Robin Alice, a duo whose surreal songs make room for pop melodies, rock n’ roll muscle, out-of-the-box arrangements, and powerhouse vocal performances, is the unexpected pairing of songwriters Kelley Jakle and Jeff Hortillosa. Today, the band released “Wanna Be,” the latest single from their forthcoming debut EP Here and There, out June 14th.
Jakle, who appeared in all three Pitch Perfect films, crossed paths with Jeff Hortillosa, member of punkgrass outfit Whiskey Shivers, on the set of the franchise’s third installment. During filming, the pair began playing music together, and from the very start, their diverging backgrounds made for compelling art. The band announced the upcoming release last month via Parade Magazine who premiered lead single “Late Bloomer” saying it combines “a ‘60s vibe with classic guitar riffage,” and “Jakle’s powerful vocals soaring over an excellent instrumental arrangement.” The track, an epic Motown-esque breakup song, was the first one that Jakle and Hortillosa created together, and also appears in the Netflix movie Walk. Ride. Rodeo.
Both bandmates had already left unique marks upon the music world by the time they crossed paths on the movie set of Pitch Perfect 3. A Kentucky native, Hortillosa cut his teeth as a member of Whiskey Shivers, an unconventional bluegrass band more grounded in punky, rule-breaking spirit than traditional twang. Meanwhile, Jakle had grown up in California, where she played coffeehouse gigs as a teenager before winning a handful of international titles with her college a cappella group. When she launched a parallel career as a Hollywood actress after graduation, those vocal chops landed her a recurring role in the Pitch Perfect series.
When the cameras stopped rolling, the two continued working together, trading musical ideas via email and reuniting in Austin for a series of studio sessions. Steadily, what began as an informal collaboration on the Pitch Perfect 3 set turned into a proper duo, with the bandmates looking to a variety of influences — including Fleetwood Mac’s harmony-heavy rock, St. Vincent’s complex pop arrangements, Allison Krauss’ swooning folk, and even 1960s psychedelia — as touchstones. It was a collaborative sound that allowed Hortillosa to flex his muscles as a diverse multi-instrumentalist, flanking Jakle’s elastic voice with layers of interlocking guitar, bass, synthesizer, and percussion.
Recorded in Austin-area studios like the Bubble and Waterslide, Here and There finds Robin Alice working alongside Grammy-winning engineer Chris “Frenchie” Smith. The five-song record also shines a light on the diversity and melodic chops at the core of the band’s sound, blurring the lines between genres that don’t often rub shoulders. There are horn arrangements, dream-pop influences, breakup songs, and plenty of coed harmonies. There’s plenty of sharply-written lyrical insight, too, with songs like “Greed” attacking America’s consumerist obsession. “When we were writing songs,” Hortillosa says, “we didn’t think of any limitations. We just allowed ourselves to be strange and creative. It was no-holds-barred approach. I’m from a bluegrass/Americana background, and Kelley is from more of a pop/rock background… so we worked together and found our own middle ground.”