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Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard Has A New Band: Bermuda Triangle

From left, Jesse Lafser, Brittany Howard and Becca Mancari of the new band Bermuda Triangle.
Courtesy of Sarah Harvey
From left, Jesse Lafser, Brittany Howard and Becca Mancari of the new band Bermuda Triangle.

A mysterious photograph appeared across various social media platforms Monday morning, depicting three dashing women — two in cowboy hats, one holding a pair of spectacles — lounging at a wooden table teeming with the evidence of a long night out. NEW BAND ALERT: BERMUDA TRIANGLE, the caption read. Anyone attuned to the Americana scene recognized the one in the middle: Brittany A. Howard, the main rule-breaker in Americana music's most exciting band of this century, the Alabama Shakes. The other two handsome characters, Jesse Lafser and Becca Mancari, are building legends of their own throughout the mid-South.

What was this new configuration, slated to make its live debut July 12 at East Nashville indie music palace the Basement East? Reached by email, Howard and Mancari shared a few details. Howard may have been trying to throw this reporter off the scent by saying the threesome met "in a church of Scientology," but her claim that it specializes in "sad dance hall music" accurately reflects both Mancari's lonesome sensibility and Lafser's loping, smoky singing style. She added that Bermuda Triangle's set will include unreleased music from all three singer-songwriters, and that recording plans are yet to be determined.

"We just sit on each other's porches and play music," Mancari, a Staten Island native, explained. "It's the music that I remember that I used to play before I even came to Nashville, when people just played for fun. That's my side of the story at least."

Musically, Mancari added, listeners can expect "drum machines, heavy harmonies and someone on a standup bass." A departure from Howard's last project beyond the Shakes, the raucously retro punk band Thunderbitch, Bermuda Triangle places her in relationship with two of the most interesting voices currently making Nashville home. Hailing from St. Louis, Lafser has released two albums of lonesome tunes redolent of Jimmie Rodgers and Patsy Cline. Mancari, who'll likely release her new album Good Woman in the fall, is one of the subtlest songwriters and bandleaders to hit the scene in a while, building intense moods in her memorable live sets.

Club-sized supergroups like Bermuda Triangle are common in Nashville, where the talent is so thick on the ground it can't help intertwining. Perhaps this new posse will face off in a major band rumble with the Robert Ellis-Jonny Fritz-Cory Chisel project Traveller and the bluegrass A-Team the Earls of Leicester. But first comes that gig at the Basement East, which will certainly be packed to the rafters. "We are excited to perform this live and see where it takes us from there," Mancari wrote. Nashville's ready to be flown to this Triangle, for sure.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.