The Sonoma Coast town of Bodega Bay is probably best known as the dark backdrop for Alfred Hitchcock’s film, “The Birds.” But the town is also home to the folk trio, Rainbow Girls. Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey and Vanessa May started playing music together in the dorms at UC Santa Barbara. Now, they’re playing for audiences around the world. Their newest album, “American Dream,” came out last month.

“American Dream’s” cover features a tattered American flag made by the band members. (Courtesy Rainbow Girls)

The following is an excerpt from a conversation with Sasha Khokha, host of The California Report Magazine. They joined her in studio to talk politics, life on the road and how their relationship as roommates influences their music. They also played an in-studio concert!

Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey, and Vanessa May in our studios. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

On their new album’s stripped-down acoustic sound:

Vanessa: “For a long time we were playing for friends and audiences all over that were hoping to have a kind of party, celebratory atmosphere. Then the election was happening, and it felt like an appropriate time to strip those things away.”

Erin: “I think most of our songs, even from past albums, are often political. But when you have so many instruments in front of them  it’s easier to miss what we’re talking about. But now you can’t really ignore what we’re saying.”

On writing a song about the protest at Standing Rock Indian Reservation (“Song for Standing Rock”):

Caitlin: “That song is about trying to be  a part of unwavering support for Indigenous lives, and black and brown folks’ lives that are just being completely destroyed with impunity. And this song is for all of them who are fighting just to have love, and water, and life.”

Rainbow Girls (Erin Chapin, Caitlin Gowdey, Vanessa May) perform “Song for Standing Rock” in-studio at KQED and The California Report. (Bianca Taylor/KQED)

On living together:

Vanessa: “It’s a pretty cool thing. You know, you’re sitting in your room and you hear, either across the hallway or on the other side of the wall, a song being rehearsed and you hear this chorus being done over and over and over, and you’re like, ‘Is that an original? Is that ours? Do we get to do that one?’ ”

Caitlin: “And it’s a treat to get to hear when everyone’s learning new techniques, or like absorbing other musical styles, and you feel their learning process. It just kind of flows out into the hallway and you can grab onto it.”

On their “American Dream” album title and cover art:

Vanessa: “This ripped-up flag is kind of a representation of where we are right now.”

Erin: “We made that [flag] at our house, near the back of our shed. it’s 10 feet tall and it was originally all sheets. I think Vanessa did the majority of all the ripping of all the sheets and tying them together, and then we dyed the red stripes with wine. The stars are Queen Anne’s Lace flowers, which grow in the field where we live.”

Caitlin: “The song itself, ‘American Dream,’ is about how far it is from being a reality for so many people in the country. It’s a song about owning land as equaling freedom and security and safety. The song is dedicated to the disenfranchised and those who don’t get to live that dream.”

On their plans for the holidays:

Vanessa: “Being at home, which feels really good. Drinking a lot of tea, enjoying being at the house, and working on new music.”

Erin: “We’ve been kind of going nonstop [on tour] for like six years now. So I’m excited to, you know, sit by the fire [and] put stuff in the refrigerator, and hang out with my cat.”

Rainbow Girls Turn Up Their Political Message by Turning Off Their Amps 27 December,2017Bianca Taylor

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