September 9, 2014
by Ryan Barnes

In spite of its name, Cayetana’s new record Nervous Like Me displays a confidence far beyond what one might expect from a band made up of self-admitted newcomers. With a sound that combines elements of riot grrl, ‘80s post punk, and ‘90s college rock, Cayetana manage to sound earnest without tipping over into the realm of twee.

I sat down with lead vocalist Augusta Koch in the sweltering “green room” (read: horrifying murder basement) of Brooklyn bar Saint Vitus prior to a lively set played to a packed room.

Do you remember your first record?

Augusta Koch: I think it was Alanis Morissette. I was pretty young. My sister was older than me and I was listening to like Spice Girls and shit, and then she got into Goo Goo Dolls. And then I started liking Goo Goo Dolls and Third Eye Blind a lot, and then that lead me into listening to Alanis Morissette.

I liked Incubus a lot when I was in sixth grade. I went to my first concert, to see Incubus, with my sister. And from then on it was like, “I LOVE music.” I became a music kid. I was in Catholic school at the time.

And then I got really into ska music when I was in eighth grade. I was really into The Toasters, Catch 22, and Big D. I would go to ska shows, and was in a ska band my freshman year. We were called Blue Bananas.

What’d you play in Blue Bananas?

I just sang. It was awful. We only played like three shows, but we were a band for like a year. We pretty much just watched TV at practice. We covered The Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments” and (Beastie Boys’) “Fight For Your Right.”

I had some pretty awesome lyrics though. The first lyrics I ever wrote were in 9th grade, which is hilarious because they’re out on the internet somewhere:

“Attention all shoppers, There’s a dirty fascist on aisle three, Or maybe he’s a cop they’re all the same.”

I’m thinking ‘who was I?’ There’s nothing to really do in the Poconos where I grew up.

Did you guys have much of a DIY scene there?

We did. The drummer of Blue Bananas had a show space in his parents’ garage, called Club Baby Seals. So we’d have shows there. My sweet sixteen was a ska show in my garage.

There was a DIY scene, and then there was also a punk club called The Sanctuary in Stroudsburg. And we’d have our parents drop us off. We wouldn’t even look at who was playing. We’d just go.

There was a lot of local Nirvana-type bands in the area at the time, and we’d get a lot of bigger stuff. We’d drive to Cafe Metropolis in Scranton where they’d have awesome shows. It’s funny, a lot of my friends from Philly, we’ve realized we were all at the same shows. Like The Menzingers used to play there in their old band, Bob and the Sagets. Albondigas, who are playing tonight, they were in a band called Captain Random who would play there. So there actually was a lot of stuff going on.

What was your first instrument?

I tried to play guitar when I was in high school. I was an asshole and got frustrated and just stopped. I played drums in like eighth grade in my catholic school band. We would play at mass and shit, but I sucked. I didn’t really start playing guitar until three years ago when we started the band.

What was the first guitar you bought?

It was a shitty First Act Wal-Mart guitar, that I put a Foo Fighters sticker on. And I sucked at it. But when we started this band I borrowed a friend’s guitar, and then bought the one I have now.

Had you played in other bands between Blue Bananas and Cayetana?

No. I always really wanted to be in a band but I gave up on playing guitar. I used to give up on things, like, “Fuck it I’m not going to do it.” But I would sing with friends sometimes, or do guest vocals because I really liked doing it. I think with Cayetana we were all on the same level; we all didn’t really know how to play. It made it easier to be OK with fucking up, because we were all learning at the same pace. I think that’s the main reason we worked out as a band at all.

When did you guys start playing together?

We actually met exactly three years ago tomorrow (September 7.) Tomorrow’s our Philly show. The first time I met Allegra was at my friend’s birthday and a mutual friend said to us, “The three of you guys want to start a band. You should start a band.” Allegra had just moved to Philly, and that night we were drunk at this party and decided we should do this. We met up that week and borrowed gear from people. Kelly had a drum set. I really liked hanging out with them. I just wanted to have friends.

How long after forming did you record the demo?

About six months. We had around six songs at that point, but some of them were fucking awful. Like we had a song that had an a capella part. But “Mountain Kids” and “South Philly” were two of the first songs we wrote. We really liked them, and maybe it was for sentimental reasons but we still enjoy playing them.

Do you remember the first Cayetana show?

