Forget derechos. The most powerful storm to sweep through Columbus last year was a blustery, boozed-up, ridiculously catchy combo spawned from years-old friendships forged in scrubby punk-rock bars.
The Girls! shambled into venue after venue flaunting their well-honed power-pop acumen and even-better-honed revelry. (Occasionally, this involved getting everybody within earshot to strip down to their underwear.) As presented on last year's debut 7-inch and the album they started this month, they specialize in "songs about drinking and ex-boyfriends."
Miniature firebrand singer/guitarist Jessica Wabbit has plenty of experience with all that. As a teen, she played with her sisters (rising alt-country star Lydia Loveless and Dead Girlfriends rocker Eleanor Sinacola) in New Wave group Carson Drew, launching her into the punk scene young.
"A lot of my lyrics are really tragic, and a lot of it was just from a lot of disappointment from hanging out in that scene," said Wabbit, 26. "It's funny how poppy the music turned out sounding versus like how I actually felt when I was writing it."
Maybe, but given Wabbit's penchant for hooks, The Girls!' tendency toward melody was practically preordained, especially considering the buoyant camaraderie among her bandmates.
Their number includes guitarist Joey Blackheart, whose appearance - scraggly hair, sleeveless jacket, demonic chest tattoo - belies his melodious touch. Ryan Vile, who wears The Girls!-emblazoned Converse All-Stars, plays keyboards. Big Nick got a "drum ogre" T-shirt for Christmas; he didn't ask for it, but it fits. Bent plays bass economically and enigmatically.
Then there's tambourine shaker and human exclamation point Raeghan Buchanan. ("I'm an extrovert," Buchanan explains.) Before joining, she partied hard at every show, making her a perfect fit for a band designed to be unpretentious.
"There's a lot of pressure on female musicians to be cool - either that or they're dating somebody that's in the band, or they have to be extraordinarily physically attractive," Wabbit said. "I wanted it to be a liberating experience for girls… So that was deliberate somewhat on my part.
"And then other than that, we're just having a blast playing."