Cayetana are a punky indie rock three-piece from Philadelphia, PA, USA consisting of Augusta Koch (vocals/guitar), Allegra Anka (bass) and Kelly Olsen (drums). Milo Schärer of Radio Radius spoke with Koch and Olsen ahead of their concert on February 8, 2018 opening for The Menzingers at Werk 21 in Zurich. In this interview they discuss Philly’s music scene, founding their own record label, and why it’s important to talk about mental health.
Milo Schärer: First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with us!
Augusta Koch: Thanks for having us, Milo!
Milo Schärer: How has your European tour with PUP and the Menzingers been so far?
Kelly Olsen: It’s been really great! We’re exactly halfway through today, but it’s been awesome. We’ve gone to a lot of places we’ve never been before. We’ve never toured Europe before, so it’s been really wonderful.
M.S.: What’s your favourite venue been so far?
K.O.: Oh my goodness…
A.K.: What’s our favourite venue? We had fun in London, at the Shepherd’s Bush. That was really cool.
A.K.: It was beautiful.
K.O.: Beautiful, huge venue. Very, very fun.
A.K.: We had fun in Ireland, that was really fun.
M.S.: Alright, that’s great. So now, for any listeners or readers unfamiliar with Cayetana, how would you describe your band in five words?
K.O.: Five Words? Cool, Awesome, it’s just like, indie rock three piece. I don’t know.
A.K.: I don’t know.
K.O.: Five Words?
A.K.: Great Hair.
K.O.: Yeah. It is the best music. Five Words.
M.S.: Thank you. This I’ve actually been wondering, why the name Cayetana? Where does it come from?
K.O.: We named it after a friend of ours actually, our friend Cayetana, because he is just a really awesome dude, a really talented artist and a really cool person. And we couldn’t think of anything better than that.
M.S.: Alright, nice. So now let’s talk a bit about the story of your band. A lot has been made of the fact that before you started this band, none of you had previous experience with your instruments. So how did you meet and why did you decide to start a band together?
K.O.: Well, we technically all met in Philadelphia at our friend’s birthday party. Allegra and I wanted to start a band together and then we found out that Augusta wanted to start a band as well. We kind of just got together like that. We met up in my basement with instruments that we borrowed from people and just started from there. But yeah, we started learning right when we started being a band.
M.S.: Alright. Your music has variously been described as pop punk, punk rock, emo, power pop and indie rock.
K.O.: Oh my god.
M.S.: Which of these labels, if any, are you most comfortable with?
A.K.: I feel like we don’t really care that much. Whatever people take from the music is fine. Those are all good genres, I suppose.
M.S.: You’re from Philadelphia. What do Philly and its music scene mean to you?
A.K.: Well, it’s nice. We’re all friends with the people that play in bands, like The Menzingers are our friends from Philly. So it makes it really fun.
K.O.: Yeah, it’s a really tight knit music community. People start bands together, they support each other, they go to each other’s shows. And then a lot of times members from other bands will swap across and play in other people’s bands, start new bands together. It’s a really densely rich music community in Philadelphia, which is wonderful.
M.S.: Yeah, that’s cool. Speaking of people swapping in each other’s bands, I actually saw Modern Baseball when they played in Lucerne about a year ago and there the opening bands…
M.S.: Yeah, and they filled in for each other.
K.O.: Yeah, that’s exactly what it’s like. It’s so fun.
A.K.: Yeah, it’s really fun.
M.S.: Alright then. Any maybe lesser known bands from the Philadelphia scene worth mentioning that you could tell us about?
A.K.: There’s this band called Eight that’s really good. Our friends in Katie Ellen are great. Three Man Cannon, Cherry. That’s a great band. Kississippi’s a great band that’s moving on up in the world. Harmony Woods.
K.O.: Lots of People.
A.K.: There’s a lot of bands.
M.S.: Alright, thank you. You released your excellent album New Kind of Normal from last year on your own label, Plum Records, which you describe on your website as “an independent record label owned and led by women in music.” What exactly was your motivation to found your own record label to release your new music?
A.K.: I think we just wanted to have the freedom to do what we wanted to do and…
K.O.: And not have to be limited by a record label, because we kind of had a very specific idea in mind of what we wanted to do with our record. We also realized if we went along with a record label we’d have to change the idea of what we wanted or not have as much control over the decision making. And I think that it was a really good decision, I think that more bands are starting to do that because it’s a lot easier now. I don’t know if it’s easier to release you own music, but if you have the tools it’s a lot easier than it used to be and record labels are a lot harder to get on than they used to be.
