Local music nonprofit Musical Family Tree has found a novel method of spreading awareness about the Hoosier state's amazing musical history. MFT has enlisted local musicians to perform cover versions of notable Hoosier music from the past and present in an ongoing series they've titled IN Covers. The project has featured work from both newcomers like Shame Thugs and Louie Louie, as well as scene veterans like The Last IV. The subjects of the IN Covers tributes range from Indy funk legends The Highlighters, to Bloomington art-punk innovators Dancing Cigarettes.
The IN Covers concept was conceived by multi-instrumentalist and producer Sharlene Birdsong. I recently caught up with Birdsong to learn more about IN Covers. Listen to the covers at musicalfamilytree.com
NUVO: Sharlene, before we jump into Musical Family Tree's IN Covers series I wanted to ask you to give our readers a rundown of all the musical projects you're currently part of.
Sharlene Birdsong: I've been playing drums in Thee Tsunamis for about four or five years now. We'll be recording a new album next month. White Moms has a tape coming out soon; I play bass and drums in that band. I just started playing guitar in Louie Louie and drums for The United States Three.
RELATED: Read our review of Thee Tsunamis' Delirium and Dark Water
NUVO: Thee Tsunamis also have an amazing new animated video produced by the Brain Twins for the song "Kill Kill Kill.” How did that come about?
Birdsong: It's a song we wrote in the summer about and it's about summer angst. I asked Brian Twins to the video for us and they did this really elaborate and beautiful video. I gave them some silly ideas and they took the theme and made it work.
NUVO: I've heard that Lesley Gore's classic '60s hit "It's My Party (And I'll Cry if I Want To)" was a big inspiration to you as a young person. How did your childhood fascination with that song lead you to become a musician?
Birdsong: [laughs] Well, I still like Lesley Gore a lot. That's the first song I ever sang karaoke as a kid. I would go to Discovery Zone and sing that song. And I was a crybaby so I could relate.
I really got into local music when I was a teenager. I started going to the Emerson. I liked the hardcore and metal scene. I went to a lot of shows there. My first favorite local band was Perfect Nothing. I just stayed active and kept going to shows, mainly just to get out of the house. But I ended up getting my feet wet in the local scene and just stayed there for years.
NUVO: Tell us what IN Covers is all about.
Birdsong: IN Covers is about local musicians paying tribute to other local musicians. I think Indiana has a really detailed and special history and I think Indiana Covers is a way for local artists to contribute to that. So any local artist can come in and choose a song from any Indiana artist, like Michael Jackson or Wes Montgomery or No Coast — any local band from then or now.
We record one song and it's added to our archive. We've done over 15 so far and there's always one in the works. I try to get one out every month.
NUVO: In addition to developing the concept of IN Covers, you're also producing the sessions, correct?
Birdsong: I wanted to be more involved with MFT and I did that through recording. I set up a studio in my basement. It's just a little home studio. I record all the IN Covers songs to tape, on the same tape machine. They're all done the same way. It's a really nice, wholesome and chill way to record.
NUVO: How long do you envision this series running?
Birdsong: I want to keep it going and I want to get a couple physical releases out. I want to get a good variety of artists and genres. So hopefully there will be a physical release soon, probably a tape to stay true to the vibe.
RELATED: Read Thee Tsunamis' Betsey Bebop's interview with Babes in Toyland's Lori Barbero
NUVO: How can interested local musicians contribute to IN Covers?
Birdsong: You can contact me on the MFT Facebook page. If you want to be involved with any recording projects through MFT you can contact me the same way.
NUVO: Who are some of your own favorite local bands?
Birdsong: My absolute favorite right now is The Vanguards, who were a '70s soul band. They remind me of the Isley Brothers a lot. The Highlighters of course. The Pearls is another, they were an all-girl vocal group. I'm really in this soul hole right now. I've always loved soul and doo-wop music.