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Landing on Chicago's Neptune's Core

Arriving on the surface of a planet far far away (The Metro in Chicago), two groups of sisters plant their flag on raw, cathartic rock, reminiscent of a fusion between Sleater Kinney and Snail Mail. This celestial body is your new favorite band, Neptune’s Core. Last Friday, I quickly skipped up the stairs to catch the band opening for a quintessential Chicagoland show, featuring bands Smut and Friko. Their track “Hey You” lured me to the right side of the stage as I stood in awe of Neptune’s Core’s energy, passion, connection, and emotion. I remained glued in place for the rest of their set, almost as if I were encased in cement.

Tuesday night, I rushed home for a Zoom call with Neptune’s Core, where I chatted with the members, Jackie Cywinski (16, guitarist, and singer), Hannah Richter (15, bassist), Kaitlin Cywinski (18, drums), and Sofie Richter (17, lead singer, and guitarist). We talked until my Zoom 40-minute timer was three minutes away from up, weaving in and out of conversation, ranging from songwriting to sexism in the music industry, and their upcoming tour. The band name came from a night of looking at the sky and as Sofie put it, “We needed a cool badass name, and we like space, let’s just be Neptune’s Core.” Neptune’s Core has been releasing music since their debut album in 2021, but after performing with Dehd in 2023, the band shifted in their performance mindset. Kaitlin said, “It was a turning point in terms of how serious we wanted to be and realizing that this is something we really love doing.” 

Photo by Athena Merry, From left to right: Sofie Richter, Hannah Richter, Kaitlin Cywinski, and Jackie Cywinski

Watching and listening to Neptune’s Core one can’t help but make a comparison to 90s bands and ones that carry that sound today like Soccer Mommy, Girlpool, and Snail Mail. Jackie added that “Veruca Salt” was a huge influence as she “started playing guitar and singing, also it was a female-fronted band.” Kaitlin added, “The 90s is really a big historical influence for us…there was a lot of experimentation in the 90s and we try to be experimental in terms of our writing–expanding the variety and genres we write within.” In terms of bands today, Sofie cited the Chicago band Finom as a major influence. “They pair their awesome harmonies with their lyricism…it’s just two badass women making music, and they’ve been huge icons for us.” Having such strong female artists pave the way for bands like Neptune’s Core has been crucial. Yet, Jackie, Sofie, Hannah, and Kaitlin are trailblazing a new wave of women-fronted bands, bringing grrrls and their artistry to the front. 

Being a woman in the music industry is difficult. Being a woman in general is difficult. There is always going to be someone who thinks they know more than you because of their obsession with The Smiths and Radiohead–quizzing you on “What song is this?” “Who sings this?” “Are you the girlfriend of the band?” All too often, articles paint women’s artistry in belittling and small terms. When I asked Neptune’s Core how they would like to be named in the article we dove into the subtle sexism that leaks into journalism and the music industry. Kaitlin explained “You can’t be a young band and an all-girl band. Maybe one of those factors would make it cool. But having both of them I think brings a negative connotation.” 

Photo by Athena Merry, From left to right: Sofie Richter, Hannah Richter, and Kaitlin Cywinski

Sofie spoke on the issue of describing their music as “teenage angst.” “It’s a little belittling because it’s saying ‘Oh I’m just a teenager, these are just teenage thoughts,’ when a lot of the stuff we’re writing about is something adults can relate to.” The idea of teenage angst has always bothered me in articles, especially regarding women. It automatically is saying that their anger, their feelings, and their emotions, are not justified solely because of their age. Additionally, this phrase paints the picture of a girl slamming a door, screaming at the world–packaging and compartmentalizing women’s feelings into something that can be written off, a phase, a temper tantrum. Neptune’s Core is not teenage angst. They are real, raw, standing strong in genuine emotion, passion, and artistry. What is more punk rock than that? These elements are what make their music approachable to everyone. Jackie added, “We write music because we’re passionate about music and we’re good at it. We’re musicians first before anything else.” By the way, happy International Women’s Day. 

The songwriting process in Neptune’s Core is a collective journey, allowing each member space to be vulnerable, creative, and also grow with their music. Sofie and Jackie’s process has shifted from more lyric-based to melody-focused, “Although I still really do value lyrics, I've had a lot of fun with the melodies that we create, and especially the harmonies we create. They just tell most of the story,” Sofie said. Hannah highlighted the relationship they have with personal growth and how that is musically reflected, “I think everything right now is finding ourselves and who we are in the moment. We're always changing. And I think our music reflects that.” Their music acts as a tether to each other, their past selves, but also, where they are going. In their songwriting space, Neptune’s Core is unapologetically themselves, representing the uncensored moments of grrrlhood that any age can relate to. Kaitlin added, “The lyrics are a lot less literal, you can't pinpoint the message as clearly as you could before, but I think the emotion behind it is even stronger…all four of us were able to put a little bit of ourselves into it.” 

Photo by Athena Merry, Pictured: Jackie Cywinski

The way Neptune’s Core performs is something that the Chicago scene has been missing. They feel every lyric, beat, harmony that is being produced. Each member is intimately connected to the instrument they are playing. Performing their own dance while simultaneously being tied together through a pure love for not only each other but for their music. This energy leaks into the crowd and is seen on every hand in the air (with or without X’s), every arm wrapped around their friend, and every grrrl on her dad’s shoulders. There are moments of support and looks of confidence. Sofie explains, “Even during the scary moments of the set…where I don't have the guitar and I'm just singing, I think just making eye contact and realizing we're all feeling it, and that we're all contributing to this emotion is really grounding.” They are so clearly intertwined, mimicking this cat’s cradle-like dance with each other–grounded, loose, natural, and fun. 

What’s next on the galactic travels of Neptune’s Core? SXSW, an East Coast tour, and a double-sided single released today. Neptune’s Core is a band that is simply kickass. Their ability to connect to and feel every bit of their music is a talent that not many bands have. If you have the opportunity to catch Neptune’s Core on their journey across the country, do so. Allow their voices and energy to lure you to the right side of the stage.


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