Yeah, it was at the same place our record release is tomorrow – The Golden Tea House. Our friends who book there said to us, “You guys just have to play a show.” We kept saying we weren’t ready, and they were just like, “You’re never going to be ready, just play.” And we played with Glocca Mora. So it was all friends, and we had a huge group of girl friends who all made it really comfortable. It was fun. I’m sure we really sucked but it made us feel like we should keep doing it.

Do you get a really positive response to the fact that you’re a band made up of all women?

Yeah, it’s nice. We get a lot of girls who tell us it’s cool to see females playing music. That’s the best part, because that’s really important to us. A girl told us last night, “You guys are so inspiring.” And that’s awesome because when I was younger I would see girls in bands sometimes, but not often. I think if I did more I would have pushed myself more to play music instead of being scared to do so. Now there’s so many girls playing music, and I don’t think as many girls feel the same way I used to feel.

Do you like the idea of being identified as a ‘girl’ band? Or would you rather it didn’t matter, that people just think of you as an indie rock band?

The other girls in the band might have different opinions, but I don’t really have a preference. That’s who we are. I’m not ashamed of that. I think it’s a positive thing. I don’t like when it’s the first thing that comes up. But with the times how they are, that’s a cause I would want to represent.

I think it’s shitty when we’re just compared to whatever three girl bands are popular. I’m flattered that people think we sound like Sleater-Kinney, but we don’t sound like that. We’ve gotten that before, where people ask if we’re riot grrls and big Bikini Kill fans. We don’t sound like Bikini Kill, but I’m not mad because people just want to associate it with something. Male bands get that all the time too. Everyone gets pigeonholed.

Is there a band you thought of as a sort of ‘model’ when you started Cayetana?

Not really. We’re all into really different types of music, but we have some things that overlap. We really like the way Katie and Allison (Crutchfield, of Waxahatchee and Swearin’) handle themselves. We kind of take after them, being strong and assertive but not preachy. So we always looked up to them in that way.

Was that Waxahatchee tour the first time you’d been on tour? Was that the longest you’d been out?

No we’d gone out with Ma Jolie for a few weeks. Waxahatchee was the second tour. And we just did five weeks with Menzingers, Pup, and Lemuria.

How long was the writing process for Nervous Like Me?

We wrote the demo, and then we kind of took some time off to fuck around. Then the summer after it came out, we said we should start working on the album. But didn’t start getting really serious about it until last year. It took a while.

Was there a theme in mind when you were writing those songs?

I think a lot happened in the years since we’ve been a band. We started the band not knowing how to play, and this was our journey together. We’re all in our late twenties, so we’re in the second chapter of our lives. And we’re starting a band now, where a lot of people have been doing this since they were like fifteen years old. I like to think of it as we’re at this time in our lives where we don’t want to sit around and get drunk all the time. We’re trying to figure out what we’re doing and get our shit together. It’s this theme of sort of not being apathetic anymore. And the nervousness that comes with going to shows when you’re older, as you’re like “What the fuck am I doing?” in your head.

That’s kind of where the title comes from. The three of us are really nervous people. Well, Kelly’s not, but Allegra and I are. We came up with the name at a show we played with Ex Hex, and I was super nervous because I have bad anxiety. And Allegra sort of had this idea, “Nervous Like Me!” That’s just where we’re at right now, it’s just this moment in our lives.

Were there any records you were obsessing over in the studio?

I really like Leonard Cohen, so I was reading a lot of his poetry books when we were writing. I was listening to a lot of Guided By Voices. And then The Mountain Goats and The Weakerthans, which is what I always listen to. I like depressing music.

The same guy (Matt Schimelfenig) who did Nervous Like Me recorded our demo. He works at this studio where like, Kurt Vile recorded, I have no idea how we got in there. It worked out that he got a job there right when we needed to record this, so we got to do our first records together. The Menzingers and Restorations just recorded there, it’s fucking gorgeous. They have all this crazy old gear. It was a cool process to go from a basement to this space.

You guys still all have day jobs, right? What do you do?

I am a waitress at a Belgian beer emporium. And then Allegra works at a health clinic. She has a serious job. Kelly manages a coffee shop.

Would you pick up and do this full time if you had the chance?

Hell yeah. I had to quit my job to go on that Menzingers tour, and lucked out to get my job back when it was over. Initially I was like “I just quit my job to go on this tour, what am I doing?” But, if I have to, I’ll totally do it again.