I recently caught up with all girl ukulele trio, the Strumpettes, in the East London pub the Nelson’s Head.
The Strumpettes are a ukulele close harmony trio who, if legend is to be believed, formed in the 1920s and through some kind of miracle, have never aged a day. That’s one version of events but alternatively, they might have just met at university and decided to form a swing inspired ukulele band at the end of 2009. But that would just seem a little far fetched.
The Strumpettes Photograph by: Sophie Allen
The Band includes, Kitty Kowalski, a Polish Aristocrat who fled native land in a vodka barrel, and ended up singing in New Orleans’ dive bars until she was saved by the Strumpettes. She also has quite a talent for poker, so best not play for money against her.
Kitty Kowalski – Photograph by: Sophie Allen
Velma Valentine grew up busking and picking pockets on the streets of Brookyln. She rose up the cabaret scene in New York, before moving to London to become a Strumpette. Oh, and if you have any nice diamonds you might want to keep, best not wear them around her – she’s known for her love of diamonds.
Velma Valentine – Photograph: Sophie Allen
Also, of late there’s been some changes to the Strumpettes, as Bettina Winters has fled the coup. So what does it take to be a Strumpette? According to Velma and Kitty, “she needed to look hot in a 1940s dress and act like an American tart as well as being amazing at singing and playing the ukulele, of course.”
Auditions were held, lots of men disturbingly applied, but in the end they spotted their new member, Scarlett Munroe, singing a sick dolphin back to sleep in a New York zoo. The unwanted love child of Marilyn Monroe and Roger Rouge, a Russian Contortionist, she was sent to a school for performing monkeys and mammal, hence the dolphin thing. I think the life of a Strumpette is probably more appealing than singing to unappreciative dolphins all day long.
Scarlett Munroe – Photograph: Sophie Allen
Despite being formed in the 1920s, a big influence on the band are the Andrew’s Sisters. According to Velma Valentine, “the Andrew’s Sisters are kind of what triggered the whole thing. Also, Hollywood – old movies were a big influence, especially Marilyn Monroe in the film, Some Like it Hot, where she’s playing the ukulele.”
Their early demos were recorded underneath the Rio, a deco period cinema in Dalston, London, and they have plans to record an album in a few months time. Despite playing live for less than a year, they’ve already played Glastonbury. “It was amazing, we played three times. The first night was our largest crowd we’ve ever played too, about a thousand people. Ironically, the last night, was when we probably played the best set we’ve ever done.”
The Strupettes play the Thames Festival, September 11th and 12th, and also ukuelele cabaret with Tricity Vogue, 21st september 2010. You can see all future gigs on their website, www.thestrumpettes.com, and also, on myspace.
All photographs © Sophie Allen