Women Bring Strong Voices to Local Music Scene

by John Downey '23 on March 18, 2021
A&E Co-Editor

Arts & Entertainment

Leading Groups to Explore New Sounds Fearlessly

by Jack Downey ’23 A&E Staff

PHOTO COURTESY OF JACK DOWNEY ’23 / THE COWL Late Night Trip at Jefferson Bear Cottage. From left: Karla Gonzalez (bass, vocals), Lili Klayman (drums), Gwen Babalato (guitar, vocals), Kenzie Waters (guitar). River Cabot-Dobson (keys) is off-camera.

Women have had a difficult time in music. Whether their music is relegated to being a “guilty pleasure,” they are paid less than their male peers, or they are subjected to sexism and sexual harassment, a lot of female musicians face a higher mountain to climb than their male counterparts. This is a shame because there are so many fantastic female musicians who deserve far more credit than they get. This goes for all genres of music, ranging from pop (Taylor Swift, Beyoncé) to folk (Joni Mitchell) to metal (Halestorm) and beyond. Rhode Island is no exception. Throughout the state, female-fronted bands and female musicians are making great music, and many are quickly making a name for themselves.

An example of one of these bands is Late Night Trip. Formed in the fall of 2019, LNT is an indie rock/shoegaze five-piece based out of the University of Rhode Island. The band is composed of Gwen Babalato, vocals and guitar; Karla Gonzalez, bass and vocals; Kenzie Waters, guitar; River Cabot-Dobson, keys; and Lili Klayman, drums. The band has made a name for themselves by creating a swirling cloud of brilliant melodies and groovy songs that shimmer and glow. Their sound is hypnotic and entrancing while at times slower and wider, seen prominently in their single “Auntie Orca.” The guitars wave in and out, conjuring an image of looking into a moonlit pool. The keys ascend and descend in the background, creating an atmosphere that brings to mind sitting on a porch on a quiet evening in the suburbs. This peace is enhanced by the gentle drums and the melodic bass, with the vocals gliding over the instruments like a bird across the sunset. Aside from the songs that they have on SoundCloud, LNT have an EP titled Unfurnished that is scheduled for release soon.

Another Providence-based band, The Benji’s, is also fronted by a woman. Based around the main duo of Maryssa Morse on keys and vocals and Philip Geronimo on guitar, the band brings the washed-out, dreamy vibes of California’s music scene to the East Coast in a refreshing way. Geronimo’s reverb-soaked guitars perfectly compliment Morse’s silky voice and atmospheric synths. Their songs invoke a feeling of summer no matter the tone. The song “Sure I Can Stand It” off of their 2015 release EP 1 is a perfect example of this. At first, the song sounds almost menacing, with Morse’s vocals slithering over a rumbling bassline. However, once the drums and guitars kick in, the sun bursts out from behind the clouds and the listener is transported right to the beach. With their deft and talented approach to surf and indie rock, The Benji’s stand out in Rhode Island’s rather landlocked music scene. 

Local legends grizzlies. also deserve a mention. Featuring Cynthia Munrayos on vocals, Emily Iwuc on keys, Josh Zenil on guitar, Mike Villani on bass, and Harrison Reed Dolan on drums, grizzlies. is an absolute powerhouse. Munrayos’s vocals command attention. Her smokey and expressive voice perfectly complements the band’s jazzy indie rock, which grooves and rocks along in mysterious and enticing ways. “Ain’t Even A Thing,” the lead track off of their 2019 EP hibernation., exemplifies this perfectly, featuring passionate vocals from Munrayos and excellent musicianship. At 2:18 in the song, the music transitions from a funky, rolling indie rock tune to a ballad in 6/8 time. While all the instruments are shining here, the guitar solo from Zenil and the drumming from Dolan both stand out, with the former’s dual guitar harmonies and the latter’s polyrhythms on the ride cymbal creating a truly emotional experience. Grizzlies.’ music takes risks without coming across as self-indulgent, and that is truly something to respect.

These are only a few of the many female-fronted bands doing amazing things in Rhode Island. However, hopefully this shortlist provides even just a glimpse of some of the talented women musicians so close to Providence College’s own campus.