By Nolan Ford
Just north of Santa Barbara in the hills of Goleta there is magic in the air. Citrus and avocado trees grow in abundance as the ocean waves crash softly on the California shore. Somewhere in this area you’ll find a ranch where a group of farmers, musicians, and other artistic people reside. Within this commune is a group of fem who have identified themselves as The Rainbow Girls.
The group traces its origin overseas to where founding members, Caitlin Gowdey and Erin Chapin, busked in the streets of Italy under the moniker Red and Yellow. The duo was able to make enough money to cover their travel and wine expenses, but eventually had to return to America. When they got home they realized they wanted to add more voices and instruments to fill out their sound.
Currently the group is up to six members, each identified by their own unique color. The full lineup is: Caitlin Gowdey (red), Erin Chapin (yellow), Cheyenne Methmann (green), Vanessa May (violet), Savannah Hughes (blue), and Hannah Jewell (orange).
Erin explained, “We all pretty much met through an open mic called ‘Bean Night’ that we had at our house that was called the Rainbow House in Isla Vista.”
Although Caitlin, Erin, Cheyenne, and Vanessa mainly handle the vocal duties, each one of the Rainbow Girls are capable of playing a variety of different instruments such as accordion, violin, washboard, and banjolele to name a few. But it wasn’t until a second trip to Europe in Summer 2011 that the women considered themselves a professional act.
“That’s something that really got us kick started as a band,” said Cheyanne. “While we were out in Europe we were able to travel together and all perform on the streets and make money together and we became really tight as a group.”
The girls are well known for their street performances and acoustic sound, but more recently they have adapted their act for a more amplified environment.
“Now we have a full electric set as well as an acoustic set so we can busk in any city we go to and make money in the streets to pay for gas and then when we play shows, we play with a drum kit and a bass and all of our instruments plugged in,” shared Erin. “It’s really fun and it’s really diverse.”
The Rainbow Girls sing with great passion and the lyrical content of their songs is equally powerful. They feel strongly about people having a free imagination and allowing themselves to be creative. There are also recurring themes of not admitting yourself to big culture, which they refer to as the “Omni-eye” in one of their songs. Caitlin went on to explain how this concept is especially important to them as artists and as women.
“I think since we’re all girls, we’re all really big on reaching women and particularly our younger generation. To be a female musician you don’t need to be a pop star or be just a singer. The idea that women really are incredibly capable of playing instruments…it’s kind of not as seen as we would like it to be.”
The Rainbow Girls have been on tour three times this year so far and this Sunday’s show at the Origami Lounge is a stop on a fourth excursion towards Seattle. The band also frequents San Francisco where they recently shared their vocals alongside the Tumbleweed Wanderers at the Fillmore opening for Jackie Greene. It seems like things are happening pretty fast for these talented young women. They’ve certainly put in the work, so it’ll be exciting to see what unfolds for them in the coming years.
The Rainbow Girls will perform this Sunday, December 9th at the Origami Lounge along with The Railflowers, Pat Hull, and Perpetual Drifters. This all-ages show begins at 7PM and is charging a sliding scale of $6-10 at the door.