Kalliope Jones wants to be your cool best friend

  • Alouette Batteau, 17, of Shelburne Falls, left, Amelia Chalfant, 17, of Northampton, and Isabella DeHerdt, 19, of Ashfield, all of the band Kalliope Jones, walk down Main Street for a photograph Aug. 8, 2018 in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

  • Alouette Batteau, 17, of Shelburne Falls, left, Amelia Chalfant, 17, of Northampton, and Isabella DeHerdt, 19, of Ashfield, all of the band Kalliope Jones, walk down Main Street for a photograph Aug. 8, 2018 in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

  • Chalfant, left, DeHerdt and Batteau, seen here at Woodstar Cafe in Northampton, love music, but they have many other interests, too. STAFF PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

  • Alouette Batteau, 17, of Shelburne Falls, left, Amelia Chalfant, 17, of Northampton, and Isabella DeHerdt, 19, of Ashfield, all of the band Kalliope Jones, walk down Main Street for a photograph Aug. 8, 2018 in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/SARAH CROSBY

  • Kalliope Jones members Isabella DeHerdt, left, and Amelia Chalfant ready a microphone for a show at the campaign headquarters of Lindsay Sabadosa at 76 Gothic Street in Northampton, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kalliope Jones member Alouette Batteau, warms up for a show at the campaign headquarters of Lindsay Sabadosa at 76 Gothic Street in Northampton, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The members of Kalliope Jones first began playing together about six years ago. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Drummer Alouette Batteau adds her vocals during a Kalliope Jones show at the campaign headquarters of Sabados. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kalliope Jones member Alouette Batteau sets up her drums as David Chalfant, who is the father of another member, Amelia Chalfant, handles a speaker cable prior to a gig at the campaign headquarters of Lindsay Sabadosa at 76 Gothic Street in Northampton, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of Kalliope Jones set up for a show at the campaign headquarters of Lindsay Sabadosa at 76 Gothic Street in Northampton, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. David Chalfant, who is the father of Amelia Chalfant, helps them set up. Cherilyn Strader, top, center, is a volunteer who helped coordinate the event, which was geared to attract younger voters. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amelia Chalfant, right, warms up for a show at the campaign headquarters of Lindsay Sabadosa at 76 Gothic Street in Northampton, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018 as her father, David Chalfant, helps Alouette Batteau. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Bassist Amelia Chalfant says she hopes the band can be an inspiration for other teens. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Kalliope Jones — from left, Isabella DeHerdt, Amelia Chalfant, and Alouette Batteau — performs earlier this week at the Northampton campaign headquarters for state representative candidate Lindsay Sabadosa. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette/Hampshire Life
Published: 8/16/2018 3:48:10 PM

The girls from Kalliope Jones walk into a room knowing exactly what they have to offer: a prototype for young, female rock bands and confident young women in general.

After receiving national attention in 2015, when they clapped back at a judge’s sexist remark following a band competition at the Three County Fair in Northampton, the young Valley rockers went on to release their eponymous first album in 2017 — and they haven’t looked back since.

“We don't talk about it a lot anymore,” bassist and vocalist Amelia Nields Chalfant, 17, says about the fair episode. “It happened and we dealt with it when it happened.”

“I'm not necessarily glad it happened,” adds drummer and vocalist Alouette Batteau, 17. “But it was a good learning experience. We hadn't faced sexism in the music industry in such a blatant way. I kind of woke up to it, more than I had in the past. And we were still super young.” Batteau and Chalfant were 14 at the time, and 19-year-old Isabella DeHerdt, who plays guitar and sings, was 16.

“All of a sudden we were having to compose our thoughts at a rapid pace,” said Chalfant. “That was kind of disturbing for all of us.”

A brief refresher: The trio, which first began playing together as elementary and middle school students, have been performing their original songs — which blend elements of rock, blues, pop and more acoustic sounds — in the area for several years, including at the region’s biggest musical showcase, the Green River Festival. But they first came on many people’s radar when a judge at the band competition at the 2015 Three County Fair wrote on a comment sheet that the group might have finished higher than third place if they had “use[d] the sultry to draw in the crowd.”

