Local band Gambler's Daughter transform poetry into full-throated, genreless EP

Gambler's Daughter

Gambler's Daughter Brent Larson

With a throwback band name like Gambler’s Daughter, you might expect something out of the Old West, pulling the listener into a rootin’ tootin’ country sound.

However, Jessa Roquet, lead singer and writer for the project, opperates in a more genreless space, embracing soul, blues, folk, and rock 'n' roll. Her new self-titled EP is full of cut-and-thrust beauty. The four-song collection finds pleasure in the moments where Roquet lets her emotions loose; her alluring, full-throated aesthetic could catch even the most cynical listener off-guard.

Ahead of the Gambler's Daughter album release-party on Friday at St. Paul's Black Dog Cafe, Roquet shared the stories behind the new EP. 

City Pages: How do you feel this EP encompassed your sound?

Jessa Roquet: On this first EP, I wanted to give listeners an idea of the spectrum of what my sound is. There is a heritage of folk with tight harmonies, painting word pictures, and acoustic guitar elements. We’ve a got a soulful blues flare on some songs, some dream rock, maybe even a little grunge.

It’s really hard for me to be succinct in summarizing a particular sound, since I have fun incorporating so many influences. I love playing with dynamics and exaggerating the opposites in sound. Using poetic language is a thumbprint of my writing. Even if it weren’t set to music, there is rhythm and meter. I see my sound as an artist not as a solidified thing, so as I am influenced and inspired my sound may morph a bit.

CP: Why only four songs right now? 

JR: I was going to do six, but I decided to narrow my focus because starting smaller helped me to really concentrate on building these songs. I had my hands in everything from producing the album, to designing my album cover. I have grown a lot through it, but I also know what I want to delegate on my next album. I already have all of the songs -- some of them will be performed at my EP release even.

CP: You had a full band on this EP. Do you feel you are more comfortable with a backing band or solo when you play?

JR: I enjoy playing solo because it’s a chance for everyone to enjoy the simplicity of the songs and really focus on lyrics. However, there is something about the support and community of my band playing with me that makes the music all the more sweet to me. So if I had my choice every time, I would choose to make music with my people.

CP: How long did it take you to write the pieces for this EP?

JR: I have been a songwriter since I was a teenager. I have been performing with my family band professionally since I was a kid, too. It was only up until three years ago that I decided that my songs should see the light of day. When I finally decided this, I already had all of the songs for the EP; I had songs for an LP, too. 

In regard to my writing process, most of my songs are poems first. Once I have the words, I sit down with my guitar, or on the piano, and play with melodies. Songs like “The Woods” and “Defeat” were largely written within a day, while the other two were poems I sat with for months before I added melodies.

CP: Tell me about the song "Defeat."

JR: I have a hard time describing my songs, that’s why I sing them -- but I will try. “Defeat” came about while pondering one’s capacity to love in the context of romantic relationships. We are created to give and receive love, but sometimes that exchange isn’t so successful.

The song can be seen from the standpoint of someone having so much love and affection within them, but it is rejected. The love is reticent or suppressed, either because it isn’t valued or received or because it is unknown. Either way, the lover experiences a type of defeat. It sounds way too technical when I describe it that way.

CP: What other song stands out to you on this album?

JR: My songs are my children so I hate to favor one over the other, but since you asked, “Simple Frame” has a special place in my heart. “Simple Frame” is my closing song, kind of a benediction, if you will.

It is an ode to my community, those people who have walked beside me through deep turmoil and triumphs. They kept me alive in many ways, and that is what the imagery is all about in that song -- new life and our ability to grow and expand when we are loved well.

CP: What are you excited to share the new album at the release show?

JR: I am really looking forward to celebrating all of the hard work so many people have put into my little album. My bandmates have invested so much time and heart into this album, and all I could promise them were tasty snacks and really good beer. Singing and making music in this city that I love, with people I love, for people who are curious enough to listen and join the festivities -- that's what this release show is about.

Gambler’s Daughter
With: Alison Rae
Where: Black Dog Cafe
When: 8 p.m. Fri., Jan. 27
Tickets: $7-$10; more info here