I am sitting 10 inches from the bass drum in Grand Ole Party's practice space, scrunched between bassist Mike Krechnyak and guitarist John Paul Labno. It's very loud, but the amps and the drum kit serve as a buffer between me and the most intimidating thing in the room. Behind her snare, a girl keeps time with sticks and it takes a second to accept that the opening and closing of her mouth corresponds with the voice that's filling the room. Coming from her skinny white body, the voice sounds downright paranormal-a channeling of Aretha Franklin or Beth Gibbons of The Gossip.
"I really like playing drums," says Kristin Gundred-the voice-as she shows me her calluses on a picnic bench outside. "People don't assume that I enjoy doing both, but I do."
Since G.O.P.'s first show at The Casbah in March, rock 'n' roll kids all across town have been jiggling their behinds like it's high school prom. This is Motown for the tattooed. Krechnyak's funky bass lines and Labno's ticking guitar make limbs move this way and that. Hear Gundred sing once and you know she's anything but another Meg White. But even if it's her voice that's helping Grand Ole Party quickly ascend the local ranks, she doesn't plan on moving away from the drum set anytime soon.
"We have such a good chemistry with the three of us," Labno says. "We couldn't just bring in any other instrumentalist and have it be the same."
They know, because they've tried. Gundred assumed the normal vocalist position in The Virgin Suite, a band she and Labno played in while attending UC Santa Cruz. When the band broke up, Gundred and Krechnyak picked up their instruments for the first time in their lives.
"We were just filling in," she says. "I played really simply, so it wasn't hard to pick up."
The three moved to San Francisco for a year and jammed nightly. Then Gundred and Labno took off and headed east, toying with the idea of settling far away. But on a hot day in New Orleans-after wheeling their white van around the entire country with their drum kit, amp and guitar rattling around inside-they decided the lukewarm clime of San Diego might be a more tolerable choice.
And the three have certainly a brought a blast of heat with them.
Grand Ole Party plays at Soma on June 15 (doors at 7 p.m., $8, 619-226-7662) and at The Casbah on June 23 (doors at 8:30 p.m., $12, 619-232-HELL). www.my space.com/grandoleparty.