According to the ancient proverb, there is ‘safety in numbers’; but with fifteen luscious ladies and four grooving gentlemen, there is also a little of the ‘sassy’ in numbers – a point with which The Rebelles’ co-founder Rhonda Rebelle would undoubtedly concur. Whether the word be ‘safety’ or ‘sassy’, however, we are safe in the premise that with many a stylistic sashay, The Rebelles are set to deliver a fervid feast of tasteful tunes!
A veritable fusion of the words ‘Rebel’ and ‘Belle’, with a possible allusion to 1960s pop groups including ‘The Shirelles’, Rhonda Rebelle confirms that “We are belles”, while there are “lots of references to that Rebel character”, combining elements of the Rebel archetype portrayed by The Crystals’ song He’s A Rebel and The Shangrilas’ piece Leader Of The Pack. With twelve years of performance history, the first half of the group’s musical tenure to date has been devoted to covering songs from their selected era, while “mining that style for songs that would work”; and as “lyrics are [often] conversations between girlfriends”, there is immense scope for the creation of entertaining narratives.
Ranging in age from 30 to 60 and beyond, The Rebelles, each with her own altar ego, remain strong in their unity as a predominantly female group; while working harmoniously with their four male musicians, whose instrumentation assists in defining the moods and genre of the material. As expressed by Rhonda Rebelle herself, the band is “trying to recreate Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound live” which, in its nostalgic fervour, is sure to generate a sensation.
With over 70 songs in their repertoire, The Rebelles have presented their compositions in a range of formats, including a recent acoustic performance of selected material complimented by ambient sound without amplification; as such renditions “tend to highlight the lushness of the harmonies”.
Another pervasive sense of harmony is found in The Rebelles’ inclusive ethos, involving the wilfully non-discriminatory decision to promote equality among all band members. “There is no soloist; no diva; no one of us is more important than another”, shares Rhonda; and this sense of uniformity extends to the girls’ costumes, dynamically designed in bold contrasts of red and black; and the girls’ hair colour – also a daring shade of black befitting the audacious rock and roll revolution of the time.
Collaboration is one of the foundational features of The Rebelles’ philosophy, as a significant percentage of their own compositions are formulated on a collaborative basis. Stylistically, the material is thoroughly researched with “visual and choreographic harmony”; particularly in pieces such as Spanish Fitzroy, where the Latin-American cultural infiltration becomes immediately prominent. Within this piece, Rhonda explains “we wanted to sing about our local stronghold”, where ‘Spanglish’ has reached linguistic prominence; and “landmarks of Fitzroy” murmur of cultural enrichment.
The Clapping Song in its directorial portrayal seems to echo a clash of teams akin to that of ‘West Side Story’, which is situated well within the realms of The Rebelles’ intended genre. As Rhonda reflects, each production is “a blast of fun coming from the stage”; and as a “child-friendly” anthology, the material will attract a diversity of audiences. Rhonda summarises “I like punk panache and delivering lush harmonies with a good, bad but not evil glint – a nod to the Shangrilas song.”
Impressed by the “showcase of women’s energy and joy” exhibited by Geelong support act The Sweethearts, Rhonda is delighted at the prospective musical association, as she believes the correlation between the two large female-driven groups is of great importance.
The Rebelles will appear at The Barwon Club Hotel on Sunday, November 17.
Written By Renée N. Abbott