The band then posted a letter on its Facebook site objecting to the sexism they saw in the remark, which in turn attracted widespread attention in the media and online; People, Seventeen, New York Magazine and MTV were just some of the sites that picked up the story. The three-person judging panel from the band competition received considerable condemnation, though its members said the “sultry” comment had been taken out of context and had not been intended to be offensive.

But when they sat down recently for an interview at Woodstar Cafe in Northampton, Batteau, Chalfant and DeHerdt made it clear they’ve moved beyond the incident. The wide-ranging discussion touched on other aspects of their lives, from sports to academics, and how they turned to Greek mythology for part of their name. What emerged was a portrait of poised and talented teens — and though the band members don’t owe all their confidence to the flap at the Three-Couny Fair, it has clearly played a role in how they carry themselves as musicians and young women.

“We've gone to some venues and we can tell that they might not be expecting us to be good,” said DeHerdt. “Just because of our ages. Maybe because of our gender. And I think for me, personally, that just makes me want to, like, kill that gig even more. It makes me want to lay it all out there.”

The members of Kalliope Jones certainly lay it all out there — onstage and otherwise.

Each of the girls maintains a packed schedule. Batteau, of Ashfield, and Chalfant, of Northampton (and formerly of Conway) will be high school seniors in the fall; DeHerdt, who lives in Shelburne Falls, will soon start her sophomore year at Wellesley College.

“It's hard,” Chalfant said, referring to balancing music, academics and her other interests. “I'm gonna own that. It is incredibly hard.” Indeed, said DeHerdt, nodding her head: “Ya'll are going into your hardest year.”

Along with working on her music as part of Kalliope Jones, Batteau juggles singing in another band, Raspberry Jam, as well as doing theater, working and keeping up with school. “I love being in musicals,” she said. “But for most of my life I’ve done plays. I’ve done a lot of outdoor theater.”

That’s not all: Batteau recently got back from Minnesota, where she was playing Ultimate frisbee in the national Youth Club Championship.

Chalfant’s interests are similar. She enjoys acting in school productions, plays Ultimate frisbee, and has “ended up the head of three clubs for the coming year. I like so many things and so it’s hard for me to not have it be a part of my life.” With a laugh, she added “It also means I don't sleep, which is a little sad. But it’s worth it.”

The three met several years ago at the Institute for the Musical Arts in Goshen, a rock and roll camp for young girls that was co-founded and is now led by June Millington, who was a member of the all-female rock band Fanny in the early 1970s. “It's basically just to get you playing music with other people,” said DeHerdt. “And learning how to feel comfortable onstage and how to write. It's a really good music exploration camp.”

Chalfant attended for four years, starting when she was nine years old, and Batteau went for two years when she was 10 and 11. “The fact that when I was nine years old and music was presented to me as A, a viable career path and B, something that there was a history of, for women and people like me … that was really powerful,” said Chalfant. “I think it's a lot about skill, but also a lot about empowerment.”

Chalfant and Batteau first picked up the bass and drums, respectively, at the camp. “There was no other camper who knew how to play drums and I was like, ‘Oh, I could try that,’ ” said Batteau. “So I did it. And then these two asked me to join the band as the drummer and I was like, ‘Okay, guess I'll learn how to play the drums.’ ”

“I think that's really funny,” Chalfant added. “Because when she played drums at camp, I was like, ‘She must have been playing for years!’ ”

While DeHerdt, who attended the camp for eight years, and Chalfant began playing together in 2010, Kalliope Jones did not come into existence until 2012, after Batteau joined. The group also experimented with an earlier name, bella maé, a contraction of Isabella and Amelia, before settling on their current title.

The origins of that? “A year or two in, I think we were like, 'We're becoming a different group than what we started as,’ so we wanted a different name,” said DeHerdt. “We're older, we're doing different kinds of music. And so we came up with ‘Kalliope,’ which is the Greek muse of poetry.”

“Then we added on ‘Jones,’ ” said Chalfant. “I started saying a little while ago that Kalliope Jones sounds like your cool best friend, and we want to be people's cool best friend.”

They started off, much like other new musicians, playing covers of songs they liked. “We just did kind of these top charting radio songs,” said DeHerdt. “You learn from emulating the things you love.” Their first cover was a rendition of Train’s “Hey Soul Sister,” followed by Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.”

