Close your eyes for a second and imagine sitting at an outdoor cafe somewhere in Paris, France. You’re enjoying your favorite drink, and sunshine warms your face. The soothing sound of an accordion plays in the background. Now imagine various other instruments joining in: a guitar, drums, a flute and a stand-up bass. Music from this jazzy ensemble fills the air and soon a cappella singing joins in to complete the picture.
The locally based band plays regularly at various venues throughout Sacramento, so there’s plenty of chances to catch one of their shows.
The five-member band consists of Casey Lipka, Alicyn Yaffee, Vanessa Cruz, Emily Messick (the band’s name is partly derived from the first letter of their first names) and Kim Davis. All members contribute to the writing and composition of their songs, and in November 2012 they released their nine-track debut album “Cave Women.”
These talented songwriters also play a multitude of instruments and present a cornucopia of delightful sounds that encompass jazz, folk, a cappella, classical and world music, to name a few.
Cave Women currently holds their rehearsals at The Table UMC, and after one of these rehearsals Davis and Cruz stayed for an interview.
The Sacramento Press: What brought Cave Women together and how long have you played as a group?
KD: We’ve been together now for two years. We all met playing music here in Sacramento and four of us attended Sac State and then Vanessa is from Miami. We all gradually met each other playing gigs and then we all just got together.
SP: How would you describe your musical style?
KD: I think we all have different types of influences and we each have our own thing to bring to the table, which is kind of fun.
VC: Well, we’re all trained musicians. We each studied jazz both the traditional style plus we like the newer artists. We’ve played a couple of arrangements including Becca Stevens and Esperanza Spalding, so we definitely admire them as female artists. We enjoy Gretchen Parlato as well as the other similar musicians. We follow Gerald Clayton and a lot of New York musicians. We learned from them so we kind of pulled from that as well as from our own compositions. When you hear our music you can hear different influences on different compositions in our songs. Some songs have more of a rock feel while others might have more of a jazz feel. Then there’s definitely the vocal aspects of the group. The harmonies, I mean everyone else but me I’m the drummer, but the rest of the girls all sing in the group and create their own harmonies so it’s unique and really pretty. So you have all these different aspects coming together which I think makes up most of the jazz music that you hear nowadays.
SP: Besides music, what are your biggest passions?
KD: I love art. Any kind of art makes me happy and anything that has that creative aspect. I think like all of us just getting out and exploring things and seeing the world and hanging out with people
VC: Yeah, I would say we all are definitely artistic. I mean music is probably the number one thing in all of our lives, but along with the music comes composition, arranging and writing lyrics. I’m sure most of us in the group write some kind of poetry. Kim was mentioning that she draws a lot, she’s a wonderful artist. I also like to draw a lot. Most musicians I think use that side of the brain that ties things together using the creative process of music and art. When we made this CD I know that Casey put a lot of work into making album design. She bought all this paint and ink and really got into it and Kim too and you know it’s just part of what we do.
SP: How did you become interested in music and why is music important to you?
KD: Oh it was love at first sight for me. I saw this girl playing flute and I knew that’s what I wanted to do that was it.
VC: Well Alicyn, Emily and Casey aren’t here so I can’t speak for them.
I’m sure it’s like most of us who fall in love with music and decide to dedicate our lives to it. It happens to everyone at a different age. I always say, I wish I started playing drums when I was 3 because I know a lot of badass musicians who started when they were three. I started when I was 12, but I always had music around. My dad plays piano and I used to play underneath the piano when I was little. He would play “Clair de Lune” which is really kind of sad and sometimes he would play “So What” and I would just listen to that album. We all just fell in love with different things about music at different points but it’s just about dedicating yourself to it if you decide that’s what you want to do. You never look back, you keep going forward and you just don’t quit.
SP: Any plans for a tour?
KD: We’ve been talking about it, but we’re in the planning stages right now.
VC: We’re trying to get as much setup as possible but it’s difficult at this point because we’re doing everything ourselves management wise. We need to look at our schedules but yeah we would definitely love to branch out and play outside of Sacramento. We’ve talked about touring the Bay Area or LA. I personally spent time in New York and I know Alicyn has too. I would love if we could get stuff set up over there because it has a really thriving music scene and you know jazz is really big out there and a lot of people there are doing a lot of awesome things. We’ll see but like I feel that for me this is a lifelong project. I know things aren’t always stable in terms of where I’m at in my life but I feel it would be cool if we just kept it going for as long as possible. We all have just so much to bring to the table I feel we have a unique sound.
SP: How would you describe the Sacramento scene? What has been your experience?
KD: It’s a lot of fun, there’s a lot of great people here, it’s really cool to see what other people are doing.
VC: I think Sacramento has definitely shown us a lot of love maybe as much as it could but you know like I said, not to compare, but there’s just so much going on in New York. People there are more down to go out and listen to live music and seem to be culturally aware in general. You have Broadway there. You have so many amazing concerts all the time and you know like I said Sacramento has always show us love and we like playing here but it’s hard running around and doing shows all the time and feel like we’re not getting as much recognition as we’d like. I think that at some point if we want to get to that level that we’re trying to get to we’re going to have to branch out a little bit more.
SP: Are you all native Sacramentans?
KD: No, none of us are, we all moved here.
