NEW YORK— At 26, singer Gabby La La is well past the age of childhood — but just try telling her to grow up. A tiny creature with a penchant for Hello Kitty and brightly colored wigs, she speaks in a soft, little-girl voice. Onstage, she performs on the same toy piano she first learned on when she was five years old.
Sipping lemonade in a booth of FAO Schwarz’s ice cream parlor in a big blue pigtailed wig, Gabby (her stage name came from a three-year-old neighbor, and she doesn’t use a last name) explains her impulses. “Since I was little, I was crazy like this,” she says. “I was always childlike, even growing up. So now my mom is always just like, ‘Super Gabby came out.’ I stopped trying to pretend to be grown-up.”
The daughter of a yoga instructor and a landscape architect, Gabby still lives in her hometown of Petaluma, Calif. She bounced from instrument to instrument growing up, finally getting a degree in sitar performance from CalArts. Onstage, she’s a veritable one-woman band clad in a leopard jumpsuit, playing the aforementioned toy piano, guitar, accordion, ukulele and the theremin, an instrument that is played by using electronic force fields. “I’ll use my head, or whatever, to play it,” Gabby explains, poking an elbow out.
Her uncategorizable sound charmed Primus frontman Les Claypool at a chance meeting in a recording session and he produced her record, “Be Careful What You Wish For,” on his own label, Prawn Song Records. She’s also become part of his entourage, and will be performing with Claypool at the brand-new Nokia Theater on Oct. 21. Her success shocks Gabby as much as anyone else. “I’m always surprised that anyone comes to see me. Then I realize, ‘Oh, wait, my record came out and everything,’ and people are there singing along.”
Her songs are sing-songy ditties about her life. “It’s just like everyday things,” she says, looking at her frosty glass of lemonade. “I’ll probably write a song about today, and I’ll make up, like, ‘Oh, I’m drinking lemonade and there’s a bendy straw.'”
This story first appeared in the October 10, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not surprisingly, Gabby has underage fans, too. “Lots of people I talk to after the shows, they’re like, ‘Oh my kids love your music and they’re always singing all the songs.’ So I want to do daytime shows that kids can come to ’cause it’s too late and too many crazy people at night in the nightclubs.”
In the meantime, Gabby’s been living on the road with her boyfriend while she tours with the band Particle and contends with their female groupies. “It’s tough being on the tour bus with a bunch of guys. I hide in my bunk and pretend that I’m not in there,” she laughs. “I turn the light off, and I’m like,” as she mimes curling into a fetal position. “At least bring really hot girls on the bus!” she laments. “I should screen,” wagging a finger and giggling. “Nope. Nope. OK, you can come in. I like your shoes, you can come in. What size are you? OK. You have to take off your shoes before you come on the bus.”