It ain’t over ’til the Phat ladies play.
At Epsilon Delta Mu’s Shocktoberfest party in the Horn Gallery two weeks ago, Kenyon’s all-female funk band Phat Gladys took the stage for the first time. Warmly received by an ever-growing crowd, Phat Gladys ended their four-song set with a jazzy version of Beyonc?’s “Crazy in Love,” similar to Emeli Sand?’s cover on this year’s Great Gatsby soundtrack. The crowd went wild.
The group’s roster, as seen at Shocktoberfest, is extensive: Mary Alice Jackson ’15 and Anna Watts ’14 on saxophone; Lily Zwaan ’14 on trumpet; Emma Munger ’14 on guitar; Ellen Hoffman ’14, Ally Schmaling ’14 and Ali Stamatoiu ’14 on vocals; Shannon Wright ’16 on trombone; Caroline Hesse ’14 on bass guitar; Catherine Dwyer ’14 on drums and Rioghnach Robinson ’16 on keyboard.
“We’re a lot of ladies. I like it though, it’s exciting,” Stamatoiu, a biology major, said.
Phat Gladys originated from a core group of students and branched out into a full-fledged group.
“Mary Alice, Lily and Emma started talking about starting a female funk band while they played together in Kenyon’s Jazz Ensemble,” Hoffman, who is a women’s and gender studies major, said. “I was shooting the idea around with some other people independently. And then we came together and it was magic.”
Jackson was especially interested in making Phat Gladys come together sooner rather than later, since she is going abroad next semester.
“We started talking in the beginning of this year, probably got together for the first time in late September,” Hoffman said.
Responsibility for the band’s distinctive name, however, lies with Zwaan.
“Lily Zwaan is 100 percent responsible for the name. She is a genius,” Hoffman said.
Zwaan herself doesn’t exactly know the origin of moniker “Phat Gladys.”
“I’ve always wanted to be in a funky band called Phat Gladys ﾅ I don’t know when I thought of it,” Zwaan, a religious studies major, said. “It’s been brewing since middle school.”
With the group’s large size comes the problem of crafting a practice schedule that fits around all of the members’ busy schedules.
“It’s been hard to coordinate since it’s so many of us,” Zwaan said. “We’ve had a few full band rehearsals. We just hang out. It’s just really, really hard to schedule, since there are 10 or 11 of us, since it’s Kenyon and everyone’s really busy.”
“We started with a set practice schedule, and it kind of fell apart because of Parents’ Weekend, but we are getting back on that,” Stamatoiu said.
When the group does get together, they practice in the Horn Gallery’s practice room and in Waite Rehearsal Hall in Storer Hall, depending on what’s available, said Hoffman.
As for the group’s sound, it’s based in funk, but the group doesn’t limit themselves to this genre.
“We’re a funk band, but we play whatever we want,” Hoffman said.
The group currently knows how to play the four songs they debuted at Shocktoberfest, and are working on more.
As for choosing songs, the group decides together.
“We all have ideas, and we talk about them as a group and do what the majority of people are into,” Stamatiou said.
Though Phat Gladys is unclear about exactly where they’re planning on performing this semester, they are certain they will take the stage again.
“We’ve been talking to various people about playing upcoming events this semester, but we haven’t committed to anything yet,” Hoffman said.
This spring, when Jackson goes abroad, the band will continue to keep playing, according to Zwaan.
“I think [Jackson] wants to keep something like this going next year, too,” Zwaan said.
Phat Gladys’ success at Shocktoberfest has enthused them for future gigs.
“I’m really excited to play again,” Zwaan said.
“Me too,” added Stamatoiu. “It’s a good start.”