Private Playlist: Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares music that’s honey to her ears

Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares music that’s honey to her ears. Photo by Rudi Tcruz

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. Nicolette Vilar is the vocalist for Go Betty Go, a cornerstone of the latter-day SoCal Chicanx Punk scene that rose to prominence in the early 2000s. Often compared to the Go-Go’s, the band earned early plaudits for their classically tuneful three-chord rock’n’roll. They joined the Warped Tour in 2004 and 2005 and released two albums prior to Nicolette’s departure in 2006. The original lineup reunited in 2012 and issued “Reboot” in 2015.

When corona hit, everything flip-flopped, and our household was definitely turned on its head as well. My sister, brother-in-law and I were all roommates in Burbank. And we purchased this little farm, which is still in LA, but it feels like you're in like some far-off ranch community. I've got this big hill in the backyard where we planted a bunch of trees, and so every evening, after I'm done working, I go up there and start watering the trees from the top. And the sun starts going down in the sky; it gets very pink and blue, and right at that time, the crows go to sleep. So they fill the sky, and it makes you want to make music and listen to music. 


A song that came to mind when I was going up there and watering is "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)" by Harry Belafonte. With his voice, you really get a sense of the space that he's in, because it's almost like he's in a cave. And you get the feeling that song has been sung so many times. So I sing it to the birds when they come by.


This time of year is very special for me, because I love Halloween. I love everything spooky. One of my favorite singers is Dusty Springfield, and her song "Spooky" is so fun. I know it's not really a Halloween song, but I always put that on around this time of year. 


"Halah" is such a beautiful song; it feels like it's always existed. I remember being all of 14 or 15 and sitting on my big armchair in the living room, late into the night, and listening to that song over and over and over again, because it was just like honey to my ears. There's this feeling of sadness sometimes when you're a kid. I was very shy, and it was hard for me to make good relationships with people, especially in my early high school years. And Mazzy Star really knew how to take that feeling and turn it into something beautiful.


One of my favorite singers is Nina Diaz. She first came about in a band called Girl In A Coma, and then she went off and did her own album. And although I don't know her personally, I'm so in awe of her voice, her ability to play the guitar, and her lyrics. She is always on point, and I'm so grateful to exist in a world where she's there. "Rebirth" is a plea for approval she doesn't know if she's going to get. And she's saying, "Tell them all what you think of me." And that could be very good, or it could be very bad. She wears her vulnerability on her sleeve and really puts it all out there.


I'm a huge fan of Paul Simon, and a song that I've held onto and been listening to a lot lately is "The Obvious Child." He talks about such different things throughout the song. And I'm sorry that I can't pick a more hopeful song, but that's the one that makes me feel good, because it's talking about the feeling. Sometimes it's not about, "Well, let's just play a happy song," even though we're sad, but it's about going through the motions of what we're sad about, so when you come out the other side you feel like, "Okay, I've digested this, and I feel like I'm ready for the next challenge." And when he sings about "Why deny the obvious child," I feel that way a lot, because there are a lot of things happening that are just so blatantly obvious. Why are people denying climate change, the way we treat everyone, it's just ongoing. We need to stop ignoring these things and face them. And once we've come out the other side, that is real hope.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound
Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes
Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music
Pete Tong is comfortable with musical melancholy