It is said that a kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. Preparing this story was a sincere, sobering and inspiring experience. It is a music based story, but it is also about the human experience.
The Los Angeles-based band Go Betty Go broke into the Southern California punk scene after releasing their debut EP “Worst Enemy” in 2004, with the single “C’mon” receiving heavy rotation on indie station 103.1 FM.
Following the popularity of this EP, along with a growing fan base at their shows, Go Betty Go released their full length studio album in 2005. “Nothing Is More” contained fan favorite songs such as “Saturday,” “The Pirate Song,” and the Cali anthem, “I’m From L.A.”
The band takes its name from guitarist Betty Cisneros, as they used to cheer her on by chanting, “Go, Betty, Go!” In heartbreaking news, the band recently posted on social media that Cisneros was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, with medical bills mounting… a GoFundMe was set up. I spoke with drummer Aixa Vilar to get an update on Betty, and also to discuss the upcoming benefit show they are having to help raise funds.
Kevin Gomez: Hi Aixa. Happy to be speaking with you. I wanted to start by getting your origin story. What part of Cali are you from?
Aixa Vilar: We are from Glendale, so part of L.A. County. And when I say “we” I mean Nicolette, my sister and lead singer of Go Betty Go. We actually went to school with Betty pretty much from elementary to high school, but only really got to know her later in life. It just worked out perfectly: I played drums, Betty played guitar, and my sister loved singing. Our friend was like, “You know Betty lives down the street from you guys.”
KG: So it sounds like you guys hit it off right away. Did you immediately form a band?
AV: Yeah, in fact, I remember Betty didn’t even know we were a band yet when we landed our first gig. (laughs) I remember being so scared to call the first club owner to try and book a show. I was really nervous and asked if we could play and he said, “Yeah, that sounds great.” (laughs) I was way more intimidated than I needed to be. But yeah, we eventually found Michelle (Rangel) to play bass and we’ve been the same band for 20 years now, with a few hiatuses. And my sister left for a little while to go to art school and Michelle left to be a mom for a few years. But then we decided to get back together in 2012 and we’ve been together ever since.
GO BETTY GO
Los Angeles, California
KG: I knew Nicolette left for a little bit, and I imagine losing a lead singer for a band is really hard, but what was that like having your sister leave?
AV: It was really hard. And honestly… when I say she went to art school, that was kind of a late decision after departing the band. It was like, “Well, what do I do now?” There was actually a lot of tension in the band, between us at that point. We were literally on a tour with MxPx in Arizona at the time and before she went on she told us, “Guys, I can’t do this anymore.” And she quit right there. Her boyfriend drove from L.A. to pick her up and we had to drop off the rest of the tour. At the time, it was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever been through. But when you’re in a band and you’re trapped in a van for 24 hours a day, there is so much stress on everyone. Then you add in the fact that you’re sisters who love each other dearly, but fight like any other sisters. But I love her more than anything and having her back with the band means the world to me.
KG: I remember watching a video of you guys from 2019 and Nicolette introduces the song, “C’mon” by saying, “This is a song about the fight between sisters, but you make up!” and you started laughing.
AV: (laughs) Yes, that is true. We’re not just sisters, but we grew up so close together. We’re only a year and nine months apart in age. We shared a room growing up. I remember we had just graduated and Nicolette was getting ready to travel to Europe. So, she was packing her things and she ended up packing some of my things. And it seems so petty now, but she took my compact. (laughs) And you do not take a teenage girl’s compact! (laughs) So that’s what the song was written about, but also, it’s about moving on and realizing that your sister is the most important person in the world to you. So, to not let things like that upset you, and forgiveness.
KG: I’ll always try to remember that part and not about Aixa and Nicolette fighting. (laughs) What were some of your earliest musical influences, and then later on, who are some of the people that inspired you to pick up a pair of drumsticks?
AV: To be honest, they are kind of one and the same. My dad was always a big fan of rock ‘n’ roll, so he was the one who introduced me into The Police and The Clash. Stewart Copeland (of The Police) was always my favorite drummer. I remember being in the car when my mom dropped off my dad at Dodger Stadium to see Depeche Mode. And then years later when The Police had a reunion, I believe also at Dodger Stadium, my dad and I went to go see them and it was amazing.
KG: Go Betty Go’s last album was 2015’s “Reboot.” Are there any plans to record a follow up?
AV: Well, that kind of takes us to where we are now. We originally had plans to enter the studio February of 2020, and then the world shut down on us. So, we had been wanting to go back, but the producer we wanted to work with, Davey Warsop (from the band Sharp Shock), was super backed up. He’s been producing a lot of great albums recently, including engineering and working on Bad Cop/Bad Cop’s last album, “The Ride.”
She went on… We were a couple of weeks into recording and Betty was really not feeling right. She had been sick for a while and finally went to see a doctor and she received the devastating news that she had stage 4 cancer. She’s just such an incredibly strong person the doctors couldn’t believe that she had not been in yet because it must have been excruciating pain she was going through. But that’s just who she is. Since then, her primary focus has just been on getting well and healing up. That’s the only thing she should needs to be concerned with. But as is a common problem in this country her hospital bills have been piling up, even with what her insurance has been able to cover. That’s the last thing she should be worrying about right now, which is why we set up the GoFundMe for her and have the upcoming benefit show in her honor.
KG: It’s what you are affectionately calling “Fight Betty Fight.” Can you tell me some more about it?
AV: It’s going to be Sunday, July 3rd at The Paramount in Los Angeles. We are going to be playing. Our friends the Dollyrots have actually moved to Florida, but they are going to fly up just to play this show for Betty. Jennie Cotterill and Linh Le from Bad Cop/Bad Cop are going to be playing an acoustic set, as well as Johnny Madcap and The Distractions. All proceeds go straight to supporting Betty’s medical and personal finances during this challenging time. Our friend Adam Bones, of The Two Tens and a couple of other bands, is going to be filling in for Betty for the time being.
KG: Wow, that sounds incredible. I know a lot of people will want to know how she’s doing and are concerned about her.
AV: She’s been so overwhelmed at the outpouring of messages and emails and phone calls from friends and fans. She’s really touched and so blown away at how many people have been asking about her and how many people have already contributed to the GoFundMe so far. It means the world to her. But just let everyone know she’s strong, she’s a fighter, and this is her only focus right now is beating this thing and making it back to playing with us again. We’ll keep holding it down and doing everything we can to help her out and play for her until she’s back with us.