VC: Most of us are from parts of California. Casey is from LA, Kim’s from Redding, Emily is from Ripon, I’m from Miami and Ally is from Lake County but yeah we all came from other places.
SP: What are some of your favorite Sacramento venues?
KD: Bows and Arrows is a lot of fun.
VC: Yeah I think we all unanimously enjoy performing at Bows and Arrows. We’ve also played a lot at Naked Lounge which has always been nice I mean Naked Lounge is a tiny place but the audience there has always been 100 percent supportive. You can hear a pin drop in there most of the time when some performances go on and so that’s cool. We also like Antiquity, Luna’s and Beatnik. We love playing at all these places like Midtown Village Cafe, Harlow’s, Shine and other places.
SP: Besides yourselves who do you think are some most unrecognized bands or musicians in town?
VC: We have a lot of good friends who are all in bands; I’m in a couple of other bands too. One of them I’m performing with is Element Brass Band, it’s like a New Orleans-style brass band. We all support each other in Sacramento’s music scene. There’s a bunch of great bands, friends of ours like Anthony Coleman, Ross Hammond and others like Jason Galbraith and Reagan Branch. We have a good community and we support each other.
KD: We also play with each other, it’s not like we just play with one group. We meet each other and have a lot of fun playing which makes for a strong musical community in Sacramento.
VC: Also there’s a band that we play here at the church and it’s a lot of fun. We play jazz every Sunday morning for 15 minutes. The group includes Anthony (Coleman) who’s the director Brandon Au, David O’Keefe, myself on drums and Casey Lipka who will begin singing here as well. We’ll be here playing jazz every Sunday morning starting at 10:15.
SP: Looking back to when you guys first started what were you biggest challenges?
KD: I think just understanding what this industry is all about. Like Vanessa was saying we do everything ourselves. We do emails, we book our shows, promotions and we write our own music. However, it’s just like starting any new project, sometimes it’s kind of overwhelming trying to figure out which route to take first and then just understanding each other’s styles.
VS: I think it’s a funny question because in just about every time you embark on a project you ask yourself what’s the hardest thing. To me it seems like the beginning was almost the easiest part because we didn’t know what was going to be hard. It started off that me, Casey, Emily and Alicyn did a gig together and we all had one original composition that we each decided to record at a studio in San Francisco. So we each brought our own original composition and we recorded five songs total and did an EP and pretty much on the ride back home from that recording session we all just said “Well we should just be a band, we should just be serious with this,” and so we spent, I think, the whole ride back from San Francisco just talking about all the cool things we could do and we were just super excited and from that moment we just kind of decided to yeah just keep going with this and so there weren’t any problems at the beginning. I think the difficulties started coming up the longer we got to be together. But, we continue to step up our game and book more gigs and now we don’t want to stop.
SP: Have you thought about touring overseas?
VS: Heck yeah! As soon as we have an opportunity and the finances are in order. We finished recording our first album in November and we’re very proud of it. We recorded it at Pat Olguin’s studio and he’s a very wonderful recording engineer. We’re hoping the CD reaches as big an audience as possible including an international audience but we’re not really quite sure how to get that working yet. A lot of it is word of mouth and maybe getting more footage on YouTube can help so we’ve tried to record more of our shows. We’ve done so many shows and if we had them recorded on YouTube that would be cool and that’s why I had also mentioned New York because I know there’s a lot of people there paying attention. We love Sacramento, we play all over Sacramento, but I think we could stand a good chance in other big cities because we have something unique. It’s not perfect yet we’re working on it and we rehearse as much as possible which is hard sometimes as we try to find time but it’s like we have a good product and we’re trying to have that business mentality for marketing ourselves and getting ourselves out there. It’s hard as an artist to have that financial mindset too but we’re all trying to put in the word so that hopefully we can reach people farther extending to touring overseas. We’re just trying to create that buzz and get people to hear our music and see what we can do. So that’s what we love to do is perform. So it would be great to be able to play almost everywhere and reach many people as possible.
SP: What would you say are the challenges you encounter as an all-female group?
KD: I actually don’t think of us as all female, we are what we are. I mean it’s cool because it separates us from your average band but I don’t consider us different for that. I think we just play music together, we love it and that’s what we do.
VC: In some ways it helps and in some ways it hurts a little bit but most of the time it helps because we’re all friends and being female the five of us have a different energy set than when I play music with guys. Usually the males that I play music with are all my friends too so it all gives a feeling of family and love. When the five of us get together sometimes maybe Kim will bake cookies and we’ll all just act stupid and we’ll just have a lot of fun that helps with just our chemistry and playing music. I guess the challenge is sometimes yeah females we can get a little you know… but we ultimately work out our problems and difficulties. We solve our differences by talking out loud and share how we feel. Sometimes it is difficult being in a band and musicians might have differences and so we try to hang on to the bigger picture. We know we have something special and it’s like any relationship; you don’t want to throw it away over some really little detail and so you have to work it out.
SP: Where do you see Cave Women in five years?
KD: I feel like we have to start immediately and just travel. See the world and experience different cities and their culture because it’s been great to live here in Sacramento but I think I can say for all of us that we’re all ready to just go see the world and I think we all just want to create music and that’s our primary focus.
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