M.S.: Alright, well, that kind of brings us to the next question. As you said, a lot has changed in the music climate compared to previous generations of bands who released their own music. So, in your opinion, some of these recent developments, like social media, streaming, large festivals, what are the positive and negative aspects of that for a band following a DIY approach like yourselves?
A.K.: I think it’s easier for people to hear music now, because you can just find it on the internet.
K.O.: Yeah, I think social media is a huge advantage to bands these days because it’s so much easier to access your fan base and for people to find you.
A.K.: I think the disadvantage would be, growing up going to shows, you get a sense of community, a sense of ethics with people, doing some smaller tours definitely teaches you how to treat other bands, stuff like that.
M.S.: When you started your own label from scratch, what were the biggest challenges you faced?
A.K.: I think not having a label, one of the big ones was not having a big distribution.
K.O.: Yeah, and having to seek out our own press and PR. And you know, having to trust yourself in your own decision making, I think, is kind of scary.
M.S.: On the website of Plum Records, you say that you hope to extend your project to other bands as well. Is it possible for you, at this point in time, to be more specific about future plans?
A.K.: As of right now, I think we’re still just working on that record, because it is a lot of work. Nothing in the works right now.
M.S.: Alright, in that case we’ll talk about your most recent record, New Kind of Normal. You significantly expanded on your sound on your new album compared to your debut, Nervous Like Me. Was this a conscious decision to try new things or was it just kind of an organic process that happened while you were writing the songs?
K.O.: I think a bit of both, but mostly it was a conscious decision. I think naturally it became a lot easier to write something that was more in depth because we had already written our first record. We figured out a lot about making music, and writing songs, and about each other, and how to record, since the first record. We had a lot of time, we toured a lot, so we got a little tighter with our instruments. We’re more willing to experiment with a bit more stuff, so I think, and a little bit is just organically, yeah.
M.S.: The songs on New Kind of Normal deal with mental health and mental illness. What compelled you to write songs on this subject, a very personal one?
A.K.: Well, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time, but I also think a lot of people have mental health issues throughout their life. So it’s important to talk about, so people don’t feel weird about it.
M.S.: Yes, absolutely. And that also brings us to the next question. When you talk about mental illness in your songs, as you say, it’s of course for yourself as well, but is there a message that you want to get out to listeners who might be dealing with their own mental health issues?
A.K.: Yeah, I think talking about it makes people feel less alone in it. So to make people not feel weird about going through normal stuff.
A.K.: Well, that was one of my favourite bands in high school, and that was one of my favourite songs. And we got to meet Bob Nanna, the singer from Braid, and he became kind of a friend, which is weird. And we wrote the record in the house I grew up in, so it reminded me of listening to that song and I reached out to him to ask if I could use that line and he said yes. So it just fit with the song.
M.S.: Alright. The first time I listened to New Kind of Normal, Easy to Love was the song that made the most of an impression on me. I don’t know, to me at least it seemed like a very dark song. Could you tell us the story behind it?
A.K.: Yeah, it’s mostly about being a depressed person but being in love and being worried that your depression or anxiety will affect your relationship, making you a difficult person to love.
M.S.: Thank you. Since you’re going to play some songs off of New Kind of Normal tonight, what does it feel like to you to perform such personal songs in front of an audience?
A.K.: Pretty weird? No, I feel like we’ve been doing it so much that it’s not that weird anymore and it’s just fun.
M.S.: Alright, cool. So just kind of as a last question for both of you, what releases by other artists are you particularly looking forward to this year?
K.O.: Oh my god, I haven’t even thought about new artists this year.
A.K.: This girl Kississippi who’s from Philly has a new record coming out and I’ve heard one of the songs and I think it’s going to be great. Our friends in Thin Lips have a new record coming out and Hop Along has a new record coming out. Those are all Philly bands that we love, so…
K.O.: So they’re all going to be great.
A.K.: They’re all going to be great.
M.S.: Thank you so much for doing this interview!
A.K.: Thank you for having us!
M.S.: I’m very excited about the show tonight!
K.O.: Oh yeah, we are too!
Anmerkung der Redaktion: Um die Aussagen der Bandmitglieder möglichst korrekt zu wiedergeben, wurde dieses Interview im englischen Original anstatt in deutscher Übersetzung publiziert. Die Einleitung wurde für eine einheitliche Sprache im gesamten Beitrag ebenfalls auf Englisch verfasst.