Aspen Songwriters Fest: This pop duo goes for the funny bone

Stewart OksenhornAspen Times WeeklyAspen, CO Colorado
Chad NicholsonMusic-comedy duo Garfunkel & Oates - comprising Riki Lindhome, left, and Kate Micucci - performs Sunday, Sept. 19 in the Wheeler Opera House's 7908: The Aspen Songwriters Festival.
chad nicholson |

ASPEN – Every music group needs to have a love ballad – if for no other reason than they might get asked to sing at a friend’s wedding. So Garfunkel & Oates have “As You Are,” a number about accepting one’s mate, flaws and all, that would make a lovely wedding song.But Garfunkel & Oates don’t get many calls for wedding gigs, and “As You Are” doesn’t show up often in their performances. Probably because it would be too jarring a transition from their other songs – say, “This Party Just Took a Turn for the Douche,” or “Why Isn’t There More Fucking on This Island?” a tune inspired by the TV show “Lost” – to a tune of romance.”We have written some songs that aren’t funny, more heartfelt stuff,” said Kate Micucci, half of the duo. “But we don’t play them much, because we’re mostly playing comedy clubs. People come to the comedy clubs expecting the funny songs.”Garfunkel & Oates was born on a movie set. Riki Lindhome was making a short film, “Imaginary Larry,” when she decided her partly animated dark comedy needed a musical component. She called her friend and co-star Micucci, whom she had met while both were taking classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade improv troupe in Los Angeles. The two came up with a batch of songs – including “Fuck You,” about the early stages of a relationship – and were impressed not only with the quality of the material, but how effortless it was.”It was so easy,” the 30-year-old Micucci said. “We wrote three songs in two hours. That hasn’t happened since.”Easy meant it was worth sticking with. Lindhome, a lover of classic pop duos, came up with Garfunkel & Oates, a name which happened to suit the physical make-up of the twosome. The short, dark Micucci is Oates; the tall, blonde Lindhome is Garfunkel. “And we liked the sound of it better than Simon & Hall,” Micucci added.The songs may not be flowing as quickly as they once did, but the effort is worthwhile. The starting point of the songs may be smutty, but the end results are more clever than disgusting. “Sex With Ducks” riffs on the inane comment that gay marriage will open the door to bestiality; the line “Gonna whack that mallard till its feathers bloom/ Gonna Huey, Dewey, Louie all over the room” shows how playful their approach is. With Micucci and Lindhome singing in high, coordinated voices, Micucci playing ukulele, and the two sitting side by side, with wide-open eyes, the presentation is cheeky, not nasty.The songs have earned Garfunkel & Oates a montly gig at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater; they also appeared recently at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival. At least one of their namesakes approves of the act; Garfunkel & Oates opened for the real John Oates at a Los Angeles show recently, and backed the singer on “Maneater.”Garfunkel & Oates make their Aspen debut at 7908: The Aspen Songwriters Festival, where they were scheduled to perform “The Leader of the Pack” at Friday night’s Tribute to Jeff Barry (“It’ll be funny. We’ll add some stuff to it,” Micucci said of the song), and have their own show on Sunday, Sept. 19, when they plan to unveil a new song, “I Don’t Understand Job.”The song is their most explicit yet; it’s about their lack of expertise in certain sexual practices. But it might also be their funniest tune, as they rap about political figures, pop-culture references, make clever use of names like Marcia Gay Harden and Alfred Hitchcock.”Yeah we’re getting dirtier,” Micucci said. “But we’re also writing ones that aren’t so dirty. We’re not always aiming for that.”