Lawrence’s Sugar Britches find harmony in each other

You can call Sugar Britches sassy. The rambunctious Lawrence roots act embraces the term.

“We like to say that we like to curse, but we do it real pretty and in harmony,” says Ashley “Ziggy” Zeigenbein, Sugar Britches’ keyboardist and accordionist.

I’m hanging out in the basement of a split-level home near Lawrence High School, talking about the first year of the Sugar Britches’ existence with Zeigenbein, guitarist Brianne Grimmer, bassist Kahlen Mitchell and drummer Kimberly Simonetti. Mandolin player Monica Greenwood is absent, having recently given birth to her first child, whom the band has dubbed “Baby Britch.” This nearly starts Zeigenbein singing the Ween song of a similar name.

Those harmonies Zeigenbein mentions are a big part of Sugar Britches’ appeal. Four-part harmonies mean there’s no lead singer, and that was always the plan. This is a group, not someone fronting a band. Additionally, this is neither a picking-and-grinning kind of band, nor is it all pretty voices with primitive playing.

“We really do songwriting as a democracy,” Simonetti says. “People just throw stuff in, and I really like the mix of the five of us. The different harmonies and our different specialties have really complemented each other.”

“I used to play in a band where it was about the instrumentation, and the harmonies came second,” Mitchell says. “What I like about this band is that we can all play our instruments, too. So we’ve got kind of a double whammy.”

“We don’t use it as an accent,” Grimmer says of their vocal approach. “We use it as everything.”

Sugar Britches started as a four-piece in March 2015. Simonetti joined in November, bringing with her a background of West African drumming.

“Well, you know what they say: The bass gets the hips moving, the drums get the feet moving,” Zeigenbein says. “We noticed there was a bunch of hips moving, of course. People just gyrate when they see us, but we wanted them to move their feet, too.”

The band recorded its debut album, Quit Yer Britchin’, with Nicholas St. James last year, but the band’s rather hectic live-show schedule has made it difficult to work up new songs.

“That’s not our fault,” Mitchell says. “Aside from our CD-release party and maybe one or two others, we haven’t booked any of these shows. They’ve all been coming to us. New bands aren’t supposed to work like that, so we’ve been really lucky.”

Mitchell and the others have five new songs waiting to be pushed onto the stage, but due to a hectic live-show schedule, it’s been difficult for the band to work them up properly. Still, the band loves performing live so much that, if there’s a nice Friday night without a show, they’ll go busking on the streets of downtown Lawrence.

Saturday, the Britches play the Blues & Grass by the River festival at Burcham Park. On Sunday, it’s a benefit show at the Replay Lounge for the Lawrence food pantry Just Food, as well as the Douglas County chapter of the National Organization for Women, which follows a lunchtime set at the Girls Rock Lawrence camp.

“One of the things that we want to do is support other women,” Simonetti says. “It’s definitely something we’re dedicated to.”

“It’s really nice to play shows where you make money,” Grimmer says. “But when there’s something that we do support, and we know that we can make a difference, we want to.”

Sugar Britches
Blues & Grass by the River
with Oakhurst, Head for the Hills,
Groovement and DemFellrs
Saturday, June 11
Burcham Park

Douglas County NOW Benefit
with the Mad Kings
Sunday, June 12
Replay Lounge

Categories: Music