Grand County drummer finds her place on California stage
February 29, 2008
With not much more than the stars in her eyes, Jess Calcaterra left Grand County for California in 2006 and, since then, she has been very busy.
The Middle Park High School graduate has come a long way from her early years playing for not only her school jazz, concert and pep bands; but also for the local Little Pine Cone and Rocky Mountain Repertory theatre productions, and as an accompaniment for a Denver Academy of the Arts benefit.
“There was a time long, long ago that I wanted to be either the ice cream man or a veterinarian,” she said. “Then I came to my senses (about eighth grade). Ever since then, I have been pretty die-hard to do this. Music just feels right.”
As a drummer, Calcaterra looked to the likes of Buddy Rich, Dave Weckl and John Bonham to help shape her style.
With a cousin already there, Calcaterra headed for the West Coast and became the drummer for his rock, pop and “post punk” band Billy Boy on Poison (BBOP).
“Playing with my cousin is a dream. He is so unbelievably talented and knowing I am related to him is nothing short of an honor,” she said.
She said his dad, her Uncle Scott who was also in a few bands “back in the day,” also continues to spark her interest and is her manager “and I love him every day for it.” Her father used to play bass “and still makes me listen to bands like The Who,” and her mom has a double major in musical theatre.
The name for Billy Boy on Poison was inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s film “A Clockwork Orange,” which is said to pretty much set the tone for the band itself.
Calcaterra said their sound is similar to David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, “and all the other greats, with a touch of modern, so it’s more received by people today, but at the same time can honor the ‘founding fathers.'”
Members include frontman Davis LeDuke (Calcaterra’s cousin), guitarist Ryan Wallengren, bassist Julian Borrego and rhythm guitarist Greg West.
They were the house band at the World Famous Whisky a Go-Go and representatives from several record companies frequented the establishment to wine and dine the band and their managers.
Calcaterra said she likes setting the mood and feel in songs and that playing with the band “is the most fun I have ever had. When we are on stage in front of an audience who is loving the music it’s the most perfect feeling. It never gets old.”
During the spring of 2007 the band’s song “Drive Me Insane” was nominated for a contest on KROQ, a California radio station, scored in the top 10 out of more than 5,000 entries, and gained them much-deserved air play. That fall, following an extensive tour of the Southern states, BBOP signed a recording deal with Ironworks Music, an independent label owned by rock singer/songwriter Jude Cole and actor Kiefer Sutherland.
Calcaterra and the other members became the company’s third release and Ironworks put out the band’s first EP “Sweet Mess” in January. It is available on iTunes, and at Hot Topic and Coalition of Independent Music stores like Twist and Shout in Denver.
The band has two music videos available for viewing on their MySpace page, as well as a clip from the TV show Extra. The first, “Angry Young Man,” was directed by Jake Hoffman, actor Dustin Hoffman’s son. The second, “Standing Still,” was directed by Ethan Dawes. “Free Radio,” a new show on VHI, also features BBOP’s “Dirty Bomb” as its theme song.
Other accomplishments include a feature in the June/July 2007 issue of Teen Vogue, opening for the “English Beat,” and the band will appear in the upcoming feature film “All Ages Night.” LeDuke is excited to travel the country with the band, “Play our songs, speak our truth to audiences who can relate to our sense of frustration with this screwed-up world. Yeah we’ve got songs about getting laid and blowing (stuff) up, but we think it’s much more than that.”
“Basically, we are teenagers who have a lot to say. Music is the only way to express it,” Calcaterra said. “Some lyrics at first might make you uncomfortable, listen harder and there is good meaning. That’s what makes a good song.”
This summer, Calcaterra and Billy Boy on Poison head out on tour and Jess sends out her love to all those who know her in Grand County and thank them for supporting her music.
“Thank you for life, you have made it more beautiful than I could have ever imagined,” she said.
Calcaterra is enjoying the entertainment capital of the world “but almost every night I look up at the sky and wish I was in GC so I could see some real stars.”