Elissa credits the band with helping to give Izzy a stronger—perhaps much
stronger—sense of identity and empowerment. She remembers telling her daughter
enthusiastically that a classmate had praised the band. “I don’t care what she thinks,” Izzy replied. “Why do you care? I think you’ve got low self-esteem, Mom.”
Sophie Kasakove was rocking onstage with her mother even before she was born. “I gigged into my ninth month [of pregnancy],” Yahz Kasakove says. “That last gig was probably too much. I had to play sitting in a chair.”
While the other Care Bears also have music in their blood (Lucio’s lawyer dad plays guitar in a bluegrass band; Izzy’s grandparents were accomplished opera musicians), Yahz fronted a band called Red Betty for a dozen years—and now she’s one of those rock coaches. “It’s really not much different from helping with homework. This band is one of the most focused ones that I work with,” she notes. “They’re really into it.”
“I just like to be good at things,” Sophie says, “and”—she laughs—“I pretty much like to show off: the whole idea of having people watch you and kind of think of you as someone who’s not just, like, normal. I like being different.”
While the band rehearses in Lucio’s basement, Yahz tidies the performing area as if it were her daughter’s bedroom, shifting the amp closer so Sophie won’t trip over the cord. She calls out instructions as the group rolls through some covers (Stones, Clash, White Stripes) before moving on to one of their originals, “Watchdog.”
When asked about the song’s inspiration, Sophie says, “It’s about ... her.” She
jerks a thumb toward her mother.
“Me?” Yahz asks, seeming a little startled.
“Parents in general,” Sophie replies. “Parents keep you safe and pick you up from school and ask you questions,” she sing-songs. “ ‘What did you do today, honey?’ ”
They work on harmonies for the song, with Yahz taking the high part: “Watchdog, leave me alone ... tonight ... ”
The band then turns to Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” sung by Lucio. His dad—Rip Westmoreland, son of William C., the late Vietnam-era general—is a vintage-guitar collector, so Lucio’s playing a Fender Precision bass approximately three-fourths his height and four times his age. His voice, currently in the midst of dropping, cracks a little on the knotty lyrics and melody, but that’s not what halts the song.
"That'd be so punk rock to spit out a tooth while you're playing!"
“I have a loose tooth!” Izzy calls
After ascertaining that a trip to the dentist is not imminent, her mom laughs with delight. “That’d be so punk rock, to spit out a tooth while you’re playing!”
Parents are not the Care Bears’ only mentors. Lucian Buscemi and his friend Julian Bennett Holmes, both 15, have matching heads of frizzy, billowing hair that have become a familiar sight on the Punk Slope scene. In 2005, their band Fiasco performed at a block party, playing fairly obscure early-eighties punk covers—Flipper, Minor Threat, Bad Brains—that were met with slack-jawed astonishment by several wizening hipsters in the crowd. The set sounded like a box of vintage punk singles, and partially, it was: Elissa had loaned hers to Lucian.
He and Julian have embraced the DIY ethics of eighties-era independent labels like SST and Dischord Records, and in addition to their two bands—Fiasco and the experimental Soñar—they’ve started Beautiful Records, on which they hope to release recordings by their bands, as well as Care Bears, and other local teen outfits. Between MySpace and iTunes, you can, of course, now run a label from your laptop.
“[Care Bears’] taste in music is sooo much better than when I was their age,” says Buscemi, son of actor Steve. “We haven’t really helped out with the way they play, but I guess we’ll help them become more known by recording them.”
In 2003, Fiasco (then known as StunGun) were the first teen rockers to play the Tap Room, and they’ve been bringing along their friends’ bands ever since. So the gig in Red Hook is something of a kid-rock Lollapalooza. In addition to Fiasco and Care Bears, the bill features such bands as Good to Go (who are coached by Yahz) and the tween duos Tiny Masters of Today and Magnolia. The show kicks off with the Hollows, a Bay Ridge outfit from P.S. 186 that blazes through three covers—to the confusion of some other bands on the roster, who thought that “No cover” meant they couldn’t perform non-original material.
The Care Bears have performed live a number of times by now; they’re nervous, but they also know how to read an audience. “I said to Sophie and Izzy, ‘We have to play the first song extremely well so we’ll have the crowd on our side,’ ” Lucio says afterward, standing outside the bar as groups in muted colors—all denim, cotton, and hair—mill around. “And once we did that, I felt perfectly fine. I feel it was the best we’ve played live.”