In the middle of the night, nestled in a quiet Carson City suburb, Raksha Paksha rocks out with their show opening song, “Such a Beautiful Life.”
Raksha Paksha could easily sound like the name of a Hindu deity or a Russian insult. Instead, it’s a local mother-daughter duo, composed of Carolyn Gates on drums and her daughter Shaolin on piano and vocals.
The name came from Shaolin’s childhood.
“When Shaolin was about 3, she began speaking in her own language, sometimes mistaken for Russian, in which she was Raksha Paksha,” said Carolyn.
The duo’s set list is a variety of original music and covers.
The musical sound of Raksha Paksha is characterized by a pulsing rock foundation on drums, rhythmic, percussive piano melodies, and rich vocals reminiscent of Alanis Morissette mixed with a little Ingrid Michaelson. The end result is an indie pop rock sound infused with major jazz influences, but exudes the intimacy and thoughtfulness of the singer-songwriter genre.
“[We’re] like a happier Fiona Apple, or a depressed Lake Street Dive,” said Shaolin. “We are trying to be angry girl piano rock, but we’re both too goofy.”
Outside of Raksha Paksha, Mama Gates has been the drummer of local indie rock group, Blunderbusst, as well as fronting a heavier group, Betty Rocker, while Shaolin found her start in school bands, going on to be classically trained in flute.
The culmination of these experiences has afforded them with a vastly diverse body of music to pull inspiration from. This, along with their instrumentation and closeness defines Raksha Paksha’s presence.
Their relationship as mother and daughter is a bond that is so strong and personal, it is as if there’s a perpetual inside joke being whispered in each other’s ears. It would almost feel intrusive to watch them, if they weren’t so welcoming. It’s the shared dynamism that enhances both their stage presence and the fluidity between the uncommon pairing of simply piano and drums.
Sitting down with the pair in their self-proclaimed “spinster heaven,” in a living room overflowing with musical instruments, cozy furniture, and a television where they watch British murder mysteries, one would be hard-pressed to miss the similarities between the Gates women. With their shared bright smiles, and off-kilter humor, the two are essentially the Gilmore Girls, if they were musically inclined.
“[My favorite part] of playing together is just being together, and sharing our souls,” said Carolyn. “And also knocking something over, falling down and making a joke about it all.”
Right now, Raksha Paksha is working on a concept album of original music centered around the singular concept of first love. The songs represent a unity between buoyancy and gravitas in their music, constantly flowing back and forth between serious themes and melodies to upbeat, lively flavors.
Lyrically, their songs follow a fictitious character named Babybird, on her trajectory through an archetypal unstable relationship, a story born out of their own personal experiences with failed relationships.
Being able to draw inspiration from their own lives and translate that into their music, has been a positive, emotionally purgative journey for Raksha Paksha, and one that they hope for audiences to share with them.
“Most of all, I hope that listeners will find it a thoughtful expression of the small things in life that appeared far too large at the time,” said Shaolin. “I hope that the weary will find solace, the frustrated, catharsis, and the casual listener, a fresh new perspective and a few moments of fun.”