The Bandana Splits is an all-female three-piece group from Brooklyn, New York. The trio consists of vocalists Lauren Balthrop, Dawn Landes, and Annie Nero, who bonded over a love of '50s and '60s girl groups and retro fashion. In 2011, they formed The Bandana Splits and recorded their debut album Mister Sam Presents The Bandana Splits. It was recorded at Saltlands Studio with producer Sam “Mister Sam” Cohen (of the band Apollo Sunshine), and released through Boy Scout Recordings. Modeled after recording techniques of classic girl groups like The Andrew Sisters and The Ronettes, every song was recorded live with all three girls around one microphone, and Mister Sam playing all of the instruments. The record includes twelve original songs, in addition to a cover of the 1963 hit by The Caravelles, "You Don't Have to Be a Baby to Cry."
Based on their debut album cover, you might think The Bandana Splits are a '50s or '60s girl group that never quite made it to the mainstream. Everything from the font, to their hair-dos, to the red lipstick (which perfectly matches the color of their vintage dresses) screams of girl groups like The Ronettes and The Andrew Sisters. So it may come as a surprise that the trio—singers Lauren Balthrop, Dawn Landes, and Annie Nero—are not from this time period at all. In fact, The Bandana Splits formed in an entirely different millennium, in Brooklyn, New York in 2011. Their debut album, Mister Sam Presents The Bandana Splits (with “Mister Sam” being Sam Cohen of the band Apollo Sunshine, who produced the album) was recorded in true retro fashion. All three girls recorded live vocals around one microphone, while Cohen played all of the instruments in addition to his duties as producer. Built on three-part harmonies and sweetly optimistic lyrics, it's definitely a throwback to girl group music from a bygone era. Though the music is intended to be a throwback, there are moments on the album that might take you by surprise. Take “Hawaiian Love Song,” which initially sounds like it could be a lost song from the Tiki Room, the kitschy attraction at Disneyland that features '50s Hawaiian music. Once you realize that The Bandana Splits are actually singing saucy lyrics like, “come-on-I-wanna-lay-ya,” instead of saying Hawaiian phrases, you realize that these girls are having pure fun with their music. It's not meant to be taken too seriously, which is especially refreshing in an age where it's trendy to play depressing music. Other songs like “Lavez Vous” are just as lightheartedly fun (“I learned to speak French from beauty products that my mom gave me,” they sing). A simple ukulele-led melody, courtesy of Balthrop, compliments their gorgeous voices without ever overpowering them. It builds up to a chorus that's sung in French—all three members have lived in France, though at different times. “Choo Choo” has the feel of an early country song, with a rollicking, twangy guitar line. It starts off at a slow tempo, as if they're trying to capture the feel of a train struggling to make its way up a big hill. Then, it builds up with rapid vocalizations of “chug-a-chug,” and you can envision the train careening down the hill in time to their lovely voices. With their pop sensibility and voices that reach harmonic perfection, The Bandana Splits prove that they have the kind of songwriting chops that will stand the test of time.