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Ang Bocca: Wanna Be In a Band?

July 17, 2014

Ang Bocca by Marie Alyse Rodriguez

Text by Brianna Spause. Images by Marie Alyse Rodriguez.

She’s been gluing a different pile of musicians together on any given night since 2009. Ang Bocca is Ang & the Damn Band – everyone else just shares the stage.

“‘Hey, do you want to hang out in my band for a little while? You can leave whenever you want.’ That is the Damn Band motto,” Bocca says. “To just do the damn thing.”

The singer/songwriter from South Philadelphia is the full package. She’s got the voice and the crowd appeal and the don’t-care-attitude to match. In fact, Bocca didn’t care too much for the tumble that the economy took in 2008, which cost her a record deal. She created a pop star agenda all her own.

AngBoccaOnline02Bocca’s songs are transformed by the cello, the piano, even the accordion on occasion, depending on what cast of musicians she assembles for any given performance. Everyone in “the Damn Band” is from a different species of music, Bocca says, making each show a one-night-only experience.

“I really have to try with the musicians I have,” Bocca says, shrugging after nonchalantly reeling off a hefty list of past band mates. “They’re all amazing musicians but they’re coming from different backgrounds. I’m actually stealing people from actual bands for this one night, this fiasco of music.”

Ang & The Damn Band performances share a few common threads, however. One is Bocca’s determination to make the audience move every time.

“Nobody dances anymore and that’s a big pet peeve of mine,” she says. “Being on stage, the only thing that is going through my head is how to get the audience to sing or to clap along. And more importantly, how do I get them to slow dance with each other?”

Another common factor is Bocca’s fierce devotion to keeping a classic sound alive.

“You say rock ‘n’ roll died, I say I’m CPR certified,” she says, adding, “Go fuck yourself.”

Ang & The Damn Band is a personal experience. The only place to catch a glimpse is at a live show – there are no Ang & The Damn Band demos or recordings out there. It is a soulful front woman leading a rock ‘n’ roll band, with attitude. And it was all an accident.

Bocca spent her high school years as a self-proclaimed “human Zamboni.” She was always a figure skater and couldn’t understand what was happening when she began writing riffs to her strides on the ice. Confused, she would hurry off to the bench after practice to her old brick Nokia phone to record these newly written songs.

Both the skates and the paperweight have long since retired. The ice skating melodies quickly became a decade-long stretch of high school talent shows and open-mics, cabarets and a long list of gigs.

“Dance is the first love of my life and when you fall in love with dance, let me tell you, you fall hard,” Bocca says. “Everything I write is inspired from a dancer’s perspective – the tempo, the atmosphere, the colors.”

From dance, to starring in short films, to leading the band while also holding down her catering job, Bocca keeps busy. It can be frustrating, she says, to organize a band of fleeting musicians and keep on top of it all.

“Everybody would always say, ‘Hey Ang, what’s up with the Damn Band?’” Bocca remembers. “And I’m like, ‘What fucking band? You want to be in it?’”

Turns out tour promoter, Rachael Piot, did. The duo that have been best friends since day one of first grade, and proudly claim to drink whiskey out of tea cups. They’ve joined creative forces on their new project, The Disgraces.

“We’ve been Lucy and Ethel our entire lives,” Bocca says. “Absolutely nothing she says can offend me.”

“We work well together because we’ve been indirectly creating together for so long,” Piot adds. “I have all of this music business and promoter knowledge, and [Ang] has this incredible artistic stage presence. It’s kind of like Gene Simmons split in two.”

The Disgraces is Bocca on vocals and any instrument she can get her hands on, and Piot on the bass. Since they began writing in March, The Disgraces have had their sights set on modernizing a classic, rockin’ sound. As for touring, the band has taken an unexpected but fully encouraged hiatus. The timing just wasn’t working out.

“We have been trying to be in a band since first grade,” Bocca says. “Rachel has written all of the bass lines for the Damn Band. She is single-handedly the most significant person to me, creatively, and has a sharp sense for what works. The Disgraces will be a for-life endeavor, as will Ang & the Damn Band, for us both.”

Bocca still has opportunities on her radar. She has recently recorded with Lovecartel on their song “Bathroom Stall,” performed with the new band at RAW Philadelphia’s Revolution event at the Theater of Living Arts last month, and will also be the featured actress in TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb’s newest music video, “Snakeskin.” Bocca is also finally folding up her style into a compact, hard-copy format. She is working on an EP, which will be titled Damn le Dame.

Not one to follow the traditional path, Bocca has found a way to make the journey on her own terms.

“The road to love and music has not been easy,” Bocca says. “But I have promised myself that I am going to live until my bones ache, and I’m going to do music until I die.”

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