different styles mixing. Everyone lives around the corner and was able to drop in. We spent the next four days in the studio, mixing and mastering the song 24/7.”
Despite recreating a well-known pop single, that was more of just a fun project and not indicative of the actual music Kelly and Coe make together.
“Sometimes people ask us to play that at shows,” Coe said with a chuckle. “It’s not really possible with just the two of us.”
The Jellyman’s Daughter’s original music is Gothic, raw and accompanied by Kelly and Coe’s harmonious vocals while she strums a mandolin and he bows a cello. Songs such as “Oh boy” and “Cry, cry darlin'” show just how well their voices come together for a moody, neofolk expression.
Though they have Scottish accents neither Kelly nor Coe sing with a brogue. Kelly said that stems from the fact that her parents listened to plenty of American musicians and bands such as Nickle Creek and Alison Krauss.
“I’ve always related the way I sing to the American music I listened to growing up,” she said. “If I ever do have to sing in a Scottish accent, it doesn’t quite feel natural.”
Coe added that the American singing accents come with the genre and the ways certain vowels are pronounced.
“I don’t think either of us has a particularly strong Scottish accent, but they just wouldn’t sound right for the music,” he said.
One interesting thing about Coe is that he plays cello standing up. Normally, musicians sit down to play the large, stringed instrument.
“A cello player in the U.S., Mike Block, designed a strap that works well and has support in all the right places,” Coe said. “It feels like you’re sitting down, actually. We like to perform with a condenser mic and sing at the same time. I used to play guitar in a grungy rock band, so being able to stand and play cello is a nice way to perform and feels quite natural.”
Like most folks who take up the cello, or the violin or the viola, Coe first learned classical music. Once he heard the record “Shaken by a Low Sound” by Boston band Crooked Still, he adopted a more unconventional and bluesy style.
The band recently released its second album “Dead Reckoning.” They described it as a darker record.
“It’s loosely conceptual,” Kelly said. “All the songs are about navigating parts of life like personal relationships, but then there are some big picture things about the political climate in there, too. A lot of the songs were written in 2016 and 2017 when things like Donald Trump and Brexit and the travel ban had happened.”
Before this album, though, Jellyman’s Daughter had a few early, quirky songs. “Anna,” a simple tune with banjo and fiddle, tells the story of the time Graham had burnt the garlic bread.
“We had gotten home from a night of drinking in Edinburgh,” Kelly said. “We were kind of drunk, and the only food in the flat was garlic bread. It burned, and we got in an argument about it. We were both too stubborn to apologize for the next few days. We decided to write a song about it, instead of fighting. We named it Anna because that’s neither of our names.”
“The themes were a lot lighter back then,” Graham said.
If you go…
Who: The Jellyman’s Daughter
Where: The Upper Jay Art Center and Recovery Lounge, 12198 Old Route 9N, Upper Jay
When: 8 p.m. Friday
How much: A suggested donation of $15