Throughout several lineup changes, the one constant of Montreal (and later, Los Angeles)-based indie poppers Nerdy Girl
was singer/songwriter Cecil Seaskull
. Seaskull's high, wobbly pitched but unmistakably affecting voice, matched with lyrics that sound like pages from a smart but rueful single woman's diary, were Nerdy Girl
's trademarks, and while the group never gained more than a small audience of twee pop hipsters, their records have a literate intelligence that makes them considerably more interesting than most of the artless lo-fi caterwauling of their era.
Half Italian-American and half French-Canadian, Seaskull (born Cecil Castellucci) was raised in Montreal before moving to her father's hometown of New York City to attend the New York High School of the Performing Arts (yes, the Fame school). Upon graduation, Seaskull attended the film school at New York University before returning to Montreal and joining the all-female punk trio Bite. When that group dissolved, Seaskull formed Nerdy Girl as a duo with guitarist Gordon Hashimoto on Valentine's Day, 1994. Taking their name from an early Seaskull song about her lifelong obsession with Star Wars -- Seaskull admits to sleeping on Luke Skywalker sheets well into her late twenties -- the duo released a self-titled 1994 EP that was appropriately enough divided into sides marked "Luke" and "Leia." Hashimoto left after a follow-up single was recorded and Seaskull replaced him with a full band including guitarist Gabriel Levine, bassist Ron Woo and drummer Kim Temple. That lineup recorded both the 1995 EP Dime Store Hussy and Nerdy Girl's first and only full-length release, 1996's masterful Twist Her, a mature, reflective album with echoes of both Joni Mitchell's Blue and Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville in Seaskull's hauntingly personal but never exhibitionistic lyrics and the simple but graceful indie pop arrangements.
The usual hassles of keeping a stable band lineup intervened shortly after the recording sessions for Twist Her and both Levine and Temple left the group. Seaskull recruited guitarist/violinist Jessica Moss and drummer Eric Craven, but while this version of Nerdy Girl did tour extensively and also recorded a handful of tracks for compilation albums, Seaskull unceremoniously retired the band name in early 1998. Cecil Seaskull's first solo album, Whatever, featuring a guest performance by fellow Montreal-native Rufus Wainwright, was released in 1998 by the Toronto-based indie Teenage USA. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi