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Friends of Lola to take the stage

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

The members of Friends of Lola are siblings Houston and Cyrena Wages and her boyfriend Gabe Rabben.

The members of Friends of Lola are siblings Houston and Cyrena Wages and her boyfriend Gabe Rabben.

For weeks a Nashville couple and their dog have enjoyed the songs and music created by their neigbors Cyrena Wages, Gabe Rabben and Houston Wages.

The three musicians with different backgrounds formed a band this past summer. And with their biggest fans’ support, the trio decided to take the opportunity to use their band’s name to pay tribute to the couple.

“I realized how strong of a musician Gabe was,” Houston recalled. “We worked out a song in about 10 minutes. I was like, ‘This is a pretty good situation. I’m going to plan a trip to Nashville so that we can do some writing.’ I go to Nashville over the summer. This lady heard us and said, ‘You guys should be a group.’

“She has mutual friends, this couple,” he continued. “This couple has a Boston Terrier named Lola. We ended up living next door to them. They’re our neighbors now. So we decided to name our band Friends of Lola.”

Friends of Lola will return to the hometown of siblings Cyrena and Houston Jan. 17 for a concert in Midtown Memphis at the Hi-Tone Cafe’. Cyrena, 21, has been gracing stages for years in beauty pagents even making a run at Miss Tennessee last year.

Her trademark in the talent portions of the events has been singing. She even returned to her old elementary school E.A. Harrold last year to perform for the students. Her boyfriend Gabe, 25, has a resume’ from all over the United States which includes playing the drums for music legend Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers. Cyrena’s big brother Houston, 30, has traveled the country working as a song writer. While growing up in Millington, Houston developed a love of Hip-Hop music. Then when he moved up North to attend college to study acting, he found a passion for a form of music prominent in the South.

“I get to New York, and that is the first time oddly enough, I started to like Country music,” he recalled. “Not nessacarily popular Country music. I mean old Country music.

When I was a kid I hated it,” Houston acknowledged. “I would listen to Boyz II Men and Snoop Dogg, then Michael Jackson. Toni Braxton, I had her cassette. I loved it. I didn’t get into this sound until I went to New York. I fell in love with it.”

Gabe said while Houston brings a taste of Country to Friends of Lola, his background helps him add a little soul to the band.

“We all love each other’s style,” he noted. “But it makes for this melting pot. I’m a drummer mainly. I’m from California orgininally. My main gig is with Bill Medley one of the Righteous Brothers. I play drums for him and I’ve been with him for about three years. I moved to Nashville and I met Cyrena.

In meeting Cyrena, Gabe met a performer familiar with many genres of music thanks to her father Wilson Wages.

“Musically, Gabe’s influence is kind of a soul thing and Houston turned into Country,” she said. “Mine was always rythem and blues. My Dad was a big Blues guy coming up. I became a big fan of Bonnie Raitt. She kind of became my role model. We found a way to blend all of that together.”

With two males and a female lead, most people compare Friends of Lola to the Grammy-award winning band Lady Antebellum.

“We’re one their biggest fans,” Cyrena said. “We want to market ourselves the same way they did but add some old school influences. We like to say we’re a cross between Lady Antebellum and The Band or Lady Antebellum and the Loominers, which is a young act.”

Houston noted a difference must music-goers might pick up on between Friends of Lola and Lady Antebellum.

“One of the things that is a little different about us, we do have a throwback, sort of folk, Americana, country kind of sound,” he noted. “But Gabe’s influence has brought in a groove because he’s very into soul. He gives us a little bit of a back beat.”

The sounds influenced by Rabben will help bring to life the words of Houston giving Cyrena a vocal platform on the EP Letters From Tennessee. The debut album features six tracks including the single Black Swan.

The single was released Jan. 2 online at friendsoflola.bandcamp.com and at facebook.com/friendsoflolamusic.

Black Swan and more will be performed on Jan. 17 at Hi-Tones. There will be two opening acts before Friends of Lola take the stage. Houston said next Thursday night is more than just an opportunity for Friends of Lola to showcase its music.

“Growing up here, I loved the music,” he said. “Especially the history of Stax and Sun Records. Our father is a music historian. He would wake me up at night and I had to listen to Derrick and the Dominos. He would be in tears listening to a song his buddy Bobby Whitlock had written. I always had this passion for music.

“I started writing songs, I would come back to Memphis and I would find so many of the songwriters and musicians have gone to Chicago, Detriot and whatnot,” Houston continued. “I just want to pay homage to the town and with Hi-Tones closing in February. There is so much talent in this city not exposed anymore. I hate that people refer to Memphis as a ghost town of music. That is so not the case. I think the writers especially need to touch base with their roots, especially if you’re from here.”

Cyrena said the performance at Hi-Tones is a tribute, debut and chance to see faces that have support the individuals who makeup Friends of Lola over the years.

“We want it to be a reunion too for just everybody we’re friends with and that we love,” she concluded. “Everybody just getting together. Besides us performing, getting everybody else together just to hang out, it’s a good excuse.”

The single is also available on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/black-swan-single/id590974792

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