Dirty Martini is a blissful union of three of the Pacific Northwest’s finest singer songwriters Lara Michell, Stephanie Schneiderman, and McKinley. They each had successful solo careers (one toured with David Crosby as his opening act, one won a spot on the Lillith Fair tour, and one was in Carmina Pirhana, a band that composed music for the Oregon Ballet) when they decided to do a Portland Valentine’s Day show together. It was a songwriter in the round format and they each played their brutal, love will kick you in the ass and leave you bleeding songs.
The embittered, mostly single audience loved them and when they booked their next show together, they haphazardly named themselves Dirty Martini since they’d been sideways on the salty drinks during their first gig. They went on a few road trips together and realized sleep deprivation, long hours in the car, loading gear, and playing was much more fun together than alone. When Gang of Four’s bass player Dave Allen came along and met them, he suggested they get out of the songwriter-in-the-round format in his subtle, blue collar British way, “Why don’t you stand up and be a proper band already?”
After the 2005 release of their debut self-titled album Dirty Martini is now one of Portland, Oregon’s most successful groups and their second album Tea and Revenge is loaded with gorgeous harmonies, big stick-in-your-head choruses and unshakeable images. Tapping deeper into their Americana roots, there is no doubt that multi-instrumentalists and vocalists Lara Michell, Stephanie Schneiderman and McKinley, along with drummer Ned Failing, intended to make an album that is easy to like. And yet this sophomore set is darker and much more personal than their highly successful eponymous debut; the depth of their lyrics and the surprising musical arrangements give Tea and Revenge more staying power than your average album. Producers John Askew (Tracker, FILMguerrero) and Dave Allen (Gang of Four) have brought a rich but rough-at-the-edges sound to Dirty Martini’s songs and both contribute guitar and bass parts to the album. Dirty Martini points out that their musical influences for this album are three other strong women: Kristin Hersh, Aimee Mann and P J Harvey.
Tea and Revenge was recorded at Portland’s Type Foundry Studios in the Spring of 2006 by producers Dave Allen and John Askew. Allen and Askew shaped the sound of Tea and Revenge by deconstructing Dirty Martini’s songs and rebuilding them in the studio working with guest musicians. Allen and Askew also played on the record and the result of their production is an incredible album that proves Dirty Martini’s unique talents as singers and songwriters. The album was released in 2006.