Navajo Prep sisters already experiencing taste of musical success as the Sillyettes

Lily and Lola Williams have been performing together for 5 years

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Sisters Lola, left, and LIly Williams, both of whom are students at Navajo Prep, have played in the band the Sillyettes for the last five years and recently recorded their first album.
  • Their band the Sillyettes also includes their father, bass player Rippy Williams.
  • Their debut CD "The Bologna Sandwich Album" is now available.
  • The girls have attracted the attention of TV writer/producer Donick Cary and Grammy-winning rocker Tim Armstrong.

FARMINGTON — Lily Williams is all of 16 years old, just a sophomore at Navajo Prep in Farmington. And yet, she and her sister Lola, 14, already have been playing in a band together for five years and just released their first album.

In spite of her youth, she sounds like a salty music industry veteran when she offers some sage advice to parents whose children, like her, show an affinity for music at an early age.

"If there are any kids out there like that, I really encourage you (parents) to help them get into it," Lily said. " … Music is my best friend in a way. Music has always been there for me. It's been my background. I'm glad my dad introduced me to it. He played in different bands when we were growing up, and watching him always made me want to do that."

Lily and Lola are two-thirds of the Sillyettes, a Farmington-based trio that includes their father, Rippy, on bass. The group has had a big summer, seeing the release of its single "One in a Million" on the B side of a vinyl recording by Rancid frontman and Grammy winner Tim Armstrong's new band, and releasing its own debut CD, "The Bologna Sandwich Album."

Lily plays ukulele and handles the vocals for the group, while Lola, a freshman at Navajo Prep, plays the drums. Both girls also write songs, and most of the tunes on their new album were written by them.

Lily penned "One in a Million," a song the group recorded in August 2019 at a Hollywood studio formerly owned by Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea. The session took place under the watchful eye of Armstrong, who had met the girls a year earlier when they performed on the same bill at the annual Rock n' Roll Carnival. That event is a benefit music festival presented each year by Musack, a nonprofit organization founded in 2009 that raises money for music programs for schoolchildren.

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Armstrong arranged for the hurried session, which took place in the early morning because the Williams family had a flight later that day back to New Mexico. He was so pleased with the results, he used "One in a Million" on the flip side of a vinyl recording from his new band the Crew.

The single originally was scheduled for release last summer, during the 2020 Rock n' Roll Carnival. But that plan was scrapped when the festival was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Armstrong released a small, limited pressing of the vinyl recording earlier this month, and all 100 copies were sold in a little more than 30 minutes, Lily said, prompting Armstrong to order a second run that will be issued soon.

The Sillyettes had been invited to play the Rock n' Roll Carnival after meeting one of Musack's founders, television writer and producer Donick Cary ("Late Show with David Letterman," "The Simpsons," "Parks and Recreation") while performing at a festival in Window Rock, Arizona. He took an interest in the girls, becoming the first of what has now become several entertainment-industry players to give them a career boost.

Lily, left, and Lola Williams of the Sillyettes had their single "One in a Million" recorded in Hollywood in 2019 and released last month on the B side of a vinyl recording by the Crew, the new band by Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong.

Lily said she only met Armstrong at the Rock n' Roll Carnival by accident. While waiting for the Sillyettes to take the stage, she said the guitar player from another group asked to borrow her tuner, then disappeared without returning it. Lily tried to borrow a tuner from one of the other musicians backstage, to no avail. As her band's performance slot approached, and knowing her instrument was badly out of tune, she felt a growing sense of panic and dread.

"I was literally on the verge of tears," she said.

Fortunately, one of the musicians milling about backstage noticed her distress and graciously offered her his tuner. Lily gratefully accepted without really getting a good look at him, noting only that he was bald, sported a large beard and had lots of tattoos.

Later, when she asked her father to help her locate her mysterious benefactor so she could return the tuner, she spotted him and pointed him out to her dad. Rippy pulled her aside in amazement and informed her the man was none other than Armstrong, the lead guitarist and vocalist for Rancid who also has worked with artists ranging from reggae performer Jimmy Cliff and Greenday's Billy Joe Armstrong (no relation) to Pink and Joe Walsh of the Eagles.

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A friendship developed between the girls and the veteran rocker, and a year later, he invited them to the recording session after a second appearance at the Rock n' Roll Carnival. Lily said she decided to perform "One in a Million" during the session because writing the song helped her get through a particularly difficult episode of teen angst a little while earlier.

"It's basically about me having a bad day," she said. "I was frustrated and sad. It was midnight, and I was trying to go to sleep, but I couldn't."

Wrestling with her emotions after a male classmate she barely knew had started an ugly, and false, rumor about her, Lily decided to take her father's advice and channel her anxiety through a creative outlet. She got out her ukulele and began trying to sing what she was feeling.

"He said, 'When you're really sad about something, don't let it get to you — take it out on something else,'" Lily recalled.

The result eventually took the shape of "One in a Million," a catchy, hook-laden piece of alt-pop that perfectly showcases the girls' budding talent. "The Bologna Sandwich Album" is filled with such tunes, proving to be a promising debut from a pair of young musicians who likely are only beginning to tap their reservoir of potential.

Lily's soft-spoken sister, Lola, said she approaches music the same way as her older sibling, using the physicality and focus required to play the drums to work through her doubts, fears and concerns.

"I don't really talk much," she said, explaining that few of her classmates and friends even know about her status as a performer who already has shared the stage with some of music's biggest names and drawn the attention of Hollywood wheels.

Both girls say they haven't given much thought about where their musical journey will lead them and insist they're just enjoying the experience for now. But the brief taste of stardom they have experienced so far has left them at least considering the possibility of making it a lifelong pursuit.

"Playing in a band is just for fun right now," Lily said. "But if we do make it a career, that would be pretty cool."

The Sillyettes' next scheduled performance is at a festival in Page, Arizona, in November. "The Bologna Sandwich Album" can be purchased by emailing rippyandthesillyettes@yahoo.com. The band can be followed at facebook.com/rippyandthesillyettes.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.