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kzsu fm (stanford university) review of "contrary sanctuary"

"East-bay punk/popsters at times reminiscent of the Pixies/Breeders or PJ Harvey. Catchy guitar riffs, power bass lines, slight surf-rock influences. Quite varied and good - songs range from folky slow ballads, punky power pop to covers of children's songs. Fronted by Valerie Esway, whose vocal range is quite impressive, from dark angst to a singsong quality."

review of our Bottom of the Hill record release party (with 20 Minute Loop and Ultralash):

I've written before about the execrable state of San Francisco's local music scene, so I'm pleased to say that I went to a show of all-local bands that was well-attended and had an enthusiastic audience. It was a lot of fun, too. All of these artists sound distinctly local - Ramona the Pest, in particular, have the kind of eclectic sound I associate with some of the quirkier San Francisco bands that formed in the early 90s (Ovarian Trolley is the first name that springs to mind). All of these artists have been around for a while, so they were playing for a crowd that already knew and appreciated them, which is the kind of warm and fuzzy vibe that's supposed to make local shows special. It's a pleasant departure from the haughty New-York-in-San-Francisco vibe that weighs down shows by some of San Francisco's hipper bands.
___________________ February 2003

The new 4 song EP from the San Francisco bay area three-piece outfit Ramona the Pest, Birds, Bugs, Bones, offers a sharply jagged slice of alt-rock songcraft in the tradition of Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and 11th Dream Day. Guitarist Lucio Menegon uses his gift to lay down some truly inspired six-string mayhem.  The guitars range from chunky slabs of metallic riffing to wailing whammy-bar manipulation.  The band uses dynamics to the extreme, as vocalist Valerie Esway's voice floats under, above, and completely within the audio mix. The opening track "15 Yeah" is a rowdy rocker that screams for college radio airplay with its thunderous guitars and chorus of "yea yea yea's." At this time in history, female-fronted rock bands aren't getting the attention they rightfully deserve.  It's time for a new band to take the lead and breathe fresh air into the genre. With a bit of luck, Ramona the Pest will be that band.
___________________ April 2002

Ramona The Pest -- Birds, Bugs, Bones (self-released): Quirky guitar-pop band fronted by talented singer-songwriter Valerie Esway. The band owes a debt to alt-rock gods like Pixies and PJ Harvey, marrying some distinctive melodies to some jarring-yet-appealing guitar chords. "Itsy Bitsy Spider" is a great showcase for Esway's vocal acumen - she's sassy, she's powerful, she's sexy, she's simply pretty damn cool, as the song whispers and screams in different spots. "Skeleton Woman" is OK, but has a great instrumental break, with Esway's backing harmonies layered in the background. The EP opener, "15 Yeah", is a great rocker - it has a slight surf-cum-punk feel that may remind some of Aquanettas or Slant 6. More than four songs next time, please.
___________________ March2002

"This four-song EP makes for a practiced “how-to” treatise on the art of writing really neat songs. Loaded with crisp, succinct and catchy pop tunes, Birds, Bugs, Bones is sprinkled with just enough atmospheric indie rock to keep it interesting. “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “15 Yeah” combine the upbeat coolness of the ‘60s with the modern edge of the ‘90s, while disc closers “Skeleton Woman” and “Lullabye for a Sad Day” deliver up a calming, easy feeling effect by showcasing the melodious singing of lead vocalist Valerie Esway..."
_______________ February 2002

"RAMONA THE PEST play hard hitting and airtight pop.  RTP demonstrates that a veteran unit with top notch song writing skills and loads of talent is a band that you can trust to deliver the goods time and time again.  This band is so damn good that radio is never going to discover them in spite of their being perfect for the airwaves."
The Crass Menagerie Issue #99 (Part One) January 2002

Assessing a band based on four songs is always a challenge. In the case of Birds, Bugs, Bones, the listener's task is interesting, fun and rewarding. Ramona The Pest is an indie Bay area trio that has been around for a while - certainly long enough for their originality to shine through numerous influences and long enough to master the ability to craft tight, catchy songs. "15 Yeah" opens the EP with a 60s retro-rock tune that is quite reminiscent of the Plimsouls; "Itsy Bitsy Spider" is an edgy alt-pop version of a childhood song. "Skeleton Woman" is a laid back ballad, and "Lullabye" closes things with some very nice vocal harmony. While the band gives nods to the Pixies, PJ Harvey and Patti Smith, there's an appealing similarity to the work of New York's Lauren Agnelli and Dave Rave.
Eric Sorensen
Amplifier Magazine Issue No. 28 (Jan/Feb 2002)

"Berkeley's Ramona the Pest have been crafting brilliant pop songs tempered with dark lyrics about frustration and lost love for the past several years. Charismatic frontwoman Val Esway's vocals can be both powerful and beautiful." - Synthesis 9/10/01

"They always come back. You can't keep them away even with a sharp stick and scary grimaces. But Ramona the Pest is different, more deserving of open arms than the unwashed, untalented masses. The band left earlier this year for Arizona -- a spring raining of sorts -- and here they are again, bringing their darkly atmospheric pop back to the Starry Plough. Frontwoman Val Esway says that she can't wait to get back. They've been working on a new release, Birds, Bugs, Bones, and it will no doubt be saturated by the southwestern sun and dusted with red rock sand -- advance word is that toy pianos are involved. Carmaig de Forest and Hoarhound open." - Urban View 9/5/01

East Bay Express cover article 4/20/01

"a razor sharp alt-folk mainstay on the local club scene" EB Express 3/30/01

"You remind me of Patti Smith" - Penelope Houston after RTP's set 3/23/01

"Over the course of five years and six albums, Berkeley California's Ramona the Pest has quietly become one of the more intriguing developments in the Bay Area. Led by indie chanteuse Valerie Esway, and frequently accompanied by a collective of musicians including guitarist Lucio Menegon, the group has been earning raves for its dark and atmospheric pop. RTP's latest effort, the self-released Little Knives, combines the best elements of its more obvious influences - Cowboy Junkies, Lisa Germano, Geraldine Fibbers - into an intriguing 12-song platter". - Phoenix NewTimes - Jan 25, 2001



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