Firefighters in full uniform jump from a red truck parked outside Elephant & Castle. The shrill fire drill still screams from the now-empty basement where a diverse mix of Three Sheet addicts thrives on the hip-hop group every Thursday night.
"I wore my nice bra," singer Vanessa Furlong says loudly over the buzz of 50 fans gathered on the steps. "That's why they showed up."
Minutes earlier, as opening act Ghettosocks proclaimed "I've got a fire in my pants," to the crowd, one member of the five-piece Three Sheet might have been lighting up in the band room.
As Furlong puts it: "We were having a band meeting and---no, we really were---and may or may not have gotten into trouble and had to go running."
Furlong sips coffee through a straw on the following Saturday. Reminded of her bra comment, she shoots a coy glance: "It's true. It's the only time I get dressed up."
Every week, Furlong, the only female member of the quintet, dresses her ears with hoops that would make Beyoncé blush and struts in heels before a crowd of dancing fans.
"It's funny," the jazz-soul vocalist confesses. "A lot of people talk about this confidence I have on stage, which is the exact opposite of what I'm feeling.
I just remember reading an article about Beyoncé talking about Sasha Fierce and how when she's up there on stage she transforms into that person to give her that boost of confidence. And I was like, 'That's what I'm doing!'"
Furlong says the taboo of being "the girl" in the group stems from Three Sheet's origin story. After Gray Wynchell left Three Sheet in 2008, lead vocalist Matt Kliffer (Expedyte) and guitarist Ryan O'Quinn brought bassist Kevin Tilley and beatboxer Eric McIntyre (EMC) aboard. McIntyre introduced his girlfriend, Furlong, to the equation. Her vocal flavour jived immediately with their dynamic. Furlong says she was excited, yet hesitant to join the group.
"I did not want them to bring me into the band just because I was someone's girlfriend. I wanted them to take me into the band because they legitimately felt that I could contribute."
"She just naturally fell into place automatically," says Kliffer. "That was the big bang of Three Sheet right there."
"I always tell her, I'm like, 'Vanessa, you're the icing on the cake. You're what makes us magical.'" O'Quinn says.
Now, Furlong doesn't hold back as much. And with the release party for Three Sheet's debut album, In Circulation, on Saturday and her solo debut just around the corner, Furlong is channeling her energy to fight that girl-in-the-band taboo.
"There are, I bet, tons of girls out there who would love to be 'playin' with the boys,' as I call it," she says. "They just don't feel like they belong in that situation. That sucks. So I'm hoping I can give a little encouragement."