Loud and Live

HotChaCha takes its fun and feisty rock on the road.
During its finest moments on stage, HotChaCha evokes a roiling sea. Heather Gmucs plays rumbling bass lines. Roseanna Safos' drumming crashes and swells, and Mandy Aramouni's effects-drenched guitar melodies wail through a pair of amplifiers that act as bookends for the stage.

Jovana Batkovic, the band's multilingual frontwoman, spends most performances adrift in the crowd, anchored by her microphone cord. Perhaps Northeast Ohio's most promising rock act since the Black Keys, HotChaCha has risen rapidly since its larkish inception three years ago.

"We really had no expectations," Aramouni says, recalling when she approached Batkovic, a Bosnian-born theater major, about starting an all-female band. "We just wanted to get together and have girls' night out."

The pair soon enlisted a drummer and began rehearsing. Originally a trio, HotChaCha played its first show a few months later, performing a set of five songs — none of which had endings. "I had never seen a show like that before in my life," recalls Gmucs, who promptly joined the band.

In 2008, Cleveland independent label Exit Stencil Recordings put out the EP Rifle, I Knew You When You Were Just a Pistol and last fall released the band's first full-length album, The Hardest Working Telescope and the Violent Birth of Stars. During an April show at Cleveland's Happy Dog, HotChaCha debuted songs slated for its second full-length album, and even while working out untested material, the band already sounded too big for the venue.

Although HotChaCha has been well received here from the onset, band members were dubious of the praise until they began to win over out-of-town crowds. With its new album scheduled for an August release, HotChaCha plans to delve into full-time touring.

"Being out there in another city where no one knows you and they still like your music, you kind of get another idea of how things are," Aramouni says. "That's when I was like, 'I want to do this.' "

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