“We also covered ‘Play with Fire’ by The Rolling Stones,” said Chalfant, who with a laugh added “Which I think is important to mention.”

Given all three girls are from different towns, and that DeHerdt is now away at college, finding time to rehearse and record together — in Batteau and Chalfant’s homes — is a challenge, but one they savor. The mantra, says Batteau, is “Whenever we have a spare minute.”

They also benefit from some pretty impressive musical lineage, which Batteau calls “an incredible privilege that we have ... at our fingertips.”

Chalfant is the daughter of Katryna Nields and Dave Chalfant, who both played in The Nields, the folk-rock band that now performs as the sister-duo of Katryna and Nerissa Nields (Dave Chalfant directs the music program at Charlemont Academy and is also a session musician and recording engineer/record producer). “They toured up until I was born,” said Chalfant. “When I was a baby they were taking me all over the eastern part of the United States. I learned to walk in like, a hotel room, at a show.”

Batteau’s family is also musically inclined. “My parents have been in a band together for a really long time,” she said. “They switched up their name a lot, but my dad is [Shelburne Falls musician and songwriter] Brook Batteau. Him and his brother got pretty big in the folk-y industry.”

All that musical wisdom and experience has been a big boost to the group. “Just being able to use an amp when I was really young, or know how to set up a drum kit,” said Batteau. “I think that has definitely influenced me being able to survive in the music industry. Being able to show up to a gig and know what you have to do, how to check in with the sound engineer, how to thank the people who made it all possible.”

The band, though, insists on paying when they use the Chalfants’ recording space. “[It’s] drastically discounted, but we still pay,” Chalfant said. “I think it's part of learning how to do that. And being responsible.”

As for DeHerdt, her parents are lawyers, which has also been a help to the young musicians. “With things like copyright, I'm like, ‘Father, how do we make sure we don't lose our money?’ " she said.

The band members say they’ve developed a steady teen following. But live shows can attract older audience members as well.

“It really depends on the venue,” said Batteau. “We have little kids on Facebook who are three or four, and they have their parents tagging us in posts — ‘My kid's listening to your album! It's their favorite, and it’s on repeat. I'm getting kind of sick of it.’ ” But then there are the 80-year-old couples who turn up to shows where Kalliope Jones is opening for The Nields at places like Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall.

As much as a cool best friend Kalliope Jones may be, even cool best friends don’t have everything figured out.

“I don't think music is going to be my main career,” said Batteau. “I definitely want to be a musician for the rest of my life, but I also have a lot of other interests that I don't think I can cut off. When I was really little, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I kind of went away from that for a little while, but now I'm super-into anthropology and sociology and just like seeing how things work.”

Chalfant says she’s “really into” STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). “But I'm not as good at it as I wish I was, I guess. I like calculus and chemistry and I'm hoping to study that in college. I have the pipe dream of being an astronaut.”

DeHerdt, on the other hand, has already decided to study music at Wellesley, a subject she can “dive right into ... I have my different degree requirements, but I’ve really been focusing on what I want to do in my life. I've been trying to write a lot, learn a lot … My life circulates around music.” During the school year, DeHerdt also teaches preschoolers at Bach to Rock, a music school in Wellesley.

The band is squeezing in as much time as possible for music before school starts up, writing and recording songs for a second album. “We're in different places in our lives right now, and we’ve been having a lot of creativity flow,” said DeHerdt. “We're thinking about the end of high school, our near the end of being teenagers, and we wanted to make an EP that's an honest representation of us.”

“In the car ride here today, I was actually writing a song about high testosterone levels in my workplace recently,” Batteau added, laughing. “It was pretty frustrating.”

“There's been a lot of breakup music which is, in my opinion, the best music,” said Chalfant. “I wrote a lot of that. I think it’s true to being a teenager. I was definitely, like, ‘I'm never going to write a stereotypical breakup song,’ but actually it’s an awesome exercise. I've written probably my two best songs because of that.”

They’re all committed to keeping the band together, even next year when Chalfant and Batteau go off to college; ideally, they say, they’ll be going to school in places within a few hours of each other. And they like to feel they can be an inspiration to other teens, both as musicians and thoughtful young people. “For me, that matters more than having the biggest following,” said Chalfant. “If people my age care about our music, then that's enough for me.”

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