Carla Elliott JosaFeen “Jo-Jo” Wells and Kristina “Kbudd” Buddenhagen are the epitome of what makes a HERA Fest heroine — well, a heroine. The self-proclaimed “goofy girls from the DMV” released their self-titled EP “DMV KARS” back in May and will definitely be performing selections from the EP at the upcoming HERA Fest.
DMV KARS started to play together in 2017, though they originally met in 2011 as members of the band E.D. Sedgwick. Wells was a vocalist in the band while Buddenhagen played the bass. The duo kept it simple when creating their name, KARS being an amalgamation of both of their first names — the DMV portion of it is obvious. “Well, our name is a combination of our names. My off stage name is Carla, hers is Kris, we are both from the MD/DC/VA area so we thought DMV KARS would work,” Wells stated.
Their electrofunk/dance EP makes you want to put away all your life stresses and groove, or as Wells sings in the second song “Dance Party,” “No more selfies, put that phone down and just party.” Wells and Buddenhagen may not have a particular artist that influenced this album, but their love for 80’s pop synth is sprinkled all over the songs. Wells was influenced by acts such as Earth Wind and Fire and Chaka Khan growing up, while Buddenhagen had more of a love for 80’s pop such as Madonna. Both women stated that they were influenced by the 80’s band Eurythmics.
Wells and Buddenhagen completed their first EP using their reservoir of musical talent, a Macbook, microKORG and a Yamaha keyboard. It can be found on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Bandcamp and a few other streaming services.
DMV KARS may love their entire 5 track EP from top to bottom, but Wells stated her particular favorite is “Fukumeen,” as they wrote and produced it quickly and without too many disagreements. “This whole album has a meaning of independence for both myself and Kris. We literally pushed ourselves to both do something out of our comfort zone to be able to say this is totally written, produced and arranged by us, two bad ass women,” stated Jo-Jo Wells.
Both women began playing music in their childhood, “I started singing before I started talking,” stated Wells. Wells basically grew up in church, and the choir is how she learned to become such a talented vocalist. Buddenhagen, on the other hand, heard Madonna at a very young age and demanded that her family buy her a guitar. She has played instruments ever since.
HERA Fest is a female led music festival — its mission is to celebrate, promote and empower women and girls alike. This makes DMV KARS the perfect choice to perform during the 2nd annual festival. HERA Fest founder Cathy DiToro started the festival and her organization, Project HERA, to strive for gender equality in the music industry.
“Supporting local artists alone is greatly appreciated, but to focus on females like us is just amazing. We are truly thankful and excited about performing,” stated Wells. They plan on bringing their “A” game for their performance and might have something special in store for the audience.
The music industry may have numerous successful female artists, but even today women in music are constantly faced with criticism, especially when they attempt to stand by their beliefs. Wells, herself a long-time musician, has come across many obstacles and discrimination as a female in the business. During Wells’ teenage years, she sang professionally with Go-Go bands, but noticed a large wage disparity between male and female musicians. She makes it clear that this is not a critique of Go-Go, as she still loves the genre where she began her professional career, but she didn’t feel that she received as much as she put in.
“Musicians who were majority male made hundreds, and I couldn’t get enough to get a snicker. Maybe they felt I didn’t need it as much as them with families or just period, but I sweated along just like the rest of the boys and rocked just as hard,” Wells stated.
She makes note that her experiences are not necessarily antiquated, but definitely agrees that times have changed, and women in positions of power are looking out for their sisters. Wells’ gives this advice to any female that is striving to be a musician: “Have your own moral code and standards to adhere to. Never sell yourself short or out and if someone has a problem that’s all it is THEIR problem, not yours.”
Besides HERA Fest, DMV KARS has a show lined up during the month of September at the bar Slash Run, located in the Petworth neighborhood.
HERA Fest 2019 will be held on September 22nd from 12 – 8pm at City Winery DC. DMV KARS will be performing along with Jill Souble, Elizabeth II, Boss Company and Shenna.