The past few weeks have been a blur of pretty harmonies, rehearsals, and excitement for The Salty Caramels. The release show for the indie-Americana band’s second full-length, “Baby Blue,” was on August 25 at King Avenue 5. Afterward, all four women joked that hosting a big show is like “planning a really big party.”
The album was received with excitement; nearly 150 people came out to the show, and although the band was surprised that certain songs were popular, “Baby Blue” has sold (and pre-sold) well.
“[“Beer and Lemonade”] is an outlier. It doesn’t fit the theme, but people are loving it,” said Sarah Overdier.
The tone of “Baby Blue” stemmed from a song that the four band members co-wrote. Instead of their usual strategy of writing individually, much of this album was a collective effort, built from bits and pieces of each musician’s ideas to become cohesive in both story and sound.
The women get their inspiration from anywhere possible. Frontwoman Molly Winters, who wrote “Safe,” said in an interview with In The Record Store that she was in a good place emotionally. Her relationships weren’t as messy as they had previously been, which was a major source of creativity in the past. But while on a work trip in Los Angeles, she got into a cab with a reckless driver and felt the terror of putting her life into someone else’s hands, an experience which inspired “Safe.”
Musically, “Baby Blue” is far more polished than “Damn Good Woman,” the band’s first release. The Salty Caramels have grown in maturity, with each woman improving their respective talents as well as blending as a band – especially with their “buttery 3-part harmonies.”
Although it’s difficult to put a label on the sound, it feels close to retro rock. No two songs are alike: “Beer and Lemonade” has a country swing, but “Nighttime Song” is a soft indie rock lullaby. Whimsical instruments like the glockenspiel and Emily Ng’s musical saw add a quirky quality, but Winters classifies the album by which guitar she uses most; in this case, instead of the folky feeling she gets from acoustic, she spent far more time with her electric guitar.
The women were more organized this time around, too; instead of scrambling to get CDs shipped and vinyl records pressed, everything was finished nearly a month before the album’s August release.
Recording this album took about six days of studio time, broken up into three weekends over the course of several months, but now that it has finally been released, they can relax during the holidays – especially helpful as Winters is pregnant with her second child.
Winters is the only current member of the band to also be on the original lineup. In 2012, founder Molly Winters was looking for a new group. She saw Sarah Overdier, who had played a show with the “old” Salty Caramels, playing at an open stage at Woodlands Tavern and asked her to join. From there, Winters knew Emily Ng from her band Super Desserts and ran into Paige Vandiver at a show, and the new girl group was born.
“We’ve all grown a lot together, both personally and with music,” said Vandiver, who plays drums in The Salty Caramels. Being in a band together for five years has allowed The Salty Caramels to become a tightly-knit group – so close, in fact, that all three were bridesmaids in Winters’s wedding – and that bond bleeds into their “salty and sweet” sound.
Besides their friendship, being an all-female band has its advantages and disadvantages. The quartet can explore different vocal techniques and traditionally “feminine” themes like vulnerability. They’re able to cover a wide range of emotion, from “salty” to sweet, but people tend to treat them differently because they’re a band full of women. Sometimes, people will talk about The Salty Caramels not for their talent but instead, because they’re all girls.
“Just because I’m capable, it becomes like, ‘Oh, look at that girl! She can read! And she plays bass! And she has a full-time job!’” said Ng. Although an all-female band is not as rare as it may seem, listeners tend to treat it like an anomaly. The band has played off of that novelty in the past, but it can be frustrating for people to treat The Salty Caramels as though they’re special for simply being women who know how to play instruments instead of recognizing their legitimate talent.
However, the power of representation is still important to all four women. Vandiver remembers watching The Bangles growing up and realizing that she could make music, too – and that empowerment is still relevant because the music industry continues to be skewed in favor of men.
“We play to a lot of little kids. Some of the people that come out and watch us are kids, and to see some of those dads and moms say, ‘Hey, see that girl over there? She’s playing the drums. You can play the drums,’” said Vandiver as the other three women nodded vehemently. “It’s a good feeling.”
Above all else, The Salty Caramels stressed the importance of everyone who’s helped them along the way to “Baby Blue”. The support from friends, family, and fans has been immense, and they’ve had plenty of help from other local musicians and organizations like Columbus Makes Art, CD102.5, and even Jeni’s Ice Cream – after asking for permission to name the band after Jeni’s Salty Caramel ice cream and getting their support, The Salty Caramels hosted a show at the Dublin location to celebrate the release of “Baby Blue”.
“This music scene here, I’ve never seen anything like it. They’re so supportive of local artists,” said Vandiver. “We’ve had so much support along the way,” Winters added as the women nodded in agreement.
Originally published in Issue 3, Vol. 1 of In The Record Store: The Magazine on October 20, 2017.