Who the heck is … Cotton Candy?


(Cardinal Robinson)

Mark Robinson and Evelyn Hurley may seem like an odd sales team, but their mesmerizing rendition of “Bumblebee Tuna” will have you humming through the grocery aisles. As pop duo Cotton Candy, the husband and wife cover retro commercial jingles and perform other short songs. Robinson is best known as the lead singer and guitarist of the rock band Unrest and as the founder of indie label Teen-Beat Records. Hurley has lent her talents to Teen-Beat bands Blast Off Country Style and Hot Pursuit. The D.C.-area natives return home for a show at the Galaxy Hut in Arlington on Sunday.

Are You Serious? Though they’ve been a couple since 1996, Hurley and Robinson didn’t collaborate on a musical project of their own until forming Cotton Candy in 2009. The band began with familiar songwriting aspirations but no set rules about where the music could go. At one point, Hurley suggested they cover a commercial jingle and before long the “semi-serious three-minute songs” were dropped. “It was just more fun doing the little short, weird pieces,” Robinson says. Cotton Candy’s third album, 2012’s “Off-the-Hook & Out-of-Control,” is full of short, weird pieces — and it’s available on cassette!

Jingle Ball: Robinson, 46, and Hurley, 42, have written jingles themselves — including one for a record shop near their home in Cambridge, Mass. — but originals make up only about 10 percent of their catalog. “It’s kind of this weird, unappreciated, forgotten music,” Robinson says of jingles. Covers include D.C.-area classics such as the Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do “Nobody Bothers Me” commercial and a tune for Citizens Bank of Maryland. “They’re really well-written songs,” Hurley says. “Obviously they did their job, because 30 years later we’re still singing the songs.”

Get On the Bike: The band’s live performances are mostly a cappella, with Hurley on pitch pipe duties and Robinson occasionally accompanying on acoustic guitar. The stripped-down approach, also heard on many of their recordings, puts the focus on the melodic vocal harmonies of the old-time jingles. There’s no heavy equipment to lug around, so the low-key setup is hassle-free. In fact, when the pair book a show close to home they ride their bikes to the venue.

Good Humor: Though Cotton Candy pays tribute to high-quality songcraft, there is a certain silliness in watching a band revive jingles out of their original context. Hurley’s solo, smiling reenactment of mother-daughter dialogue from a Massengill commercial is a perfect example: “Mom, can I ask you something personal? Do you douche?”

Galaxy Hut, 2711 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; Sun., 9 p.m., $5; 703-525-8646. (Clarendon)

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Kristen Page-Kirby · December 27, 2013