All-girl band gaining popularity

A group of 13- to 15-year-old Tampa girls are turning heads in the local music scene.

Extra Celestial, an all-girl band made up of vocalist Casey Banales, 14; guitarist Devyn Dacus, 15; bassist Caitlin McHale, 15; and drummer Anabella Vivero, 13, will be performing several live shows in the next two months.

They’ll be at Skipper’s Smokehouse on April 8, the Hard Rock Café on April 30 and The Orpheum on May 14.

Extra Celestial was formed in August. From left, Annabella Vivero, Caitlin McHale, Casey Banales and Devyn Dacus. (Courtesy of Marlene Fox Photograph)

Extra Celestial was formed in August. From left, Annabella Vivero, Caitlin McHale, Casey Banales and Devyn Dacus.
(Courtesy of Marlene Fox Photograph)

The band, formed in August by Jim Chambers of Jim Chambers Music Box, is also working on recording its first single, “Restart.”

Chambers, a former 15-year record executive who won three Grammys with Maroon 5, the Dave Matthews Band and Flyleaf, had been trying to put an all-female band together for some time.

“I had worked with them in the past,” said Chambers, who works closely with three other bands. “I finally was able to assemble them.

“I think they’re the only all-female band in Tampa. Each of them do have (good) qualities; they all play very well.”

The band, described as “alternative rock with pop leanings,” mainly plays cover songs from the 1980s to contemporary.

Some of their favorite tracks to perform include “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles, “Heartbreaker” by Pat Benatar and “Exes and Ohs” by Elle King.

“We don’t really stick to one specific area of music. We kind of just do everything,” said McHale, a sophomore at Steinbrenner High School who’s played bass for two years.

From left, Casey Banales, Caitlin McHale, Annabella Vivero and Devyn Dacus. (Kevin Weiss/Staff Photo)

From left, Casey Banales, Caitlin McHale, Annabella Vivero and Devyn Dacus.
(Kevin Weiss/Staff Photo)

While it’s “much easier” for the band to learn cover songs, the group also has its eyes set on creating a few more singles, and possibly creating an EP, extended play.

Their single, which they’ll record in a studio on April 17, was written by Banales and riffed by Dacus. The process of crafting the single to make it “sound good” took about a month, band members said.

“I think it will be easier now to put out more (songs) since we understand the process of songwriting more,” McHale said.

The band, which typically rehearses twice a week, has developed a close camaraderie since forming several months ago.

“I think it’s because we’re all from different cliques at school,” explained Banales, a freshman at Cambridge Christian High School. “Like, we’re all so different that we get along so well; none of us are alike each other.”

Despite being the lead vocalist, Banales was initially hesitant about joining a band.

“One of the reasons I didn’t want to be in a band was because I don’t like having to get to know new people,” she said. But, she said her mom encouraged her, saying: “‘Do it. You’ll like it.”

So, Banales decided to give it a try and discovered she liked it.

“They’re all actually really cool,” she said, referring to her band mates.

Over time, the group has become closer through learning to communicate and express opinions with one another.

Also helping the band’s development is Chambers’ vast experience throughout the music industry, which included stints at Sony/BMG and VH1.

“I just show them how to navigate that process…and manage them, like, ‘How do you make a flyer, how do you use social media,’” Chambers said. … “It’s really ‘Record Label 101’ and ‘Band Management 101,’ too.”

“It’s good to have someone tell you what you’re doing wrong just because sometimes we don’t notice…when it sounds bad or off,” McHale said.

According to Chambers, pitching a young band to certain venues can be a tough sell — until management witnesses their talent and the ensuing crowds the group draws to their shows.

“It’s a big deal Skipper’s is allowing them to perform on a Friday night,” Chambers said, emphatically. “Often…you see a young band and you’re like, ‘Okay, we’ve seen this show before.’ But, our bands kick (butt); it’s like, ‘Whoa, they’re quite good.’

“It’s a really tough pitch, but when you bring 300 people, they’re like, ‘Oh, he wasn’t kidding.’ I did that on a Sunday with them,” he said.

While the band was initially nervous when they first had to perform in front of a live audience, the group now has no problem headlining on a big stage.

“When there’s a lot of people, I don’t get as nervous,” Banales said.

Dacus agreed, saying, “When you’re around people you don’t know, it’s kind of easier.”

With youth and potential on their side, Extra Celestial has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

“I would love to do it professionally,” McHale said. “I don’t know if that’s where it’s going to go, but I think that would be pretty cool. I’d love to do that.”

Extra Celestial
Band Bios
Casey Banales, vocalist: Banales is a freshman at Cambridge Christian School. She began singing at age 6, and also played violin when she was younger. Banales is a member of her school’s basketball, volleyball, track and cheer teams.

Devyn Dacus, guitarist: Dacus is a sophomore at Steinbrenner High School. She first started playing music, on the piano, as a 4-year-old. When she was 10, she started playing the guitar.

Caitlin McHale, bassist: McHale is a sophomore at Steinbrenner High. She has been playing bass for two years after first learning how to play the guitar. She also plays soccer at Steinbrenner.

Annabella Vivero, drummer: Vivero is an eighth-grader at Cambridge Christian. She’s been playing drums since age 5, when she took classes at the American Rock School in Tampa. She is a member of her school’s basketball and track teams.

Published April 6, 2016

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