Atypical Summer Girlfriends

By Sophia Coleman

Nothing goes better with warm weather than the swift beats of surf-rock, an ice-cold beer and, of course, Summer Girlfriends.

With Caitlin Kerr on vocals, kazoo and tambourine, Nicole Freeland on drums, Sara Bassick on bass, and Kristin Marks and Nikita Flaiz on guitar, the quintet has secured a spot in the city’s music scene with its pop and rock sound. The all-babe band has been named by numerous publications as one of the top local bands to watch and finished fourth out of 800 at JanSport’s national Battle of the Bands.

The Chronicle chatted with Kerr to discover the group’s inspirations, what she thinks of the Chicago music scene and how it feels to be in an all-girl band.

The Chronicle: When did Summer Girlfriends form, and how did you come together?

Caitlin Kerr: We formed in January 2011. We all knew each other through friends, boyfriends and husbands. We had all talked about being in a band, and Nikita said something about a New Year’s resolution to start a band, so we decided to start making music.

The Chronicle: Why the name Summer Girlfriends?

CK: We originally were called Canadian Girlfriends, but we had to change our name because a local band had a name close to it, [My Canadian Girlfriend]. We decided it was just easier to change our name than fight it. Summer Girlfriends was the best next thing. We chose it because of the idea that everyone remembers their first summer girlfriend, and we want fans to

remember us.

The Chronicle: What would you say is the band’s motto?

CK: Our motto is basically fun. We play music because we enjoy it and we hope people have fun while listening to us. Not all of us have been in a band before, so it’s kind of a fresh slate for us.

The Chronicle: How would you describe your sound?

CK: Our sound is summer-esque. It’s danceable, poppy and fun, and it has a surfy undertone. But we also have this quality about us that we describe as “Goth beach party,” which is darker and more

nitty-gritty.

The Chronicle: What and who are some of your inspirations?

CK: We draw inspirations from all over. I would say the ’60s surfy music and the ’50s pop girl bands [like The Chantels] are an influence. When we are writing, we don’t have one specific style that we are thinking of. We are all into different music, so it all comes together in a unique way.

The Chronicle: What music do you like in particular?

CK: As for current music, I am a big fan of Wahili and Girls. Locally, Cave is really awesome. Our friends Outer Minds are really great. Obviously, I love the classics, like the Rolling Stones, Queen and all those great bands. I like the Crystals. But I also like classical music. I’m kind of all over the board.

The Chronicle: What have you been working on lately?

CK: We are releasing our first record, “Shockwaves,” on vinyl and digitally on June 5. We are going out the first week in June on a little tour, and then we come back to set up a record release show.

The Chronicle: What do you like and dislike about the Chicago music scene?

CK: I don’t dislike anything about it, but I wish people would recognize it a little bit more. I think Lollapalooza and Pitchfork are bringing Chicago to the bigger stage in the music industry. I would hope that the scene here gets the recognition it deserves. All the musicians I know are extremely supportive of each other and there’s a lot of diversity in the scene here, so we are really lucky to have that.

The Chronicle: There doesn’t seem to be that many all-girl groups anymore, at least ones that get a lot of attention. Why do you think you five have done so well, and what does it mean to be in a group of all women?

CK: We aren’t trying to be anything. We are doing it because we enjoy it. When we write our music, we are being ourselves. We are fresh, clean and fun. That might be why we have made it.

Summer Girlfriends are opening for The Hollows record release show May 17 at Subterranean, 2011 North Ave. The show starts at 9:00 p.m. and tickets are $8. For more information on the band, visit its Facebook page.

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