Saxophonist Elyse Louise noticed something missing from funk – ladies. That's where she saw an opportunity. The Pittsburgh native, who just returned state-side from a residency in Qatar, formed Ladies Night, a female-fronted funk band that fills the space Louise saw in the genre. Now her band is embarking on a mini tour, bringing the funk to Pittsburgh at James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Found Sound: Welcome back to the States! What were you up to in Qatar?
Elyse Louise: I was playing a residency at a hotel. I think I'm going to be going back to Doha pretty soon, actually. I kind of like it there. I like that I don't have to think about all of the regular-world things, so it's kind of like a music retreat for me. I just wake up and practice and go to the gig.
FS: How'd you get started in music?
EL: I started playing in middle school, and then I got serious about it in college when I was studying classical saxophone at Duquesne. And then I started studying jazz with Eric DeFade at CMU. I started playing cruise ships after college, and that was great. I just really wanted to make my own band, because all these cruise ships I played, I was the only girl in everything. And I wanted to promote women in music.
FS: How did you get hooked up with the other women in Ladies Night?
EL: It's an eight-piece band and we have three female horns. I just kind of looked online. I was trying to find the best people. And, you know, as far as the rhythm section, those are all guys that I worked with in Pittsburgh. But then the horns, I didn't know any girls that played trombone or trumpet, so I had to just kind of go online and see if anyone I knew knew somebody. I got connected with [trombone] Natalie Cressman, and she's awesome. And [trumpet] Lessie Vonner is also great. It was pretty lucky.
FS: How long has Ladies Night been playing together?
EL: I started the band in September. Almost a year now, and I'm just trying to grow it every time I book shows. At first it was like, get through a couple Pittsburgh shows. And now it's like, get through a couple small, mini tours. And then later I'm hoping to do larger tours. It's kind of a learning experience, you know?
FS: And how's it been going?
EL: Oh, it's been great! The shows in Pittsburgh were really successful. And this one coming up, as far as the Facebook event goes, it seems like it's going to be even bigger.
FS: What can your fans and newcomers to the band expect on your mini tour?
EL: We're actually starting in New York and going down to Pittsburgh and then over to Indiana, Pa. We're playing mostly originals and then some covers of some of my favorite artists, like Earth, Wind & Fire. We're covering a Curtis Mayfield tune and some Stevie Wonder. You've got to get Stevie Wonder in there. Classic.
FS: Any plans for Ladies Night to release an album?
EL: I need to be in the country for long enough to do that. I definitely need to do that soon. I was hoping to get it done by the end of this year, but if I go back to Doha, I guess it'll have to be in January. I guess the official answer is: hopefully soon.
FS: Excited for the mini tour in the meantime?
EL: Oh yeah. Super excited. I just rehearsed the horn section last night and it was really efficient and tight and great. It's going to be awesome.
The Ladies Night show at James Street starts at 8 p.m. on Sept. 17, so don't miss your chance to check out the women of funk on their mini tour!