By Larry Widen Special to OnMilwaukee Published Aug 26, 2023 at 8:01 AM

With a name like the Righteous Babes, the all-female quartet could be a group of sneering Joan Jett wannabes who deliver two-fisted rock-and-roll with power chords that explode like something Oppenheimer built in a lab. Instead, the Babes are an eclectic mixture of female musicians that include Gracie Coates and Rachel Ruggles, a chamber-pop piano-violin duo; Holly Miranda, a sultry folk-rock guitarist; and Jocelyn Mackenzie, percussionist and electric ukulele player. Together they perform one another's original songs in seemingly effortless arrangements that highlight the technical prowess of each member.

The Righteous Babes’ distinctive vocal blend and strong musicianship have carried the band from an opening act for Ani DeFranco to their first ever headline tour. They performed songs from the EP, “Nowhere Now Here,” last night at The Back Room at Colectivo – but before the show, when informed The Back Room is an intimate venue with a capacity for 300 people, Gracie Coates laughed, saying, “Then they’ll have to bust out the walls, because we’re gonna fill the place!”

Along with Jocelyn Mackenzie, Gracie offered some insight into what’s proving to be a unique quartet.

OnMilwaukee: Every new group says they’re different. Why should people believe the Righteous Babes?

Gracie: Wow! Great question! We’ve never been asked that! (Laughs) First of all, everyone in this band brings strong talents to the mix. And nobody plays the same instrument. Who else has an electric ukelele? We all sing, but Rachel’s vocals are incredible.

Jocelyn: We like working together, we support each other and our sound, our arrangements, are constantly evolving. We’ve all worked extensively with other musicians before we came together.

Is it difficult to bring the subtleties and nuances of your recordings to the live shows?

Gracie: It’s not, and that’s because we typically record live rather than employ studio enhancements. So, the energy on the records carries over to the stage shows.

Your band seems like a perfect fit for a festival like Lilith Fair used to do.

Jocelyn: Right, and that’s because including everyone in our music is so important to us. It’s a wonderful feeling playing to open-minded audiences.

What does Holly Miranda bring to your sound?

Gracie: She’s a great guitarist, the cornerstone of the band. She’s the kind of player that you think of when writing songs.

Are you looking at the future of your band or just enjoying your current success?

Gracie: It’s so perfect right now, and we’ll just figure things out as we go along. How we connect with our fans is so important. They’ll help determine where we go next.