She’s the Rock and She’s On a Roll

How a bubbly lead singer is inspiring representation in the local music scene.


Aliana Liz Tavares

Photo taken by Aliana Liz Tavares on April 8 2023, at the Bozo Bash show at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst

Dressed in many colorful layers, dark berry colored platform Skechers, and lots of eclectic jewelry, I learned that Chuka Stergios likes to thrift–and very frequently. “During [winter] break I went like three or four times,” she whispered, hoping not to be judged.

Looking at her vivacious style and hearing her quiet voice wouldn’t tip you off that she’s actually the lead singer of the new local band Bubble Scary.

Bubble Scary is an indie-rock band made up of buddies, including one of Chuka’s closest friends Jackson Payne, a junior studying computer science and the band’s bassist. Bubble Scary got their name from listing words they thought were funny with Payne saying “mathematically those words don’t make sense together.”

Last October, the band won WMUA’s annual Battle of the Bands competition, which established their fan base and place in the local music scene. After their win, WMUA also hosted their Empty Mug Sessions performance, a nod to NPR’S Tiny Desk, where their punchy sound topped sad lyrics.

A junior, Chuka Stergios studies a combination of psychology and BDIC creative entrepreneurship. Like most college students, she is figuring out what she wants to do after graduating next May. A clinical psychology class with children did peak her interest, but she hopes to find a balance between all the things she loves. She explained even if music isn’t in direct line with her career, it is intrinsic to who she is and “has been and is a major part of [her] life”.

Stergios was a part of two bands other than Bubble Scary. The primary one being Tomtsu, a band Payne was originally a part of, that she joined as a vocalist. This experience proved to be a lot of fun for Stergios, where she and her bandmates performed loads of times for their hometown’s local and teen recreation center’s events. She also worked on a side project recently in a group named Slinkie.

Despite performing for crowds large or small, she still gets nervous before each gig.

“I get very nervous, that’s something that I’ve had to tackle for a really long time. One hundred percent I think I get more nervous than anyone else in the band,” said Stergios.

Before a performance, her bandmates are usually trying to hype everyone up for the show, especially her.

“I’d say mostly in joking ways, I’ll try to make her laugh or I’ll say, ‘Chuka you’re mad G.O.A.T.-ed’. I try to remind her a lot that she’s an amazing singer, I think she sometimes doesn’t realize that,” said Payne.

For Bubble Scary, Stergios writes most of the songs as the lead vocalist, but the band usually works together to create melodies and riffs before they top their instrumentals with lyrics.

“She is kind of poetic about things. She can also be kind of anxious, but then she has these moments where she sheds it and really expresses herself. I think that’s why she is such a good singer and musician in general,” said Payne.

In addition to being a great performer, those close to her would also say that she’s a great friend. Spending lots of time with her bandmates helped the band grow and develop a routine, as well as strengthen a strong platonic bond. 

“She funny, she’s fun to hang out with. She’s the person where if I ever need to talk through something, I always go to Chuka. She’s really good at looking at a problem and breaking it down,” said Payne. 

Payne continued to talk about his friend, who he sees everyday, by explaining a time when she showed she really cares, “One time, it was the last time she could see me and our friend Zach for a bit, but she had work the next morning. She had to catch a commuter rail and to get to it and go really far at like 7 a.m. and she still hung out with us until like 5 a.m.”

Corey Cash, a junior studying political science and Bubble Scary’s guitarist says he has never made a close friend so fast, “She’s very real, bubbly and sentimental. She’s one of my very close friends.”

“I have always been fairly standoffish, but I would say that the music operates in a way that draws you closer to people faster. Where I or other people might not be good at being personable or open, [the music] kind of stands in for that,” Cash continued.

Stergios finds it easier to make friends wherever she goes. Born in the United States and the daughter of a Japanese mother and a Syrian and Greek father, she got to know her cultures well through travel. After preschool in Brookline, Stergios lived and went to school in Japan for kindergarten and first grade. After she returned to the States for second grade, she did schooling in Japan each summer. 

“My town there is a fairly small town in the south. When I was younger, in school, I was the only person who wasn’t fully Japanese there, which just made me feel kind of more in touch and like I was part of something that I didn’t have as much here [United States],” she said.

“I am really grateful to have the type of friendships that you see them when you do see them. I know people there that I have known since elementary school that I would only see once a year but we’ve maintained some type of contact,” she said.

Her favorite memory of going to school overseas was unicycling with her friends in the summers, something she doesn’t think would have been possible or easy to do in the city. 

Community is very important to Stergios and that’s clear through her constant planning of local music events. Bozo Bash, is the name of the scheduled performances by local bands and musicians younger and older of all different backgrounds. The purpose of these events is to make the music scene in five college area more accessible–not only in terms of physical spaces that are safer than notorious basement shows, but also in terms of bringing together people who wouldn’t normally connect otherwise.

“With Battle of the Bands I think there is a time and place for competitions, but all the time is a time and place to try and build up a safe community. It’s really cool to see all the new bands, because for so long there were like three or four bands that were taking the forefront of everything,” said Stergios.

She described that she sometimes feels the difference between Bubble Scary and other bands that don’t have much diversity, being a woman, and a woman of color.

“It is one of those things where you are just aware and it’s not like other people are talking to you in a certain way or [you’re] being framed in a different way–it’s just that sometimes you’re in a really big group and you realize you’re the only girl there, which can definitely be a little weird,” she said.

Stergios hopes that the music scene can grow to be more diverse, but understands that joining for those who aren’t cisgender, white, and male can be intimidating. 

“If I didn’t have a group of friends that have that common interest of making music with me, and we get along and they listen to my input, I think it would be really hard for me to start a band and try to book shows with other male dominated bands,” she said.

Stergios encourages those who are timid to express themselves through music to do what interests them and makes them happy, “It makes me want more people to join, it makes me want to grow the whole scene more and be as much of a help as I can. It’s so fun. Everyone should join. Everyone should make a band, even if you don’t think you can make music, just try it. See what sticks.”

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