If there’s one thing that would make Karli Morehouse’s whole summer, it would be getting the opportunity to open for Canadian indie-pop sister-duo Tegan & Sara at Frederik Meijer Gardens this August.
“I get mocked for it all the time, but I love Tegan & Sara,” the 22-year-old lead vocalist/guitarist for Lipstick Jodi told Revue. “They’ve been such a huge influence for me. I don’t know how, but I’m going to find a way to open for them.”
A rare female voice in the West Michigan indie-rock scene, Morehouse started out much like Tegan & Sara, playing mostly acoustic shows as a teenager, gigging all over Grand Rapids at folksy, singer-songwriter events around the area.
At 16, she met drummer Luke Rockhold via Craigslist and the two became longtime collaborators, sharing stages in different projects over the years before deciding to turn up the volume together two years ago.
“I just realized that all the songs I had been writing for like a year or two were a lot more suited for electric guitar,” Morehouse said of Lipstick Jodi’s beginning back in the summer of 2014.
The band broke out when it took top honors at a battle of the bands competition hosted by Gorilla Music and in 2015 recorded its debut EP, Good Not Great, with fellow GR musician Andrew “Wunder” Dornoff of The Outer Vibe.
During those sessions, Rockhold coined what has become the band’s calling card, describing the band’s sound as “the lesbian lovechild of St. Vincent and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”
Since then, the band’s lineup has expanded to include new members Camille Hoorn on bass and Jamie Baarman on keyboards and backup vocals. This past January, the four-piece headed into River City Studios with producer Austin Ruhstorfer. Lipstick Jodi plans to release the 12-song, self-titled debut LP this September and has previewed the album with the band’s first-ever music video for “That’s So Great (She Likes Boys).”
“That was such a dream of mine; you have no idea,” Morehouse said. “I’ve always been super into music videos. Ever since I was a little kid, I was always dressing up as things and acting, and making my friends do music videos with me. So it was really cool to watch that come to life.”
Shortly after the video shoot, Morehouse chatted with Revue. Here’s what else she had to say:
What impact do you hope you’ve already had on the Grand Rapids music scene?
Diversity for sure. Not to be too narcissistic, but there’s not another band that sounds like us around here. We kind of create a bridge. We fit on a lot of bills with a lot of different genres. And that’s something that I like to do when I’m putting together bills, just put different kinds of people on it, different kinds of music and get everybody holding hands. … I don’t strictly like one genre, and I don’t think anybody truly does. And I like to help that if I can.
Do you think the voice you’re providing isn’t heard often enough in West Michigan?
Yeah, and not only a female voice, but a queer voice. We’re playing a bunch of Pride shows this summer all across Michigan because we need more representation in this field. I went to (Grand Rapids Community College) and I was one of two girls in my (recording technology) program, and the other girl was straight. Just bringing a lot more representation is a big goal of ours, getting everybody talking about it.
What does it mean to you personally to be a voice for the LGBTQ community in the scene?
For me personally, being a voice for the LGBTQ community means the world to me. I can remember being a little gay kid — unknowingly — and not having a band that I could ever completely relate to. Most of them were boys, and some of them were bands with a “token” girl. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that, but it never fit me right. All four of us have this understanding, and we all love Lipstick Jodi for the representation that we bring to the table.
Your songs are clearly very personal, but do you hope they help open up a wider dialogue among people as well?
My songs are personal, and I have a story behind them, but I write vaguely enough where other people can take it where they need to. I can remember right now sitting in a car, singing somebody else’s song and having my own story to it, and just yelling along to it, because I’m upset and I’m thinking about something in my life. And I want somebody to take our music and be able to do the exact same thing.
Founders Taproom, 235 Grandville Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
June 3, 9:30 p.m., $5
foundersbrewing.com, (616) 776-1195
Grand Rapids Pride Festival
June 17, grpride.org