Just as the Bermuda Triangle is a mystery, so too is the band that shares its name.
Back in July, a photo popped up on social media feeds promoting the new group, which is composed of singer-songwriters Jesse Lafser and Becca Mancari, along with Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard. But while there’s little in the way of an online presence by the band, which recently performed at The Mill and Mine in Knoxville, the band’s formation is a little more mundane, Mancari told The Daily Times.
“Nashville, it’s a small town at the end of the day,” she said. “If you’re drinking at the same bar often enough, you’ll be drinking on each other’s porches soon enough.”
And that, she pointed out, almost always leads to playing music together, especially when personalities mesh and personal tastes compliment one another.
“I feel like I’ve known Jesse and Brittany in past lives, because when we met each other in town, we very immediately connected as humans,” Mancari said. “Jesse and I have always been … I don’t want to call us porch musicians, but we grew up with Appalachian music. I’m used to coming into a bonfire setting, where you’re bringing music with you and participating. It’s not bluegrass, but I love the idea of sharing songs, and Jesse and I are from that world. Brittany is not used to it; she’s more rock ’n’ roll, but she started thinking, ‘I want to have songs to bring to the next hang!’ So she started writing these incredible songs.”
With Alabama Shakes, which rocketed to popularity a couple of years ago on a debut album, “Boys and Girls,” that featured Howard crooning and howling her way through a combination of garage rock and Southern blues, Howard is the center of attention; with Bermuda Triangle, she’s simply one of the girls, because both Mancari and Lafser are equally talented musicians. (Mancari’s solo album, “Good Woman,” was released the same day Bermuda Triangle performed at The Mill and Mine.)
“I think because we are all so very, very focused on what we do for our solo projects, this is supposed to be about having a good time,” Mancari said. “It has to be that. If not, it doesn’t work. For everyone’s sake, including ours, that’s what we try to maintain. This isn’t our bread and butter; this is not what Brittany needs to do, it’s what she wants to do. It’s a privilege for all of us.”
A Bermuda Triangle live show, she said, is both fun and funny. How else to describe a project that was launched as a public one thanks to a 1 a.m. drunken phone call?
“I had been drinking with the girls, I said, ‘You want to play a show?,’ and everyone said, ‘Yeah!’” Mancari said. “So I called up Terry (Rickards, booking agent) at (Nashville club) The Basement East at 1 a.m., and Terry said, ‘Let’s do it!’ Right before that, an NPR article came out, and it was all over. We sold out The Basement East in four hours. We knew we were getting ourselves into something, but we didn’t know until that night how excited people were to be there.”
It’s a rock ’n’ roll show, to be sure, but it’s also a more intimate experience than typical big band extravaganzas with light rigs and a dozen techs making sure the trains run on time. Mancari describes Lafser as the group’s “powerhouse writer” and Howard as the “queen of melodies and just playing every single instrument,” whereas Mancari herself brings a more unorthodox, indie vibe to the table.
“I would say it’s like you get to peer into our lives and our living rooms,” she said. “That’s why it’s so cool — you get to hang out with us. If I was an Alabama Shakes fan, my dream would be to see Brittany in this setting, to get to see my favorite artist have fun with her best friends and not this huge production.”
What the future holds is still up in the air — purposefully so, she added with a laugh. There’s no Bermuda Triangle album and only a single song on Spotify, and whether that may change is something the ladies are playing close to the vest.
“We like to keep everything pretty low key — just as the Bermuda Triangle is a mystery, so is the band, so we like to have a little fun with it,” Mancari said. “I can say this, as far as music goes — expect us to be giving you something, someday. How about that?”