RACHEL GOODRICH BRINGS HER TINKER TOYS TO STATE THEATRE

By Wade Tatangelo of Creative Loafing

Miami has been producing music designed for maximum club action since the 1970s, when KC and the Sunshine Band implored coked-up disco dancers to shake, shake, shake their booties. In the ’80s, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine taught folks how to do the conga. Then 2 Live Crew enlightened club kids on the finer points of popping that coochie. In recent years, Miami has become a hotbed for electronica music, producing rave faves like the gals from Avenue D. Progressive Latin funk, like that being delivered by Spam Allstars, is another staple of the city.

However, Miami is also homebase for nationally acclaimed indie folk and pop acts like Cat Power, Iron and Wine and The Postmarks. Another similar artist making a name for herself outside the Ocean Drive scene is Rachel Goodrich, a 24-year-old Miami native who is way more Joni Mitchell than Debbie Deb. The city’s New Times alt-weekly recently dubbed her “your favorite new singer.”

“I guess growing up here on South Beach, it’s a little superficial,” Goodrich says. “It’s grimy, too, and it’s definitely not down-to-earth — but when you go to the beach, it’s such a beautiful escape, it makes up for everything, else.

“To tell you the truth, though,” she continues, “I’m a cavewoman. I like to stay within my walls. I stay in South Beach because it’s convenient and familiar. Stepping outside to get a cup of coffee, the attitude of a lot of the people is annoying.”

Goodrich’s earthiness on the telephone is, in part, what makes her music so charming. Over piano, guitar and any number of the other instruments she plays — ukulele, banjo, harmonica, mandolin, xylophone, spoons — the singer/songwriter addresses life’s pathos, and her own pluckiness, with a wonderfully upbeat quirkiness. “Where did all the time go when nobody was looking?” she intones jazzily over handclaps and xylophone. “When I went behind their backs and took it all?”

The lines are the opening salvo from “The Black Hole,” which will appear on Goodrich’s delightfully titled debut full-length, Tinker Toys, which she plans to release Oct. 29.

“Most of the recording was done in my friend’s bedroom, in the closet,” Goodrich says. “I play most instruments on the record, but there are a few tracks with the full band.”

Although “The Black Hole” has yet to appear on CD, a video clip is already making the rounds on YouTube. In it, Goodrich has on a ladybug costume and dark sunglasses. She’s seated on an unmade bed, in a small bedroom, strumming an acoustic guitar, singing and playing a kazoo that appears to be fastened to a harmonica holder. In the forefront of the screen, her pal Jon Estes plays a stand-up bass. The camera never moves. It’s minimalism, for sure, but in no way boring. Goodrich’s vocals are distorted — unlike the recording that appears on her MySpace page — rendering the lyrics unintelligible. The cute-nerdy-girl-next-door quality of her voice, though, is still apparent.

Goodrich posted the clip last November. It has since been viewed more than 1,500 times. “Pretentiousness at its best!” reads a comment. The shoot — if you can call it that — took place in New York City. Goodrich was visiting a friend there last October. “That was a really funny day,” she recalls, laughing. “I was there around Halloween, and we bought these costumes from Walgreens that were actually baby costumes. It was the day after Halloween when we shot a video in the bathtub, then at the corner pizza shop and then one in the guy’s room [for ‘The Black Hole’]. We were just having fun.”

On stage, Goodrich typically wields a guitar and kazoo, or harmonica, Neil Young-style. Her first instrument was the piano, which she started playing at age 6 after her dad showed her some basic chords. She then switched to guitar because it’s “so much more rocking.” Goodrich was inundated with classic rock, pop and folk from a young age. “My dad is a huge Beatles fanatic,” she explains. “Growing up, I knew all the words to all the songs on Abbey Road, the album played a big role in my life.” The disc that would have the biggest impact on her as a singer and songwriter, though, was Joni Mitchell’s Blue, which Goodrich discovered when she was 16. “It just blew my mind,” Goodrich says.

In high school, she attended 311 and Jimmy Eat World concerts with friends, but the popular contemporary music never moved her the way Mitchell, Dylan, Young and the Dead did. However, just because she was into serious music — aka “dad rock” — it didn’t mean Goodrich was the morose, outsider type. In fact, it’s that sense of humor that makes the upbeat music she calls “shake-a-billy” so appealing. “Growing up,” she says, “I was a funny kid.”

The class clown?

“I sure was,” Goodrich answers, with a giggle.

Did that behavior get you in trouble?

“I negotiated a lot,” she says slyly. “I had a lot of drama incidents. I was into acting, but I just knew I wanted to perform, which is what I get to do now, which is cool.”

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