Evolution of sound
The members of CAVE Women combine formal study and many influences into an eclectic gypsy-jazz sound
The members of CAVE Women played together only a few months before recording their first EP—the idea at the time was to create a platform to get more gigs and get known around town.
Funny thing is that in the year since its release, says flutist Kim Davis, the band’s actually become just that: a band.
CAVE Women’s self-titled debut full-length album, set for a November 15, release, reflects that transformation.
“We’ve learned so much—[how] to be a performer,” Davis says. “We’ve figured out how to connect with each other and the audience. We’ve learned how to communicate ideas musically.”
Not that any of the band’s members, who vary in age from 21 to 28, would have been considered unseasoned before. Each is formally trained and each boasts an impressive résumé.
CAVE Women formed in 2011 when Casey Lipka (vocals, stand-up bass, mbira), Alicyn Yaffee (vocals, guitar), Vanessa Cruz (drums) and Emily Messick (vocals, piano and accordion) bonded over a shared love for the jazz and folk singer Becca Stevens.
“We were totally inspired—she has an accordion in her group!” says Lipka.
The four debuted as CAVE Women (the name is an acronym of the first letter of each of their first names), playing a handful of jazz and folk covers during Ross Hammond’s weekly Nebraska Mondays series at Luna’s Café & Juice Bar.
Soon after, a friend of Lipka’s offered to record CAVE Women.
That’s when the band tapped Davis to join.
“We loved Kim’s compositions, and so we said, ’Let’s go record some original music,’” Lipka says.
The resulting eponymous five-song EP featured a songwriting credit for each member and, Lipka says,”ultimately brought us together.”
Of course, they’d long been following a similar path. Lipka, Yaffee, Cruz and Davis all met while studying music at Sacramento State University and all played regularly around town. Cruz, who studied at The New School in New York City, was also a fixture on the scene, performing with the likes of the Harley White Jr. Orchestra.
Now, with all five sharing songwriting duties, the quintet’s music reflects eclectic and esoteric influences. The variety of instruments makes for a sound tinged with classical, jazz and gypsy folk as well as African and Brazilian pop.
But while on paper it may seem as if it’s all over the map—globally, musically, thematically—the music’s nevertheless well-crafted and cohesive.
“In some respects, [songwriting] is really a challenge,” Davis says. “We do have different ideas and interpretations.”
The band takes an organic approach, she says.
“One of us writes a song … and we just play through it. The more you play it, the more you can figure out where things should go.”
For its new album, CAVE Women worked with local producer Pat Olguin, taking its time in the studio to create an experience decidedly more deliberate than the EP session.
Songs such as “Blizzard” and “Under Willow the Tree” reflect a seductive jazz-chanteuse ethos, while tracks such “Counting Sheep” and “With You” recall a swingy, sultry Astrud Gilberto bossa nova.
More time in the studio as well as more time logged as a band made for a fully realized sound, Lipka says.
“You can just imagine what can happen in a year,” she says. “We’ve all written new songs, we’ve played more than 50 shows—our cohesiveness as a group and our compositions have changed over time. It’s just a natural evolution.”