Three self-proclaimed high-kicking, boisterous Philadelphia ladies found something in common with a downtempo, dub, funk-master DJ – their band name.
Vocalist-guitarist Augusta Koch, bassist Allegra Anka and drummer Kelly Olsen came together in September 2011 to form the indie-punk band Cayetano. However, shortly after, they had to switch their band name for legal reasons because it mirrored that of an already established Greek DJ. They adapted the feminine A and continued under the name Cayetana, a female band that sounds like – well, they’re still trying to figure that out.
“People say we sound like things I don’t understand,” Koch said. “Hey, Kelly, how would you describe our sound?”
“Our sound?” Olsen, 29, of South Philly said from behind the counter of South 4th Street’s Milk & Honey Café, which she manages. “Gangnam Style.”
“Yeah, put that one in there. Sheryl Crow, too,” Koch, 24, also of South Philly said.
Cayetana has garnered the attention of the Philly punk scene with a three-track demo they self-released in December 2012. Featuring the songs “South Philly,” “Mountain Kids” and “Ella,” the demo has been making its way onto websites including Punknews and If You Make It, as well as receiving kudos from The Menzingers vocalist-guitarist, Tom May.
“They’ve jumped head first with their clothes on into the pool at the raging party that is the Philadelphia punk scene,” May wrote of the ladies, who started playing their instruments around the same time as the band’s formation. “The contemplative and sometimes poignant lyrics delivered in a sincere and oft-urgent croon are perfectly complemented with a locked-in rhythm section comprising of melodious bass lines and driven, hoppy work on the skins.”
Anka and Olsen met at The State University of New York at Oswego where they played in a joke hardcore band called Meat Grinder that Olsen said she “wouldn’t call music.”
“I had my bass and bass amp because I tried to start stuff in New York with people, so I had fiddled on a lot of different instruments, but nothing ever panned out, so when I came to Philly I wanted to start a band and play music,” Anka, 26, of West Philly, said. “I put a bug in [Olsen’s] ear and we just went from there.”
The two met Koch, who made the move to Philly a year and a half ago, at a party where the three talked about forming a band. Koch said she was strictly a shower singer whose only band experience came from a ska band she played in during high school called The Blue Bananas. She used YouTube and the help of musically-talented friends to learn guitar basics.
“I think it was kind of cool that we all started at the same level,” Koch, a server at Monk’s Café, said. “I had always wanted to play guitar and had started but would get really frustrated and stop, but having a goal – I always wanted to be in a girl band – was perfect inspiration to actually do it.”
“The first practice, I thought we would just get together and make a bunch of noise and maybe never do it again, but we wrote some stuff that we still use,” said Anka, who works at a medical clinic. “We clicked right away – it was awesome.”
All three said they’re inspired by female musicians, whom they’ve seen a lot more of in the DIY scene.
“I don’t care what kind of music it is or what level of drum playing they’re at, but every woman I’ve ever seen play the drums I’ve always been impressed with,” Olsen said. “Maybe because I know I have a hard time at it sometimes, but the second I see any other girl play the drums it makes me want to go home and practice more.”
The band recorded its demo in approximately 10 hours, in what Anka described as a mostly “painless” process sans Koch eating an entire pizza before having to sing and feeling nauseous.
“We had no idea what we were doing – it’s a totally different process because it’s not like playing a show or practicing because everyone is on their own, so it made for some awkward goofiness, but it was fun,” Koch said. “I didn’t think the demo was going to happen in such a positive way. I didn’t really think much about it, I guess.”
“We never expected any kind of reaction out of anybody,” Anka said. “We put it online so that our friends could hear it.”
Cayetana has been playing shows in Philly, and the members said they hope to start lining up tour spots elsewhere for this summer, as well as continuing work on their full-length album, which they hope to release this year.
“We’re really excited about writing a full-length and focusing on writing musically and structurally, which is something we didn’t really think about until this demo came out,” Anka said. “We’re focusing on the whole point of this, which is the three of us making music.”
Cayetana’s next show is Sunday, Feb. 17, with Modern Baseball, Smoother, Gunk and Marietta at The Fire on West Girard Avenue, the venue where the band had one of its first shows in September 2012 with Catnaps and Candy Hearts. Katie Crutchfield of Waxahatchee asked the ladies to play her record release show for “Cerulean Salt” on March 1 at The Golden Tea House.
“I get really nervous [playing live], but it’s really fun but really nerve-wracking and I make stupid jokes and [Olsen] just smiles all the time,” Koch said. “Musically we’re getting stronger for sure – trying to noodle out. [Olsen] is getting crazy on the drums – literally – she’s beating them up.”
“I’m blushing just thinking about it,” Olsen said, who admits her brain tends to shut off once she starts playing a show. “There’s a bit of feeling kind of on the spot, but I think we’re getting better with rolling with the punches if something goes wrong.”
Cara Stefchak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CaraStefchak.