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Stay away, fools 

Dazz & Brie dance on the grave of their past mistakes.

click to enlarge REIGN DANCE: It's been a whirlwind year for Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners Dazz & Brie. - JOHN DAVID PITTMAN
  • John David Pittman
  • REIGN DANCE: It's been a whirlwind year for Arkansas Times Musicians Showcase winners Dazz & Brie.

About a minute into the 1989 video for "Love Shack" by The B-52's, Fred Schneider bounds past a sign that reads "SHAQUE D'AMOUR: Stay Away Fools, Love Rules" and into a shimmying, shaking dance party that involves pastel martinis, projectile wigs, red fringe and goats. It was that video that sprung to mind when, at a house show Dazz & Brie played this summer, my eyes scanned briefly to the large wooden dresser on my right. It was quite literally rocking back and forth, tilting in sympathy with the 50 or so folks jumping up and down in a historic Stifft Station house that was clearly not built to withstand that degree of boogie.

"When people come to our shows and they wanna be uplifted," vocalist Kabrelyn "Brie" Boyce said, "we put all our energy into it." And maybe it's because some of that dresser-drawer-tilting energy has been bubbling up for a while; Dazz & Brie played a grand total of six shows in 2016. In 2017 thus far, they've played around 50.

"It's a little bit of a blur," multi-instrumentalist Dazzmin Murry said. I asked whether it's been logistically difficult to mobilize a sextet — Dazz & Brie's outsized band, The Emotionalz — for that marathon of performances. "There are six of us, six personalities," Murry said, "but it's been easier than I'd imagined it would be. Everyone was just so willing," she said, and noted that ringers like Tray Cowan and Samarra Samone have stepped up when a band member or two wasn't available.

I cornered the duo into naming a few favorite venues and shows, and they obliged: the White Water Tavern, Low Key Arts' Hot Water Hills Festival in Hot Springs and a show in the swank new Murphy Arts District in El Dorado. On stage, the band's anthems are clever and buoyant, and the diligence the ensemble applies to both songwriting and rehearsal shines through. Boyce's vocal melismas soar effortlessly, Murry and Darius Blanton swap between drums and keyboard and bassist Kamille Shaw shows off a singing voice that would easily make her lead vocalist in any other band. The group's got a well of vocal and instrumental resources the bottom of which I'm not sure we've seen yet. Because of that, musical possibilities that might be off limits to other groups open up: the SWV-esque chorus to "Old Tee Shirt," for example, or the layered countermelodies on the reggae-influenced "Can'tchasegirls." Or the part where the bass player whips out a flute. Overflow is inevitable: Shaw has been showcasing her own set at a series called "Sushi & Chill," guitarist Gavin Le'nard has his own project (check out his steamy single, "Three," on Soundcloud), and the immensely gifted "backup" (air quotes here) singer, Hope Dixon, essentially the band's not-so-secret weapon (Exhibit A: "Reign Dance"), opened a show for the larger group with a solo set in September.

If they're worried about things getting stale — and they are: "We never play the exact same set," Murry said — it doesn't show on stage. The vibe is warm, collaborative and elevated, and by now there are enough patrons that wail along with "Indigo" that a packed performance can feel euphoric. "I wanna dance on the grave of my past mistakes," they sing on "Reign Dance," and you get the feeling that catharsis is happening, collectively, right then and there.

There's some irony in the fact that Dazz & Brie's two albums begin with the word "can't," an idea conspicuously absent from the duo's ethos. A lot of the band's sudden success was "just thinking this into existence," Boyce said. "If we can get our minds there," Murry added, "we can get there."

About this time last year, in a video leading up to the release of 2016's "Can't Afford California," Murry and Boyce recall a nightmarish Dallas recording session with a self-obsessed, hypercritical sound engineer, and they paint it as the point when they decided they'd self-record and distribute their first record. "After that session," they said, "we were like, 'OK, we're gonna go and buy our own equipment and nobody else is gonna make us feel bad about our art.' " Murry and Boyce aren't likely snarky enough to say it, but I will: I hope that sound engineer finds himself in the teeming, blissful crowd at a Dazz & Brie show someday, and I hope he goes home kicking himself for having told these women what they couldn't do.


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