“We had no idea what to expect because it’s a blank canvas — a black box theater — but the festival was obviously so cool, and to get up there and have it wall-to-wall packed was pretty awesome,” Borges recalls from her Boston home. “But I was afraid to play after Wussy. I did realize at the time, ‘These are the hometown favorites.’ Quite a tough second act.”
Of course, Borges and the Singles retained nearly every Wussy fan and rocked the Know to its very foundation. (Photo from MidPoint show by Jared Holder.)
Borges’ comfort in front of unpredictable audiences didn’t come from her band experience. That particular facet of her art was something she brought to the table from the outset.
“I did a lot of musical theater in school,” Borges says. “I got the performing element out of the way earlier, in terms of learning how to act good and sing loud.”
In relatively short order, Borges turned her Classic Rock exposure through her parents’ record collection and her own love of Boston’s Indie scene into a band.
“Bands like (Boston’s) Throwing Muses and Buffalo Tom were huge and then I got into bands like X, which were more on the Punk side but still shared a common element with me,” Borges says. “I was in an Indie Rock band for like seven years — I started when I was 17 — and it intersected with this band for the first year, then I quit that to focus on what we’re doing full time.”
Borges and the eventual Broken Singles began to coalesce in 2004.
Starting with drummer Robert Larry Dulaney and eventually adding bassist/comic and musical foil Binky and guitarist/soon-to-be-husband Lyle Brewer, Borges moved the Broken Singles from side project to full-fledged band within a couple of years. Her first album, 2005’s Silver City on Blue Corn Records, was attributed to Borges alone, as she hadn’t yet solidified the band or fully defined their sound. The album earned Borges comparisons to Maria McKee, hinted at the Country/Indie Rock hybrid that was evolving and earned her a Sugar Hill contract.
Two years after Silver City, Diamonds in the Dark was the first album to bear the band’s name and was a slightly more energetic affair. The volume went up even more on last year’s swaggering The Stars Are Out.
“We’ve always had this unique problem of being a band that appeals to people in too many different ways,” Borges says with a laugh. “They’re always asking us, ‘Are you a Country band or a Rock band? What the heck is it?’ And this sounds so cliché, but we’re a band from Boston. We’re all of those things. We’re the sum total of what our record collection looks like.
“With The Stars Are Out, we tried to focus on one thing a little bit more, which was kind of foreign. We tried to make things more cohesive. And the record is half covers and half originals and part of that was because we were trying to learn how to write songs in just one vein.”
The stylistic diversity of the first two albums was certainly attractive to critics, but when the Broken Singles started evolving as a live entity, they found it hard to back down from their adrenalized intensity to compensate for the slower moments.
“I have a special place in my heart for Silver City; it has a lot of slow songs on it,” Borges says. “Live, once you get going, you don’t want to strip the whole thing down to play a slow song. We started Diamonds in the Dark to have an eye toward that a little more, and The Stars Are Out as well — to really think about what we like to do live and what the audience likes to do.”
Taking that philosophy to its natural conclusion, Borges and the Singles recorded a two-night stand over New Year’s weekend in Boston as the basis for an upcoming live album. The proposed release, tentatively slated for March, will not be part of Borges’ label deal but is being financed by fan donations (see www.sarahborges.com for details) and will ultimately be available only at shows or through the Web site.
“We had basically everyone we know in town come and hang out,” Borges says. “We’re going to cull the best of the two nights and put that into the CD. We tried to do everything that we typically do live; there are a couple of new songs not on any record thus far, so they might end up there, and maybe an odd cover or two that aren’t on a record but we like to play live. But there are a lot of the songs that we know people like and it’s kind of spread out over all three records.”
Similarly, during the January tour, Borges and the Singles will be filming a show in Benton Harbor, Mich., for a live DVD they hope will drop around the same time as the CD. The band’s live recording activities have been fueled by fan comments that groups have been hearing since Les Paul channeled electricity into wood and wire.
“We’ve heard from our fans that, while they love our records, they haven’t been able to capture the live sound,” Borges says. “It’s pretty exciting. It’s also very stressful, but it’s worth the complete freedom.”
SARAH BORGES AND THE BROKEN SINGLES play the Southgate House Jan. 15 with The Deep Vibration. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.