It’s all about having a good time for Puss n Boots, the Brooklyn-based alternative country trio made up of Norah Jones, Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper. So it’s no surprise that they titled their debut album No Fools, No Fun, putting their own spin on the lyric from the Johnny Cash record “Bull Rider,” which they cover on the record.
“I think we just sort of had to pick something and when Norah first suggested that I said ‘Holy [expletive], that’s kind of us,” said Popper, who plays bass and drums in the group. “Because if we’re not acting like jackasses, then we’re not having fun. Often, during shows, we act like jackasses.”
All three women in the group had established musical careers before joining forces; Jones was a Grammy Award-winning vocalist, Dobson was a jazz singer-songwriter and Popper had played in backing bands for Ryan Adams and Jack White.
But the group developed over the last seven years since Jones and Dobson met at a wedding and sparked a friendship. According to Popper, her band mates were just looking for places to practice guitar – an instrument neither Jones nor Dobson had played professionally.
“They were playing gigs where they could find an excuse to play more guitar, playing gigs at a pool hall,” Popper said. “And they reached out to me to play drums, which was something unusual that I didn’t know how to do. But we quickly realized that they needed me to play bass.”
Jones, Dobson and Popper challenged each other to get out of their comfort zones musically – each band member is learning new instruments – while trying to keep the vibe relaxed and fun. Popper started out playing drums, but switched to pedal steel guitar when Dobson decided she wanted to play drums. Dobson plays drums and guitar in the group now while Jones and Popper play guitar.
“We would just do a gig whenever we were in town, which averaged out to a couple times a year for a while,” Popper said. “It’s something we did for fun. It’s not like the typical band situation where you make a record to promote the band. We just made a record because after so many years we finally sound a little better and we sound damn good and we wanted to capture it on a recording.”
Puss n Boots’ new record, which they released on July 15 with Blue Note Records, is a collection of five original songs and seven covers. The country record marks a departure from most of the music the women released or helped make before they got together. Their country sound developed out of necessity, according to Popper.
“I think basically they started out playing country songs when they were getting together at first because it’s really easy to pick out the guitar parts and the guitar parts are a little simpler,” Popper said. “So I think that’s why they had chosen country songs. And then they got proficient on the guitar and then we would pick out songs that we liked.”
The group is kicking off a fall tour in support of their new record next Wednesday, Oct. 1 at The Birchmere in Alexandria. YouTube videos of the trio playing around New York City prior to the release of the new record show a laid back, no frills show that Popper and her band mates want to maintain throughout this tour.
“We’re just up there to have fun,” Popper said. “That’s the only reason we’re doing this.”
• For more information about Puss n Boots, visit pussnbootsmusic.com.