It’s been a little over a year since The Times last spoke with Newtown musician Chelsea Mitchell, the frontwoman of folk/pop/retro/country band Dirty Dollhouse. During that time, Mitchell has been quite the busy woman, honing in on her sound, finding a group of permanent band members and marrying fellow artist and Dirty Dollhouse guitarist August Lutz II.
Did we also mention she picked up a kick-butt alter ego?
After struggling with confidence throughout her early career, Mitchell has been reborn as the “Queen Coyote” – a survivalist who can take on anything life throws her way.
On March 6, at Philadelphia’s Johnny Brenda’s, Dirty Dollhouse celebrated the release of the EP Queen Coyote, a collection of songs perfectly symbolizing Mitchell’s newfound persona.
“You can’t hurt me because I’ve already survived some terrible things. Everybody takes loss and hardship in different strides and responds to it in different ways. Are you just going to crawl into a hole or are you going to press on? This is the persona that just keeps going and fights and doesn’t have time to wallow,” she told The Times. “There’s just something about coyotes. They have a reputation among ranchers and farmers of being a nuisance and they’re dirty scavengers. But in other cultures, the coyote is the wily trickster survivalist, so that’s what I take from it.”
According to Mitchell, Queen Coyote not only showcases her strength, but how her artistry has evolved since 2017’s full-length Vinyl Child.
“My writing has more or less found its own path. I love Vinyl Child, I’ll always be proud of that album,” she said. “It’s definitely a bit all over the place. It’s a potpourri of styles and sounds. You’ll have this full band rocking song, and then all of the sudden you’ll have me playing ukulele. That can be a bit jarring. It’s cool, it’s different, but it makes it really hard to pinpoint what somebody’s genre is when they’re just all over the place like that.”
The sound heard on Queen Coyote is more definitive, which Mitchell credits to having a stable group of guys behind her, instead of rotating musicians. Lutz, Eric Lawry (drums) and Joshua Machiz (bass) all had a hand in the creation of the EP.
“I trust these guys with making really good choices. Nobody’s out to make the song about them. They’re here to support my vision, but I’m also ready to let them all shine,” she said. “We have a really good give-and-take relationship. I love them all so much. They’re the perfect group and they really made this material the best it could be.”
Unlike Vinyl Child, Queen Coyote was recorded live, with all of Dirty Dollhouse in the studio at the same time. In Mitchell’s opinion, the dynamic of being in the same room, rather than laying vocals and instruments down separately, further enhanced the sound of the EP.
“We were all playing the songs as a unit, and I think you can really feel that when you listen to the recordings, that it’s a live experience. There’s something that happens where a song can become sterile and not feel organic if you are playing to a clicktrack, or you can tell that people weren’t vibing off of each other’s energy,” she said.
This cohesiveness can be witnessed in the music video for the EP’s first single “Honey, They’re Onto Us,” released in November 2019.
“The video is funny because you can see there’s nerves, there’s tension,” she said. “That whole video is just a rollercoaster of emotions but overall, you can see that we’re joyful being together and making music together.”
For Mitchell, in addition to the single, a favorite Queen Coyote track is “Hollywood Lovesong,” which she called one of her proudest lyrical pieces.
“It’s about a cinematic love story where these people don’t have it all. They’re not rich, life isn’t easy, they’re working dead-end jobs and just trying to hold on to their dreams while fighting against all these other forces,” she said. “But if you have this relationship that makes the mundane things in life seem magical, it’s easier to keep going. Something as simple as dancing around the living room can be your date night, or going to terrible karaoke in Chinatown.”
Dirty Dollhouse has upcoming shows on Saturday, March 21, at Triumph Brewery in New Hope, and Friday, March 27, at The Homestead in Glenside. (This information may change due to the coronavirus).
Queen Coyote is available for streaming on all digital platforms. Physical copies are available for purchase at shows and Mitchell’s place of employment, Newtown Book and Record Exchange, 102 S. State St., Newtown.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org