Equal parts golden-era girl groups and gritty garage punk, Nikki and the Corvettes emerged from Detroit in the late 70s with a super-femme brand of rock, rolling out groundbreaking guitar-driven pop rippers like “Backseat Love” and “Boys, Boys, Boys.” It was a signature sound and style, for sure. Woman-centered, tough, raw, and incredibly fun and fast — nobody had heard all that in combination quite like this before. Unsurprisingly, the Detroit group’s idiosyncratic bubblegum punk spread, stuck, and has remained a thriving niche well beyond the band’s short-lived career.
There are The Donnas, of course. Easily the most visible band of the genre, they were part of the second wave of Corvette-driven bands of the 90s. (They even declared,“I wanna be like Nikki Corvette!” in their song “Gimme My Radio.”) Predating them by a few years, though, is another Bay Area group – The Trashwomen, whose take on the genre was a dirtier one, and happily stuck in a surf rock undertow. When they disbanded, two of the founders (frontwoman Tina Lucchesi and bassist Dannielle Pimm) formed The Bobbyteens in 1996, adding Lisa Schenberg of The Spastics to the fold. This one was punchier, more in-your-face femme-punk, though still harkening back to the progenitor girl groups like The Shangri-Las and The Ronettes. Nikki Corvette herself had a comeback in the early 2000s with Nikki and The Stingrays (and she still performs pretty often).
There’s a litany of additional groups worth mentioning. We could drop names all day, and something would still be missing: Where are all the Latinas?
Mexico’s Las Ultrasónicas, while occasionally throwing a surf pop tune like “Descocada” into the mix, have always been a primarily punk trio. We love them, of course, but we can’t say for sure whether they’re Nikki and the Corvettes fans. And in that original 60s girl group craze, there were a bunch of noteworthy Latina acts, like Argentina’s Las Mosquitas or The Girls (formerly The Sandoval Sisters, formerly The Moon Maids) from Los Angeles.
It’s unlikely that there were no bands with Latina members churning out ultra-femme, tongue-in-cheek trash-punk. Unfortunately, Latina contributions to the eras of garage-rock past aren’t as well-documented as their Anglo counterparts.
The Loudmouths, however, are one exception. Another Bay Area group in full embrace of the trash-punk aesthetic, this one wasn’t comprised of all women — but it did include Chicana bassist Dulcinea Gonzalez. Since the 2000s, though, the visibility of Latinas in bands we can link to Nikki and the Corvettes and that particular corner of rock ‘n’ roll has increased a bit (Thank you, Internet). Check out a few of our favorites below.
While surf rock plays a vital role in this San Pedro trio’s repertoire, girl groups and their later poppy garage-punk offshoots are undoubtedly a close secondary influence. By name alone, their 2015 cassette EP A Date With Bombón (Burger Records), harkens back to both, and the vocals are generally heavens-high. There are rowdier cuts like “Somebody Told Me,” that nod to archetypal punk crass, just like the vast majority of their jittery debut LP, Las Chicas Del Bombón, released five years earlier.
Their latest single “¡Xicanista!” is all of those things — but most importantly, it’s pure badassery. Could it be the Chicana feminist punk anthem of the ages? The corresponding video completes the empowerment package: The band and buds are seen hanging out, rollerskating, spray painting graffiti and roller skating while spray painting graffiti. When they face the camera to declare, “Somos Xicanistas! Somos, somos feministas!” over a wobbly surf riff — damn, we just really wanna join their crew.
When Baby Shakes first formed in 2005, they were super-charged, dropping single after single, plus a heart-shaped 10” EP and a full-length. Counting 60s Motown groups, Chuck Berry, Slade and The Ramones as guiding lights, the New York band (featuring Boricua bassist Claudia Gonzalez) had an ideal sweet-and-sour punk and power pop blend. The First One, released in 2009 through Douchemaster Records, was built on bop-along melodies, brash punk bursts, and glittery glam riffs. After that, they were silent for a couple years — had they broken up?
Nope. (Thank goodness.) In 2015, Baby Shakes returned to open for the iconic Irish act Protex at their two New York shows. It was a harbinger performance, in a way; they’ve taken a more global approach this time around. A new single, “She’s a Star” (and the B-side “Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie Your Love”), was pressed in Japan and Italy, and a sophomore LP was announced. Just after Starry Eyes was delivered in August, they headed to Ireland, Scandinavia, and Europe. This July saw them touring Italy and performing three dates in China. They’ve played loads of New York and nearby shows in between, of course. Goddess bless, Baby Shakes are most definitely back.
Cruiser and BBQT
Chicago bubblegum garage-punk troupe The Bam Bams dismantled about four years ago, but luckily, one member, Chicana Gabbie Bam Bam, has her hands in other projects. After meeting Avalan Thornton Kenny at a Baby Shakes show, the pair formed Cruiser, describing the project as what would happen “if The Shangri-Las were backed up by The Undertones covering The Dead Boys.” This year’s “Tramp,” a gritty little rock ditty, is slated for inclusion on an upcoming vinyl release via Surfin’ Ki Records.
Gabbie’s also got a solo recording project, BBQT, that looks to be bonafide glam-rock wholly embodying her self-proclaimed Live Fast Die motto. So far, there’s just one single to devour — “Last Rocker,” and it’s a slow-burning, shimmery shred of a song.
This Oakland band will make you wanna don your biggest hoop earrings and leather jacket, pound some booze, and bop around frantically. Like Nikki and the Corvettes in triple time and with a Bobbyteens’ kind of punk crunch bite, Midnite Snaxxx are also punchy and poppy. They debuted as a trio of women in 2010 with “Like Lightning” and “Giving Me the Business.” In case those tunes didn’t seal the deal, they dropped “A Guy Like That” and “Jackie” a year later. Honestly, that latter 7-inch boasts two songs that are among the stickiest jams to ever come out of this niche genre.
These days, Midnite Snaxxx plays as a quartet with two dudes in the group, but founding member Dulcinea Gonzalez (of The Loudmouths) remains on lead vocals and guitar. They opened for Alice Bag a few weeks ago, and are slated to take the stage at this year’s Gonerfest, too.
The folks at 50thirdand3rd recently relayed an interview with Midnite Snaxxx that included talk of a follow-up to their perfectly frenetic eponymous 2012 full-length — the release will arrive this fall (tentatively) via Pelican Pow Wow, and it’s dubbed Chew on This. We don’t doubt it’ll be another sugar rush we’ll happily binge on.