The Porch Party Mamas from left, Ksenia Mack, Jane Grondin, Kelly Riley, Felicia Brady-Lopez and Katrin Peterson. Photo by Robert Castagna

Discovering new acts is always exciting and this week’s column features a five-piece band that is no exception. The Porch Party Mamas will be making their central Maine debut at the Somerset Abbey in Madison this coming Saturday, June 5. This all-woman group was formed around 15 years ago and is made up of Felicia Brady-Lopez (vocals, accordion, guitar, bass); Jane Grondin (vocals, fiddle, guitar); Ksenia Mack (vocals, guitar, glockenspiel); Katrin Peterson (vocals, percussion); and Kelly Riley (vocals, bass, guitar). They’re all singer-songwriters in their own right with considerable talents and have created their own brand of Urban Folk, Country and Blues, so when I discovered that they were headed our way, I arranged a phone interview with Kelly Riley to find out more about this exceptional quintet and called her at home in Lynn, Massachusetts for a chat.

Q: As I mentioned when setting up this interview, your vocal harmonies are wonderful and the videos on your website show that stylistically you’re all over the map.
Riley: Um-hmm, and that’s the influence of the fact that we’re all singer-songwriters and our little magical potion is that we each bring our own songs to the table, but then we put the Porch Party Mamas’ stamp on them.

Q: Now, the people singing lead, are they the ones who wrote that particular song, is that the way it works?
Riley: Oh yeah, probably about 95% of the time. We have, I think, maybe one or two songs where someone is singing lead on a song that someone else has written, but it’s almost always the case that whoever is singing lead, that’s their song, yeah.

Q: Have you ever performed up at the Somerset Abbey before?
Riley: No, we haven’t. We’re really excited about it, it looks like a great place. I’ve been on their website and seen the facilities, we’ll be staying there, which is great, and it looks beautiful. We’ll be playing outside in the tented area there.

Q: Looking back, how did the COVID pandemic affect the Porch Party Mamas, I know it made touring impossible, but were there any silver linings for you folks?
Riley: Well, I don’t know if I can specifically speak for each individual, but I would say just collectively that the most negative aspect of it was that we weren’t able to get together in person. For a long time we were doing weekly rehearsals, plus we’re all friends so that was really hard. We transitioned to Zoom meetings on the same night and time as our rehearsals but the isolation is the hardest part and the inactivity. As far as the positive aspects go, we started doing some videos together, which was awesome, and also started creating in different ways, new ways, that we hadn’t thought about. So being able to grow and blossom in that way was a nice, unexpected surprise.

Q: What you came up with out of necessity can be added to your ‘tool box’ for use anytime you need it, right?
Riley: Yeah, it opens up more opportunities for us to just create in different ways in addition to performing live and the stuff that we’re used to doing. I think those of us who were able to transition to the virtual world are so fortunate. I teach private music lessons, actually all the women in the band are teachers except for one who used to be a teacher, and we had to learn those skills, too, while having to transition to 100% virtual to all our students. As hard as everything was, when you look at the grand scheme of things, we’re all so lucky to have our health and to be able to continue to work, we’re the fortunate few.

Q: Now seeing you haven’t been up to the central Maine area, is what folks see on your website a fair representation of what your live performance at Somerset Abbey will be like?
Riley: Basically, we have the set-up of Katrin, who plays a kind of drum-slash-percussion kit, is usually in the middle. We have two of the gals on one side and two are on the other side, we have an exact line-up, that’s where we’ve always stood and where we stand, that’s how we play, that’s how we perform. We all play various instruments, we each have a primary instrument but we also switch out once in a while.

Q: I noticed on your website that you have a new CD, how many do you have total?
Riley: We have two full-length CDs, our first one we did was more like an EP, but our most recent CD is titled, “The Life I Own” and the one before is self-titled, “Porch Party Mamas.” We did the EP as a starter but the two that I just mentioned are full-length with 12 tracks on each of them.

Q: Just out of curiosity, when did the latest one come out?
Riley: It came out about two years ago.

Q: Are you working on a follow-up to that album?
Riley: We haven’t started a new full CD, but we do have some new songs, so we’re kind of regrouping right now. One of our members is on the West Coast, she’s flying in tomorrow, and we have some gigs coming right up, in fact, we just got two new ones today. This is the first time that we will all have been together in over a year, so I’m sure we’ll have a lot to catch up on. But we might not even be in planning mode because we’re rehearsing for those gigs, it’s kind of one thing at a time.

Q: Is there anything, Kelly, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article seeing you’ve never been to this venue before?
Riley: Well, we’ve played in Maine before and we all love it up there, we are all incredibly fond of Maine and have had great experiences there. But I would like people up there in Madison to know that we are five really great friends, we’re like sisters, who have a blast together and I think it really shows. Most people come away from our shows saying, “Wow, they looked like they’re having a lot of fun!” (Laughter) And, in addition to that, that level of having fun and our interaction that people enjoy, there’s a high level of musicianship. We’re all very experienced, we work hard at our craft, and we really care about how things come across musically, we spend a lot of time on the intricacies of our arrangements and the detail of our harmonies. So, I think it’s a perfect combination of musicality and fun, it’s just an enjoyable experience.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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