Nora Cheng’s Band Takes On Chicago


Noah Lichstein

Beatrice Parr, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Last Sunday, Latin junior Nora Cheng added the Beat Kitchen to the long list of venues that her band, Horsegirl, has played. Since they first met up in February of 2019, the girls have written multiple songs and performed across the city. They would describe their music as “noise-rock,” but consider it alternative or indie rock in broader terms. 

The group started when Nora and Penelope played together after meeting at the School of Rock’s guitar program. Nora says, “We kind of just liked the same music so one day we decided to just play together.” They continued to meet after that first day, and Nora adds, “we ended up writing one song over the span of five months or something because it was a very slow process.” They then performed the song at a teen open mic at the Old Town School of Folk Music. “It’s just a nice place for young people to show their music for people,” Nora says, “They’re very supportive there so it was a very nice way to get a start.”

After the initial open mic, the duo decided to expand, and posted on their social media accounts that they were in need of a bassist and a drummer. Shortly thereafter, Gigi joined on the drums and Fiona on the bass. The girls go to different schools, and, as Nora points out, they “do other things, so it’s hard to find time when we are all available.” Despite their busy schedules, the group is typically able to meet at least once a week to rehearse and write. 

Finding time to write is especially important, as Nora says, “We have not played that many covers, most of it is original.” While their writing process varies, “mostly what happens is that one person will bring a chord progression or some smaller bit of a song to the group, and we will kind of just jam over it for a while and see what sticks.” After the initial play-through, she explains, they “pause, try to step back and talk about it, and talk about form and what we want to do. We will try a bunch of different things and it all ends up making this song.”

While their work is original, the group draws inspiration from a shared favorite band. “All of us really like this band called Yo La Tengo,” Nora says. “They were pretty popular in the nineties. [Their music] is just pleasant sounding music, but it’s also kind of noisy and they use a lot of shakers.” Horsegirl covered one of their songs at a gig and use shakers in some of their original work. 

The group has had plenty of paid and unpaid gigs since their first open mic, but Nora’s favorite was their performance at the Museum of Contemporary Art. “They have this teen organized art thing, and they have music played, so they asked us to play there. That was really cool, because it’s a really cool place to play.” In addition to receiving Instagram direct messages from venues, the girls reach out to organizations themselves. Recently, Wicker Park Fest responded that they could play there, so stay on the lookout for Horsegirl in Wicker Park this summer! 

Even without the gigs, the girls are happy to be a part of the teen music community. “It’s cool to play music because then you get to know a bunch of these other people, and I’ve met so many people from it, and I just keep meeting more,” Nora says, “It’s just like a whole pathway.”
Click here for Horsegirl’s Spotify page.