By definition, a rainbow is “an arch of colors formed in the sky in certain circumstances.” Refraction, dispersion and natural elements all play their part. But in the end, a rainbow’s whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. And such is the case with the spectrum of musicians who come together as Rainbow Girls. So, too, do Red (Caitlin Gowdey), Yellow (Erin Chapin), Green (Cheyenne Methmann), Violet (Vanessa May) and Blue (Savannah Hughes) refract and disperse the natural elements around them, musically speaking.
The Rainbow Girls first appeared in 2010 at an underground open-mic night hosted at an Isla Vista housing co-op dubbed the Rainbow House. It was there that Gowdey and Chapin, who had been a duo, added Methmann and May to the mix. By the end of that year, the foursome had recorded a five-song demo during a week-long camping trip to Joshua Tree and Big Bear Mountain. The following summer, they busked their way around Europe. Chapin recalls, “During the initial trip, there was an overwhelmingly positive response to the music and energy we were delivering. That’s not to say we didn’t get a sideways glance or two, but generally people were into it wherever we traveled.” They covered 15 cities across Switzerland, Germany, England, Italy, the Netherlands and France before a mass deportation landed them all back in Santa Barbara.
Once back home, they caught their breath and hit their stride — again. Chapin notes, “It’s always odd settling in after an epic adventure. But, of course, it was nice to come home, rest, and work on new material.” Along with new material, the Girls found themselves adding a new color to the band and a new direction to the sound in the form of Hughes on drums. As Methmann explains, “We’d seen her performing around town with a number of groups, but I remember first meeting her at the ranch a couple of years ago. She was over rehearsing for a jazz performance with one of our housemates, but before she left I slipped her a little note saying she should come over and jam with us. A couple of weeks later, she came up to us at Saturday market. The rest is history.”
But it’s a history still very much in the making, just like the music, which Gowdey describes as “gypsy-inspired, all-lady, folk ’n’ roll Americana.” A better grasp of the Rainbow Girls’ sound might be more easily gleaned by looking over some of their influences: The Beatles, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joni Mitchell, Ravi Shankar, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, Devendra Banhart, Gogol Bordello, the Flaming Lips, Old Crow Medicine Show, Fleet Foxes, Sly and the Family Stone and Leonard Cohen. Still, May is quick to note, “. . . more than anything, I think we have been most inspired by bands that are composed of our dearest friends and family.”
Last May, more than 200 of those dear friends and family members joined forces to fund the production and release of the Girls’ first full-length album, The Sound of Light. With CDs in hand, they headed back to Europe and the U.K. for an official tour, an experience they hope to replicate again this summer.
Beyond that, though, the Rainbow Girls have a pretty simple vision for the future that involves more of the same harmonic convergences, both here and abroad. Although, if Gowdey gets her way, “Ideally, I’ll be 95, shredding gnarly space funk with a 131-year-old David Byrne, wearing a jumpsuit, doing barrel rolls with an all-female brass band.” After all, this ain’t your mama’s gypsy-inspired, all-lady, folk ’n’ roll Americana.
Rainbow Girls will perform at Green Art People on Wednesday, March 5, 8:30 p.m. 140 N. Ventura Ave., Ventura. For more information, visit www.rainbowgirlsmusic.com or www.greenartpeople.com.