Hearing “C’mon, C’mon” from Go Betty Go always transports me back to 2005, listening to punk and indie from the early part of the millennium.
Their debut studio album “Nothing Is More” became synonymous with Southern California alternative music from the early 2000s as the band saw success playing headlining shows and several spots on the Warped Tour.
In 2022, the band was gearing up to record a follow-up to 2015’s “Reboot” when guitarist and founding member, Betty Cisneros was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.
Since then, the band has gone on to raise thousands of dollars to assist Cisneros with her mounting medical bills via a GoFundMe and a benefit concert, with all proceeds going directly to her. I spoke with lead singer Nicolette Vilar about Cisneros’ health and how the band got back into the studio to record their latest effort, “Black and Blue.”
Kevin: Nicolette, it’s great to talk with you. First and foremost, how is Betty doing lately?
Nicolette: Betty’s fighting her ass off. She’s got some really good days, and when we do get together, she’s staying really positive. It’s good to see her playing again when she’s feeling up to it, but chemo’s incredibly tough. It takes a toll on a person, but she’s strong and bouncing back in between sessions.
Kevin: I know with the surgeries and treatments, plus her overall health, it was difficult for her to record. Is she featured on every song on the album?
Nicolette: Yes, we’re so grateful to have had back in the studio. “Black and Blue” is a four-song EP and she plays on every song.
Kevin: She has said on social media that her hands go numb and at times it’s difficult to even hold a guitar, much less play. Was she able to overcome that?
Nicolette: We had to wait for the moments for her to feel better, so that she could come into the studio and play. In the beginning when we first recorded, it was right when she got her diagnosis, and she was at her worst. As the chemo came into play, in a weird way it sucked the life out of her but then when she got better, she felt better than ever. Except her hands needed to heal, and she’s the most critical of herself of anyone I’ve ever met. She’s like, “I’m having a hard time remembering this solo,” but then you watch her and she’s excellent.
Kevin: That makes sense from everything I’ve heard about her. When she first made the announcement about her diagnosis, she said she had gone on for several months in excruciating pain and just fought through it. The doctors were shocked she was still as active as she was, but she had just powered through it because she’s so tough and badass.
Nicolette: I know. I’m so proud of her. It just goes to show how tough she is. Even when we had gone on tour and played shows during this time, she would put on a brave face on stage, but she would tell us she wasn’t feeling good. We had an idea something was wrong, but we couldn’t have imagined it would be this.
Kevin: In times of hardship or crisis we see that it actually draws people closer together. Have you found that’s what happened here for Go Betty Go?
Nicolette: Absolutely. We’ve always been close as a band but there’s nothing like this state of true morality to hit you in the face that you realize how important our friendship is and all the work we’ve done. At the end of the day when the four of us look back at our past, the things that we’re most proud of are the things we created together, because it made us happy, and it’s made a lot of other people really happy. We have a beautiful body of work to be proud of. Even though the shows we had might have been small, there was always a few people that were so stoked to be there, traveled from far away, and our fans are so sweet and we’re so lucky to have them. We all appreciate them so much, and it’s brought us closer to them.
Kevin: You’ve built up a loyal fanbase and boy, did they ever come out for Fight Betty Fight (the benefit concert at the Paramount in Los Angeles last year).
Nicolette: When we asked for help, our fans really stepped up. And it’s just been a huge, huge blessing. Not just financially, of course, but also just showing Betty that she’s loved and supported, and everyone’s wishing her well. It’s made all the difference.
Kevin: Is it true the band got their name from you guys cheering on Betty in practice?
Nicolette: Yes. When we first started playing with Betty we were teenagers. When you meet someone as a kid and you fall in love as a friend, all you want to do is talk and gabbing. And Betty, she’s especially chatty, so Aixa (Vilar, Nicolette’s sister and Go Betty Go drummer) the super driven one would constantly be saying, “Go Betty, Go! Start the song!” (laughs) And Betty felt hesitant when we came up with the name. She’s like, “Why is it named after me? We’re a band.”
Kevin: I love that. I think it just shows her humility and that’s what she was concerned about.
Nicolette: Yeah, exactly. That’s just the kind of person she is. And it just fit as a name because I was a big fan of Betty Page at the time; and Chuck Berry in his song, “Johnny B. Goode,” when he sings, “Go, Johnny, Go.”
Kevin: Where does the album title “Black and Blue” come from?
Nicolette: I think it’s about being wounded. At one point I even played with the idea of coming from black to blue. It’s about our bodies and what happens when we get hurt.
Kevin: When I first listened to “Keep Up,” I feel like a lot of the struggles and health issues Betty faced over the past year come through. Do some of the other songs touch on similar themes?
Nicolette: Funny enough, these songs were written starting in 2018. It’s kind of weird and a little Twilight Zone-ish, how the lyrics I wrote back then came to fruition.
Kevin: Just as a sidenote, your vocals in the song’s outro around the three-minute mark gave me chills. It’s some of my favorite vocals you’ve done, and your emotions come through 100%. Was that a difficult song to record, both emotionally and physically?
Nicolette: Yes! Absolutely. There are songs in our set that I will put towards the end because I need to build up to them and that will definitely be one.
Kevin: I love the artwork for “Keep Up.” It almost looks like a tattoo design. Who designed that?
Nicolette: Um… me! My boyfriend Dave has a tattoo shop and I’ve been around a lot of tattoo art lately. So, I’m inspired by that world. I do a lot of different styles of illustration. Just a sneak peek into the future: there’s going to be a song about a ship, and I really played with that theme of water being the symbol of chaos and potential ruin. I guess that’s a spoiler? (laughs)
Kevin: The first single has a harder and heavier sound. I saw one review describe it as “The Donnas meets Bad Religion.” Is that in line with the rest of the songs off of “Black and Blue?”
Nicolette: I would say “Keep Up” is probably the most intense song. The other three will fall into slightly different kind of vibes, but they are all very Go Betty Go traditional style.
Kevin: The video for “Keep Up” includes footage of you guys playing previous shows. What was the concept like for that?
Nicolette: I edited it based on many, many years of live performances. It was a fun project to work on and I hope everyone goes to check that out!
Kevin: Does Go Betty Go have any upcoming shows planned for the rest of this year or 2024?
Nicolette: There’s talks of a tour in May where we could go up north. But nothing is set in stone. I see us performing in the future and we’re just hoping it will be Betty that’s there with us.
Thank you to Nicolette for the update! Make sure you check out “Keep Up” and look for “Black and Blue” in early 2024.