Indie pop outfit Georgie James is about as D.C. homegrown as they come. One half of its songwriting core, John Davis, grew up, musically speaking, on the District’s celebrated Dischord Records as part of the dancey post-punk band Q and Not U.
The other half, piano-playing chanteuse Laura Burhenn, peddled her sultry solo work at local haunts such as DC9, Velvet Lounge and the now-defunct Staccato, and was a Strathmore artist-in-residence in 2006.
The two musicians met on the D.C. scene and began collaborating after Q and Not U disbanded in 2005. United by a shared appreciation of decades-old pop music and a real sense of melody, they holed up in Northeast’s Brookland Studios and began the process of hashing out a new sound, a new songwriting style — oh, yeah, and a new name: Georgie James.
Several months after the duo self-released its 2006 EP, “Demos at Dance Place,” Miss Burhenn told us, “I definitely will keep doing solo work; it’s just in my blood.”
But between then and now, she hasn’t had much time to do her own thing. Georgie James’ current has been “very strong,” she says — “and why would I want to push against that?”
The band signed with Saddle Creek last spring and released its proper full-length debut (“Places”) in the fall. After that, life for Mr. Davis and Miss Burhenn became a big blur of overseas and domestic tours, with a few clutch TV and radio appearances thrown in.
National Public Radio’s “Project Song” (a 48-hour songwriting challenge) came calling in December, and just a few months later, the band brought its sparkling indie pop to “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” and saw attention from MTV’s college network, mtvU.
Miss Burhenn calls the recent achievements “a real honor” but notes that the intense traveling and touring has had its drawbacks. “While it’s exciting and it can be energizing to meet new people,” she says, “it’s also exhausting to have to be in a new city every night. It does sort of take your focus off of the songs in some ways.”
Also, “being on the road all the time” makes it “strange to come back to D.C.” Miss Burhenn dubs this phenomenon “re-entry adjustment” and compares it to “entering the Earth’s atmosphere” again.
“You’re driving on a downtown street thinking, ‘What’s that new restaurant there? What’s everybody doing these days?’ You feel really disconnected. You keep in touch with your friends as much as you can … but it’s not the same as being here,” she says.
Because of the band’s hectic schedule, Mr. Davis and Miss Burhenn haven’t had much time to ponder the future. Fans, for example, have requested that Georgie James officially release the song it created for NPR, a bright ditty called “Monument.”
“We talked about releasing it as maybe a single or a b-side, or maybe waiting and putting it out on the next record,” Miss Burhenn says. “But … we wanted a chance to sit down with [the song] and decide if we liked it in the state it’s in now or if we wanted to make changes to it, and there hasn’t been time to do that yet.”
Until that breather comes, the band continues to get a lot of mileage out of “Places,” a hook-filled, pop-lover’s paradise. Its danceable tunes nod to a host of artists, including the Kinks, the Beatles, Cheap Trick, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello.
Where the band goes from here in the sonic sense is a bit up in the air, and the possibilities are exciting for both the musicians and their fans. “We definitely have just scratched the surface of what Georgie James is capable of,” Miss Burhenn says.
Regardless of what happens, the band will always have at least one constant. “It’s incredibly important for us to maintain ties with D.C.,” the songstress says. “I just love the community feeling about music in D.C. and how much of a D.I.Y. attitude there is. We don’t need to move to New York or L.A. — we’ve got resources and friends who can help us do it right here.”