The members of Giselle Woo and the Night Owls were elated to be in the lineup for the 2020 edition of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Then came the pandemic, which wiped out both the 2020 and 2021 festivals. In 2022, Coachella is back—and not only are Giselle Woo and the Night Owls still part of the Coachella lineup; the group even moved up a line on the poster. Their Latin-infused rock jams, complete with an engaging live show, can be viewed in full form on Friday, April 15 and 22.
When I spoke to the band over Zoom, Jose Ceja (drums) said he and his bandmates are grateful for the support they’ve received over the last couple of years.
“We’re still trying to be active, and the general help that we’ve gotten from everyone here in the valley—not just fans, but musicians as well, people we perform with, writers, photographers, and people who always come out and support us—I think that’s a big credit to why we’ve been able to go to the next level, at least in terms of the Coachella fest.”
Giselle Woo said the band was relieved to be back in the 2022 lineup.
“To me, it’s only fair,” Woo said. “It kept getting postponed and postponed, and it’s like, ‘All right, then we’ll get to it when we get to it.’ … This Coachella back from everything is going to be one that everybody’s going to really, really remember. That’s how I feel my experience is going to be, so it’s definitely fucking special to be a part of something like this, after the time in our lives that has been so challenging.”
The band reflected on how much has changed in the music world since the 2020 lineup was announced.
“Doja Cat, for example, from the time since the last festival was announced, has become one of the headlining acts on the main stage,” said Christian Colín (guitarist). “It shows how two years can really change an artist’s position. I think the meat of the lineup has stayed pretty similar, which is exciting.”
While the band was getting into a groove in 2019 and early 2020, the pandemic was, in some ways, a blessing for Giselle Woo and the Night Owls.
“We’ve had time to grow, especially after all of us going through the pandemic together,” Ceja said. “You get a lot closer with the people that you’re with, and you realize the good things that we have. Two years ago, the band that we were versus now is very different—not just socially, but like us together when we approach songs. … Just getting the songs out, and that’s it—that’s not how we approach any song anymore.”
Added Woo: “I think that becoming tight with your band takes a lot of time. All of us want to do the music justice. … I just told the guys that, in some way, this pandemic, as much pain as it’s brought us, has been like a blessing in disguise. It’s just provided more time to prepare.”
The band members said playing live feels different now.
“It’s been awesome,” Ceja said. “Honestly, it’s been great seeing a lot of people that we haven’t got to catch up with. It’s heartwarming to see how many people still support us and how many people that we support are still around and playing music, thank God. … We’re still a part of the Coachella lineup, and we still have this wonderful opportunity. It kind of makes us feel more certain, like this is what we’re meant to do. This is a part of who we are, and this is our group.
“The turnout has been insane—just looking at Marco Murrieta (bassist), and just being like, ‘Damn, I can’t believe this.’ Just seeing everybody happy dancing is an awesome feeling.”
Added Murrieta: “I didn’t expect the reaction that we’ve been getting. … It almost felt like people have been hungry to just see anything live, and the fact that they took the time out of their day to come see us has just been incredible.”
I asked the band if they felt any pressure being the Coachella Valley band to play at Coachella 2022, as announced so far.
“It doesn’t really feel like there’s any pressure at all, to be honest,” Colín said. “We got here being ourselves and don’t really have a benchmark to compare ourselves to, which is very liberating in a way. We all have our blood and sweat in the dirt we’ll be playing on, so if anything, it feels like we have something special no one has.”
Added Murrieta: “For me, when we got the initial news two years ago, I didn’t feel like I was ready. I didn’t have the experience to go up there and do something like that. I know Jose definitely didn’t have the experience, because we’d only been in the group for about two years up until that point, and we were still kind of getting comfortable with our stage presence and getting used to a big sound. I remember just thinking, ‘If we mess up, those mistakes are going to be heard by all those people that are sitting there.’ It was just anxiety, and now two years later, I don’t feel the nerves. I feel excited more than anything else, but there’s this weird calm leading to it. Maybe two days beforehand, I’m going to be a nervous wreck.”
Woo said it’s important for her and her bandmates to remain calm.
“It feels natural; it feels like I manifested it,” Woo said. “… When I got the email, it was like, ‘OK, OK,’ but I was scared. We didn’t even have an EP out yet. Now I feel like I’m prepared—but also, if I think about it in a detailed way, I could freak myself out.
“Recently, we were at the studio listening to our last song that we got mastered, and I had a serious moment. I looked at Janine (Woo’s girlfriend) and said, ‘I’m gonna freak out. I’m going to be the most afraid I’ve ever been in my life.’ She’s like, ‘Your duende is going to come out,’ this spiritual thing that happens when you have to just keep it together. I’m excited for that, and feel like we’re probably going to be beside ourselves.”