By Andrew Gatti
When you get to the bottom of it, people want to be successful, comfortable, and pursue fulfillment. Although, fulfillment exists as an enigma that adapts moment to moment--depending on the individual. What you thought would make your life complete five years ago might have nothing to do with what you are working towards now.
An artist might begin making a painting as a cathartic or 'necessary' exercise for personal reasons, but the image they generate is ultimately intended for others to look upon. Creations come from the self and are expressed with the intent and reliance on a relationship with 'the other.' This idea applies to all fields of expression, whether it is art, music, writing, architecture, design, or something else. Creative individuals make content that is to be consumed (in the sense of being understood.) Musicians put together an amalgamation of sounds and rhythms that express their desired intent. They hope the pejorative listener will examine intently, understand, and achieve an emotional response to it. That response might elicit joy, pain, despondency, frustration, empathy, nostalgia, anything really.
We take music for granted, especially now. The pandemic emphasized how important music is to all of our emotional well-being, but it became apparent that the in-person aspect of it was not always an option (at least for a little while).
Music is essential to the cultural expression of a time and place and emulating that zeitgeist in an authentic and translatable way. It was much more challenging to discover music that wasn't pushed on you through mainstream media even ten years ago. One route to find new artists was through live performances. You might be going to see a headliner and end up loving the opening act. Live music is sort of irreplaceable.
Some communities put a greater emphasis on it. Some places are known for their music scene. Like Nashville, Austin, NY, LA. As a smaller market, Savannah doesn't have the same gravity for touring acts as some of the bigger cities, but that isn’t the end all be all.
Savannah seems to struggle with its sense of identity a little bit. It grapples with a need to feed into the inoffensive and global appeal to maintain its status as a tourist destination as the "Hostess City;" while simultaneously propagating an authentic local community.
Live music improves a place for the locals as much as for tourists. A thriving music scene is a net positive for a city's metaphorical health and well-being. It creates opportunities for people to engage with each other, increases social interactions, and ultimately breeds a stronger sense of community. It stimulates the economy by drawing in visitors and providing events and activities for locals and visitors alike. It increases brand awareness and interaction for the musicians, the venues, and the city. Most of all, it makes a place feel youthful, contemporary and makes the area feel 'lived in.'
Basically Nancy, a homegrown Savannah punk rock trio, is a local group actively trying to change our scene. The group was formed in 2018 by members Alayna Bowen on bass and vocals, Esther Hines on drums, and Greta Schroeder on guitar and vocals. Semi-recent graduates of the Savannah Arts Academy. The group broke out onto the scene, headlining the GenNext competition at the Savannah Stopover festival in 2018.
A band can be a fragile system because it isn't a cohesive family unit; it’s a collection of individual collaborators who have their own lives that often pull them in different directions. Sometimes, it's common for a band to fall apart for commonplace, undramatic reasons. People are constantly figuring out their lives, plans, and what they need to do to accomplish their goals. The band is no longer the priority, and that's perfectly okay. Basically Nancy faced some of those very issues as the band essentially dissolved for one reason or another. Fortunately for the listeners, though, the pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity to reunite the band.
“Covid is the reason we became a band again. Before that, we were all living in separate areas with plans to stay out of Savannah; when we all were kinda stuck here, we started taking our music way more seriously and realized we could seriously pursue this,” says Basically Nancy.
The group primarily finds influence from Riot Grrrl bands like Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, Violent Femmes, and Heavens to Betsy. For those who might be unfamiliar, Riot Grrrl is a mid 90's music movement originally from the PNW as a reanimation of punk rock with a heavy feminist thematic undertone. The movement voices female empowerment, criticisms of the patriarchy, classism and addresses previously underrepresented and somewhat uncomfortable topics such as domestic abuse, rape, and sexuality. Their lyrical themes and grungy garage-band sound are reflective of that movement.
As of late, Basically Nancy has been performing in town--as well as in nearby cities. They've made a concerted effort to have more live shows since the pandemic restrictions have relaxed. They had no less than seven shows in seven months, claiming they love it and want to do this full time. Recently they were focused on recording an album with all original content. When I sat down with the badass girl band, they shared that they are constantly writing new material, but they also wanted to re-work a few of their older tracts. They finished recording the new LP at Elevated Basement Studios with Kevin Rose, to release under Graveface Records label in the near future, likely this fall.
“We love the Savannah music scene and are all about helping it grow and making it more inclusive overall...we love playing any show associated with Graveface, and El Rocko [Lounge] has had us play since the beginning, so they have a special place in our hearts. But we’ve also never had a bad experience with any venue in Savannah & are generally down to play most places,” explained the band.
Basically Nancy is doing something worthwhile, and I hope they continue exploring their sound, creating new music, and performing locally. The more I listen to their hearty sounds; the more their genuine authenticity resonates with me. With time and experience, the band has become more fluid and relaxed. They’ve truly come into their own, rising to both meet and exceed the bar they set as a fledgling group a couple of years back. I am eagerly looking forward to their upcoming LP release.
Music is a weird ephemeral translation of emotions and ideas through auditory vibrations in harmonious resonances, measured and controlled in rhythmic cadences. There are driving and lulling melodic protagonists guiding us through the story or crux of the author's concept. It is a temporal presentation of an idea, which has been crucial to our cultural being throughout human history.
In today's interconnected world, we, as individuals, have the opportunity to reach audiences at a tremendous scale, never before seen in history, but the problem is, so can everybody else. It is easy to get lost in the noise unless you figure out how to stand out. We should want our local groups to make it big, as they are cultural representatives of our collective ethos.