Never mind the snow. Reina del Cid walks into the Overflow Espresso Cafe wearing bright green Converse sneakers. When you grow up in Fargo, snow doesn't drive shoe selection.
A recent graduate from the University of Minnesota with an English degree, she just spent her day editing and proofreading as an editorial assistant at the University of Minnesota Press. After dark, though, Reina sheds her bookish day gig to front one of the hotter new bands in the Twin Cities - the infectiously folksy and fiendishly fun quartet Reina del Cid and the Cidizens.
They drew a standing-room-only crowd to the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis this month and will start a Monday night residency in January at the club's sister spot, St. Paul's Amsterdam Bar and Hall.
"I've been described as the girl next door," she says, "and I'm trying to stay that way as long as possible."
Reina provides an improbable link between baseball's racial-barrier-busting icon Jackie Robinson and the local music scene. Here's how:
The only child of parents working in the sugar business, Reina attended Fargo South High School, where she was awarded a scholarship from the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The 40-year-old foundation provides $1.2 million in grants for more than 200 students a year at 90 colleges and universities.
As an extra incentive, the Robinson Foundation dangles this carrot: Scholars who nail the highest grade-point average receive $10,000. Reina's 3.98 GPA won her the cash, which she funneled into the Cidizens' debut album: "blueprints, plans." She wrote all 10 songs on the album.
The Cidizens include guitar virtuoso Toni Lindgren, stand-up bassist Chris Wiberg and drummer Clay Whitney. They came to their unique band name through Spanish literature. Reina owns a blue guitar which she named El Cid, after the 11th-century Castilian nobleman, military leader and knight.
Reina came up with her stage name, which means queen, to play off her knight-named guitar. She has since moved on from Spanish literature and is hard at work on a novel about the death of an English politician in the 1930s.
She includes the poems of Sylvia Plath and T.S. Eliot as major influences and says sometimes her poetry fuels her song lyrics and sometimes it's the other way around.
Fiercely independent, Reina says A&M Records reached out to her in 2008 after her music started showing up on YouTube and other social media.
"I had a defining moment when I had to decide to go after the music or get my education," she says. "I picked the education. But now, music is out front."
The Cidizens are planning to produce a follow-up CD in 2013.
"And I think we'll move off the folksy stuff a little," she said, "and rock out a little more in a bluesy way."