As Gainesville prepares to be invaded by kings, knights and knaves for the Hoggetowne Medieval Faire, a group of five singing wenches took to the studio to record their first album.
The all-female group, known as Just Desserts, has partnered with a local hip-hop music label to produce the album expected to be released on iTunes and Amazon today.
“We’re a musical comedy act doing traditional pub and wench-type songs,” said Toni Finley, a member of the group whose character is known as Cupcake. “It’s an a cappella, audience-participation, semi-improvisational blast.”
Just Desserts has been working with Swag House Entertainment, a Gainesville-based independent music production company, with Ozzy Angulo as their album’s executive producer. The group was Swag House’s first signed foray outside of hip-hop.
Finley is joined by Gayle Shlafer, Katherine Barnes, Shay Smith and Crissy Hensley, known as Tira McSu, Molly Licalolly, Ginger Snap and Cherri Tart, respectively.
“Working with Ozzy has been a lot of fun because other than us, he works with hip-hop groups,” Barnes said. The group has performed at local clubs, often between hip-hop and hard rock acts also signed with Swag House.
“It’s hilarious when people don’t know what to expect from us,” said Shlafer. “We walk in wearing our costumes and they’re like, ‘What is going on?’”
This will be the third faire the group has performed at. As far as they know, Just Desserts is the only local act of their kind.
“There are other wench troupes, but they don’t do the same thing that we do,” Hensley said. “The Washing Well Wenches perform at the Bay Area Renaissance Festival, but it’s more of a comedy show. They don’t really sing at all.”
Just Dessert’s act is tailored to fit the family-friendly setting of the faire, but makes ample use of a parade of innuendos to amuse the audience. The women also often pull men from the audience to participate in songs.
“The truth of the matter is, couples are our best audience because women like to watch their men be embarrassed.”
“I think it’s a combination of the audience interaction, our emphasis on musicality, the fact that we’re a cappella and all women that play together to make us unique,” Finley, said.
Just Desserts is a creative outlet for the women, who all have day jobs, according to Finley. She works as a public safety telecommunicator, while Shlafer writes romance novels and technical manuals. Barnes is a licensed massage therapist at Cloud 9 Spa and Salon, Smith is a nanny and director of childcare at a local church and Hensley works for the Alachua County Library District.
Angulo chose to work with Just Desserts to further develop Swag House’s repertoire, and also chose them to be the first recording agreement that the label went into with any of their artists.
“We really believe in their talent,” he said, “and we know that it’s going to be a great project.”