A Night Out with ... Aliccia Berg Bollig
“I’m more librarian than rocker,” says Aliccia Berg Bollig in earnest,
as she takes a hearty sip from her Amber Wheat. Perched on stools at
the Motor City Brewing Works
in Midtown on a recent Thursday evening, Bollig is trying to make sense
of her totally hectic, almost implausible dual life.
A scientist who toils away 10-plus-hour days at the Karmanos Cancer Institute
, Bollig (who looks nothing like a librarian) is also the persistent leader of Slumber Party,
with it’s rotating cast of girl-musicians, including past members who
have gone on to play in bands like The Von Bondies and Come Ons. “I
don’t think I’m an over-achiever. I just think I have all this spare
time,” she says.
When I ask what exactly she does at her day
job, she laughs and answers: “Wear a lab coat and carry a Sharpie.” But
that’s her endearing way of softening the seriousness and complexity of
her work. Then, with the patience of an elementary schoolteacher with a
challenged student, she explains the research she conducts, engaging
deliberately in scientific minutiae: studying human breast cancer cell
cultures; adding inhibitors to anti-tumor drugs; investigating of the
regulation of estrogen receptors. On cue, she orders another round and
gives a modest shrug. “It’s very basic stuff though. It’s not
We talk about her Minnesota upbringing, which she
admits, makes Detroit seem like the biggest city she’d like to live in.
Her father, who raised her and her two siblings, worked at the paper
mill on the Mississippi—where she took summer jobs. But she was already
in training to be a scientist. At the dinner table, her dad would quiz
her: “How many grams in a pound? How do you imagine that space is
infinite but it’s still expanding?”
Our conversation veers from
Lansing (where she went for her PhD at Michigan State and hated) to
Australia (where she’s going on tour with Slumber Party) to Vivio’s
in Eastern Market (where she goes for the best Bloody Mary’s), just as
the bar fills up with people to celebrate The Fonda’s CD release.
Ironically, the band is one part a former member of Slumber Party, which also
just released a new CD, "MUSIK," and planned to party at the same place.
album is one they are really excited about. Not that they haven’t been
excited about their other work, but “this is a different record than
the others,” she says. “It is more focused...it is a more sophisticated
concept than the work I've been involved with in the past.”
she talks about the conception of Slumber Party, it’s all impromptu
kitchen floor concerts and madcap collaborations. It’s about the sheer
originality of the people in Detroit. “People are really talented here.
It’s a craft,” she says. “It was never a dream of mine to start a band.
I just started coming to Detroit, and I was inspired. I played with so
many people and liked what they did. If I would have gone to say,
Rochester, NY for school, I probably would not have a band. And it
would probably be better for me, because I would focus on my job.”
would have had a hard time imagining the impeccable, tall and very
pretty Bollig in a rock band if I hadn’t seen her perform just a couple
weeks ago. She was playing a solo show on a makeshift stage, marked by
an inflatable bat hanging above, on the second floor of the Corktown Tavern
It’s an exercise in training she braves from time to time to keep her
chops up. “I had some new songs, and I wanted to practice,” she says.
were about two handfuls of people, sitting in rickety chairs, smoking,
on the rainy Sunday night—probably because, beguilingly modest, she
didn’t tell anyone what she was up to. But those who showed, by
accident or otherwise, got a glimpse into what it must be like to hang
out in Bollig's living room while she strums away for her own
edification. With a mellow, moving voice, almost referencing Nico
, Bollig's sound is decidedly monotone—in the best possible way.
it comes to supporting local bands, she’s torn. On one hand, she gets
it. “You get home and you’re fucking tired. And your friends can’t go
to every show.” But she’s also discouraged with the lack of support and
local buzz—whether it’s about Slumber Party or some other Detroit band.
“People don’t like something until the national news tells them to like
it,” she says, matter-of-factly.
Somewhere around 11 p.m., we decide to head over to the new patio at Slows Bar-BQ
where two of the owners are spinning “Yacht Rock”—super smooth 70’s and
80’s tunes in the vein of the Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins. People
are dancing autonomously, albeit strangely, next to the DJ table set up
near the corner. Otherwise, it’s a breezy, serene night, and groups of
people are scattered across the modern-perfect patio, lit by
up-lighting and evening sky, evincing none of the grit of the corner on
which it sits. We take a seat at a communal table with five gay men,
one of whom immediately recognizes her. “You’re in Slumber Party,” he
says, nodding his head in approval.
Sounds like her theory
about their lagging Detroit fan base might not be all that air-tight
after all. Not that we’re trying to make the matter scientific.
Aliccia Berg Bollig's band, Slumber Party
, plays Oct. 4 at St. Andrews Hall
, 431 E. Congress.
Aliccia Berg Bollig at The Motor City Brewery
Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Slumber Party CD
Aliccia Berg Bollig at The Motor City Brewery
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger