The fall air hung in a smoky haze outside of Snug Harbor Bar and Grill as local New Paltz band Girl Gaze performed their set list on the last Saturday of September.
The all female-identifying band made up of bassist Isabel DeRanieri, lead vocalist Cat DeLaus, vocalist and keyboardist Michaela Passero, guitarist and keyboardist Emily Charash and drummer Julia Oppedisano glided on stage as the first act of the night. They hushed the beer-infused crowd with covers of bands such as Muse and The Beatles, as well as their original pieces.
“We like to joke that our sound is kind of ‘dream pop,’” DeRanieri said off-stage. “We want to show we have a unique sound compared to the other rock and punk bands at New Paltz.”
With euphoric melodies and soft lyrics, the group certainly stood out from a crowd of off-kilter modern punk. Most of the band’s songs had bar-goers bopping their heads to a classic 4/4 beat with a soulful edge.
Girl Gaze is a relatively new band, DeLaus said.
“We’re all friends, and we already had a setup in Izzy’s [DeRanieri’s] basement, so we decided to give it a shot,” she said.
That genesis occurred earlier this year, and the band has played several shows across the New Paltz area since then.
“We’re the only all-girl band in New Paltz, at least one that has all women as instrumentalists,” DeLaus said.
Considering the roaring talent of musical women in New Paltz, the information came as a shock. Girl Gaze, however, held their own at Snugs with songs like “Far,” the first song the group wrote together.
Charash soared through gentle vibratos for the track, a collaboration between soft rock riffs and jazz fluidity in her strumming.
The quintet also peaked the interest of listeners with a song that is so far “Untitled,” which was composed mostly of keyboard and guitar instrumentals. DeLaus added to the elegant showcasing of the girls’ instrument talent by harmonizing with no words. No lyrics, no problem. DeLaus conveyed feelings of grief, sorrow and romance with no more than a string of “ooo’s” for the crowd. Though the song is untitled, the tone of the piece left its mark.
When asked what message they want to send to the people who listen to their music, DeRanieri replied, “We know how to play instruments, we know how to read notes. We know what we’re doing.”
The group emphasized an importance on showing not only their playing and performing chops, but also the equal amount of talent they each possessed.
As the night progressed, the band occasionally switched the roles of its members, making sure that each member made an integral impact on the set list. Passero moved from the keyboard to a lead vocal role, Charash changed from guitarist to keyboardist and back and DeLaus at a few points even joined the audience. It altered the vibe of most performances by bands who have niche roles for its artists, flipping the script on the monotony of a set. The audience was delivered variety right down to who they were seeing on stage at a given time.
The last song of the night, “Shadows,” propelled the band into memory with its synth keyboarding, heartfelt guitar and emotional lyrics. DeLaus sang with careful breaths, “My sun shining too bright to see my shadows, please don’t take them away,” reprising the powerful words, “…and I wonder when you became of shadow of who you were,” in minor chords.
Followed by bands with mostly men or, often, no women at all, Girl Gaze stood above the rest of the rock groups at Snugs with their progressive sound. The group definitely fit the “dream pop” aesthetic of light, airy synths and romantic lyrics that future show-goers should take note of as the coolest new genre in New Paltz.