Astoria native fronts rock-and-roll group Toy Animals

Astoria native Nelly DuBarry (l.) was singing and playing acoustic guitar with her band Toy Animals during a recent performance at The Quays. The band will be playing at Joe’s Garage in Astoria Saturday.
Photo by Christo Casey
By Tammy Scileppi

You don’t often hear about a nurse who happens to front her own band.

But Astoria native Nelly DuBarry loves performing when she isn’t reading patients’ charts at a local hospital.

This Saturday night, at Joe’s Garage in Astoria, her band Toy Animals will deliver a set “packed full of soul-wrenching digs; singing songs about unabashed debauchery, confusion of love, ripping the seams off the status quo, childhood nightmares, and an abandoned wasteland of lost souls,” according to DuBarry, 39, who is the group’s lead singer and guitarist — both acoustic and electric. She also writes all the songs.

Band members include John Keegan on guitar, Marie Grillo on drums, Philip DiFranco — also known as Snake — on bass, and Dave Siegal on the saxophone and keyboard.

Waxing poetic, DuBarry said her band will “vicariously awaken the deepest levels of your emotional consciousness, rocking you in a cradle of melancholic lullabye.”

She also said the group is excited to take the stage at Joe’s Garage, an Astoria hotspot.

“This is our first time performing at Joe’s and we’re really looking forward to playing such a great new venue in the neighborhood,” DuBarry said.

The guitar-playing nurse has performed both as a solo artist and with her band, since 2016, bringing the house down at popular Astoria watering holes like The Quays, Irish Whiskey Bar, Shillelaghs Tavern, as well as Sekend Sun, and at BWAC in Redhook, Brooklyn, and Sidewalks in Manhattan.

“My songs are about struggling introspectively, anti-establishment, indecisiveness about love and choices, mental illness, ill methods of coping,” said DuBarry. “I’m inspired by intense emotion, relationships, circumstance, upheaval, loss and grief.”

In her spare time, when she isn’t playing with the band, DuBarry is also involved with The Venus Envy Artist Coalition and The Venus Envy Music Festival, which she founded. Showcasing well-known and lesser-known local female artists, the rockin’ fest premiered last July at Irish Whiskey Bar and was a great success, as was this year’s kick-off show at LIC Beer Project on June 30. More shows and events are in the works, so stay tuned.

The friendly, outgoing singer, who calls herself “a Queens girl,” knows many other musicians who live and work here. She feels the local music scene is “wonderful – like a family, with some great original talent.”

DuBarry recalled that music was always part of her life growing up.

She said her mother had a great collection of records and her father was a classically trained acoustic guitar player.

According to the artist, her unique sound has been compared to English vocalist and guitarist PJ Harvey, while her voice may remind you of Chrissie Hynde, of The Pretenders, and Patti Smith.

She said the groups Velvet Underground, Sonic Youth, and Breeders have influenced her music, along with singer, songwriter, and guitarist Liz Phair.

DuBarry said her music is her “outlet to work out ideas, emotions, struggles, personal philosophies,” and will continue to be a big part of her life. After all, “it’s like a vital organ.”

More from Around New York