Cathy Santonies rock Chicago

By Brianna Wellen

Punk rock female band The Cathy Santonies have worked to prove they can play as well as the men—if not better—by bringing the riot grrrl sounds of underground culture to the forefront. Radio Santoni, on bass and lead vocals, and guitarist Mojo Santoni started as garage band singer/songwriters and hit their stride in the past year and a half when guitarist Jane Danger and drummer Chip completed their outfit.

After playing shows around Chicago, the group took a three-month hiatus from the live circuit to write and record their first full-length album. The Chronicle caught up with the band to talk about their musical themes, being females in the industry and playing with Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo.

The Chronicle: Where did the name The Cathy Santonies come from?

Mojo Santoni: She was a character on “Full House;” she was D.J.’s nemesis. She was a pretty small character they just talk about. You never really see her. They’re just always like, “Cathy Santoni’s having a party, and you’re not invited,” “Cathy Santoni’s got boobs” or something like that. She was kind of an a-hole, but we’re not a-holes.

The Chronicle: What has working on your first full-length album been like?

Jane Danger: It’s been really great. For a while there, we were in a dry spell with our songwriting. We didn’t have a lot of new songs going on. Having jobs and playing live shows doesn’t lend a lot of time for creation. We had ideas, but we didn’t have the time to get together and actively work on them. We took the last three months off from playing shows this winter and hunkered down in our secretive lair. We’ve been working on more and more new songs.

The Chronicle: What themes are across the album so far?

Radio Santoni: I think the record itself will be called “21st Century Girl.” It’s sort of about being true to yourself, finding out who you really are and everyone being honest

with themselves.

JD: We want to be an encouraging band and think in those ways, kind of lead by example and give people, not faith or hope, but confidence they can work their direction like we’re trying to do.

The Chronicle: Do you feel a responsibility to represent female musicians in Chicago?

RS: I kind of do because I know there are stereotypes that [females] can’t play rock music or be loud. In the meantime, I don’t want to constantly be worrying about it.

JD: There’s always that bias not just in music but in general. Like, [women aren’t] allowed to be a certain way or say certain things. I think in Chicago it’s great to be able to voice that and have the freedom to do so, but there’s always that opposition. It’s not totally conscious in everything we do but it’s unavoidable. We show up at a show and the sound guys will treat us in a different way or even at certain music retail stores they’ll say, “Oh, are these guitar strings for your boyfriend?” They don’t really treat you as a peer. It’s kind of difficult, but you’ve got to ignore it because you want to do what you want to do.

The Chronicle: Do you think playing with Rivers Cuomo on “Sound Opinions” on NPR got your name out there?

MS: I actually thought [we] would get more of a response than we did. It was a lot of fun. Rivers Cuomo was super nice. We definitely made a lot of Weezer songs our own. We worked really hard on it, and it turned out really well. But the response really wasn’t as big as I thought it would be.

JD: It would’ve been great to have people say, “Oh wow, look at these superstars!” But Rivers … treated us nicely. It was great to have that opportunity, but it wasn’t like now we’re super famous.

MS: The biggest effect I saw from that was we really learned how to play together a little better. We spent all of our free time working on those songs. It really helped us out as musicians and as songwriters to figure out somebody else’s songs.

The Cathy Santonies will play at the Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Feb. 17 at 9:30 p.m. To hear a sample of the band’s music, click here.