Looks are deceiving for Oakwood sisters’ band
By: Erin Callahan – Chief A&E Writer
Local band Good English isn’t what meets the eye. Sure, the members are all dolled up in little black dresses with curls and lipstick, but don’t be fooled – you’ll have to lend an ear to know what these women are all about.
The trio is a family of heavy hitters with their own rock ‘n’ roll sound, often compared to rockers Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and garage punk band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. On March 10 at 9 p.m., they’ll kick off their first three-week exposure tour with a show at Blind Bob’s.
Liz Rasmussen, a 2014 University of Dayton graduate and her younger sisters Celia and Leslie grew up in Oakwood, but their second home was found in Dayton’s music scene. When Liz Rasmussen was in eighth grade, she picked up guitar lessons at Hauer Music in Dayton; while Leslie Rasmussen, in fourth grade at the time, started drum lessons and Celia Rasmussen played cello in the sixth-grade orchestra. Four months later, they celebrated Christmas and the start of their music careers.
“Our parents surprised us – me with a brand new electric guitar, Celia with a bass guitar and Leslie with a drum set,” Liz Rasmussen said. “We just spent that Christmas Day learning to play ‘Warning’ by Green Day. It was the first time we all played together.”
After a year of practice, they joined a 10-week band camp hosted by Hauer where they learned discipline and structure while advancing their playing skills. After two camps, the sisters decided they were ready for the next step, and Good English reached its inception in 2008.
One of Celia Rasmussen’s friends, Annie Bartlett, jumped on board to play guitar, establishing the band as a four-piece for the next four and a half years. The band covered songs and produced an original EP, “Take Control,” released January 2012. When Bartlett left for college that same year, Good English became the three-piece band they’re known as today.
They balanced school and music successfully for a period of time, playing local venues, gaining a fan base and producing their first album, “Radio Wires” in 2013. When Liz Rasmussen graduated from UD and Leslie graduated from high school, they decided it was the perfect time to take a gap year with Good English as the main focus.
While the Oregon District has remained their stomping grounds for local shows over the past few years, they’ve recently expanded to regional shows in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Nashville, Tennessee and Louisville, Kentucky. All the while, they’ve been revolutionizing their sound and adding a little shock value along the way.
“It used to be what you’d expect coming from us,” Celia Rasmussen said. “Looking at us, you’d think four dainty little girls.”
They may have started out softer and more acoustic, but Liz Rasmussen said they’ve stepped their sound up to be harder and louder, rocking out even in their dresses. Their influences include the Black Keys, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Arcade Fire and span back to their younger days listening to Talking Heads and REM with their parents.
“I’d give it an umbrella theme of rock ‘n’ roll but there are punk aspects to it, then there are blues roots aspects to it and even some pop in there,” Liz Rasmussen said. “It’s really hard to explain, but we haven’t really mimicked anybody else … We’ve grabbed little aspects of everything and threw it into this weird cauldron we call Good English.
“A lot of times before a show, people will ask ‘What’s your sound?’ and I’ll say ‘I’m going to tell you rock ‘n’ roll, but after the show, you tell me what it is.’”
Audiences have responded with different sounds and styles they think they hear, and Good English is happy to know whatever they play appeals to a variety of listeners, Liz Rasmussen said.
The familiar dynamic between the siblings slash band mates makes the culture of Good English unique, just like their sound.
“Some bands perform and members do their own thing without even looking at each other,” Celia Rasmussen said. “But we usually try to make a whole event out of it.”
They engage with each other and with the audience, offering everyone a chance to let loose, have a laugh and maybe even take a stage dive.
“I always make an effort to make sure everyone is having a good time, because that’s the only way I’m going to have a good time – knowing that they’re really into it,” Liz Rasmussen said.
Good English will perform at Blind Bob’s March 10 at 9 p.m. Admission is $5 for patrons 21 and up. They will perform at Blind Bob’s again April 3 at 9 p.m. when they return from touring. For more information, please visit goodenglishband.com.