Camp song ladies
Buttercup has been officially together for about a year and a half, but the band’s inception can be placed years earlier. Back when the three members were still in high school, they talked about having a band and would often drive around together singing songs. The Foundations’ hit “Build Me Up, Buttercup” was a particular favorite. Some things have changed since then—the three now play instruments and perform publicly as well as in automobiles. But it’s fitting that the story of this band begins with such a shamelessly nerdy anecdote, since Buttercup embodies the silly joy of making music, amateurishness in the best sense of the word.
“None of us are seriously trained musicians,” say Megan Berner, drummer for the band. The group also features guitarist Jeanne Jo and Megan’s twin sister, Melanie, on bass. Megan and Jeanne were formerly in Dirty Mouth and The Oubliettes, while this is the first band Melanie has played in. The three have been trying to enlist their roommate Kate to play keyboards, but so far she has declined, citing the fact that she doesn’t know how to play keyboards—as if that were any excuse. All three sing, and they write all their songs, even the lyrics, collaboratively.
When asked to describe their music, they produce short phrases such as “kind of poppy” (Megan), “kind of cute” (Melanie), “not too rambunctious” (Megan), “it’s sweet music” (Melanie), until Jeanne comes out with “pop-driven quiet rock music,” settling the matter. Among their influences, they mention the all-female pop punk group Cub and ‘60s groups such as The Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. Their music is reminiscent of early punk bands like The Modern Lovers, The Ramones and The Talking Heads. Like Buttercup, these were groups of naïve amateurs who made exciting music because they were excited to be making music. Their music also was poppy and kind of cute.
Buttercup’s one CD is a split with Dirty Mouth and The Oubliettes. The disc features six of their songs, only one of which is longer than three minutes. It’s a quick, sloppy and likable bunch of songs. The vocals are the focal point, with all three members of the band singing, often simultaneously. On one track, “Round and Round,” they even sing in a round.
“Somebody told us we should sing a cappella because we do a lot of vocals together,” says Megan.
Their disc does, in fact, close with an a cappella camp song, but the other tracks have drums, bass and a distorted electric rhythm guitar, which lends a slightly robotic feel, contrasting weirdly with the sunny vocal harmonies. The overall sound is small and compressed, like it should be listened to on a transistor radio.
The disc was recorded in a mere two hours in the house the band shares.
“It could have been better if we’d had more time, [but] it was fun,” says Jeanne. The technical shortcomings really aren’t important, since the fun they had making it is so infective.
“Everybody likes listening to our CD in their cars," Melanie says. And surely all those people in their cars sing along.