After spending a year as a London-based TV shopping channel host plus several more in Chicago as a television reporter and burlesque performer, Aly Bockler—better known by her 1990s radio handle, Back Door Aly—is back. And it’s all because her longtime friend, local radio personality Kevin McKay, said those four little words that were music to her ears:
“Let’s start a band.”
“(It) was just what I needed to make the move down here,” says Bockler, who became a local resident once again as of April 1. McKay stayed true to his word, and the current and former 99Rock jocks wasted no time getting a band together that includes Habitual Offender’s former bass player Marcus Byrd and electric guitarist Michal Scott.
McKay, who began his musical career fresh out of college as a drummer with the Texas band Ocean X, is back on the skins while Bockler unsurprisingly fronts the band as lead singer, usually while strumming a guitar.
Though they aren’t ones to rest on their broadcasting laurels, it was a famous music industry connection, Jesse James Dupree, who nonetheless proved instrumental when choosing the band’s name, Conjugal Visit. “He’s a friend,” says Aly of the Jackyl lead singer. After being given a list of names to pick from, she says, “he chose this one — Conjugal Visit — so that’s what we went with.”
In keeping with the band’s name, as well as Bockler’s colorful burlesque history, she’ll perform in a provocative warden’s costume along with a mic that doubles as a nightstick. The other band members will be dressed in prison stripes on a stage decorated with chain link and barbed wire.
Likewise, the music will offer some edgy twists. “We’re going to play rock, but we’re going to do some different stuff, too,” McKay says, describing how the band is currently working to add some amped-up flair to a variety of cover songs, including Young MC’s “Bust A Move.” The locals know that one as McKay’s signature karaoke song.
Meanwhile, the band is weathering frequent practice sessions in the summer heat while admittedly sweating their September public debut—literally and figuratively. “There’s no air conditioning and it gets really hot,” Aly says, describing their rehearsal space. This summer they stepped up their efforts to ensure a favorable first impression. “Because we’re in broadcasting,” she says, “people are going to know who we are. They’re going to be expecting more of us.” And Conjugal Visit intends to deliver.
But it won’t be an act so over-the-top it will prevent booking younger fans of McKay’s radio show. After giving more than a few kids their 15 seconds of fame by allowing them quick onair sound bites as they tour the studio, McKay now has a recurring tweenaged sidekick who even has his own radio handle, “Lil Sean.” Sean has also attended the new band’s practice sessions, complete with electric guitar in hand.
Bockler is simultaneously working at putting together a separate burlesque act resembling the one she left behind in Chicago, featuring music, dance, some joke telling and plenty of feathers, sequins and tassels. She also can be heard a few times a week co-hosting McKay’s daily Hair Club segment.
As for McKay—who’s been known to pick up the sticks to drum with other bands playing the area—don’t look for him to give up his longstanding on-air position, no matter how many bookings his new band scores. “I love radio,” he says. “And the band—this is just something on the side.”