US - New York - Full Moon 79 - 03/18/03
- an interview with ...
The sound of now!
"Calla are the sound that remains after ...Trail Of
Dead have dropped to their knees, broken men. Raised in Texas but formed in Brooklyn, theirs is
a world of haunted dancehalls and deserted desert plains, of tortured love songs dedicated to
the ghosts of murdered lovers. Gloriously melodramatic, they make feeling misunderstood in low
lighting seem like the noble cause it's clearly always been."
That's what the british music bible NME has to say about the American three-piece that just
released their third album in four years. The record, called Televised is certainly one
of the most exciting releases to come out this year so far and the good newsis that the band
supposedly is even better live. Before they head over to the "old world" in late March for a
massive seven week tour, Luna Kafé had the chance to talk to the three members - Sean
Donovan, Wayne B. Magruder and Aurelio Valle - indivdually. To make it a little bit more coherent,
we edited their answers together and here is what they had to say.
LK: How does it feel to be a member of Calla in the spring of 2003? And how does it
compare to 1999, when your first album came out?
Aurelio: "There seems to be alot more excitement, mainly because there is alot more
opportunity and support from the label and friends, now as opposed to 1999. Alot of our friends
bands are doing really well and there has been alot more attention drawn to New York, there is
alot of creative energy and you really start to realize what it is that make's up a scene."
Wayne: "I feel like we know our place in music and have a grasp of what we're trying to
do musically-its still a struggle and an exploration but one with more confidence."
Sean: "It is exciting but a little uncertain. We recorded the record in the spring of
last year so it has been a little frustrating waiting for the release. It's nice to finally see
the light at the end of the tunnel and have people listeing to the music. Musically and personally
I think that we are in a different frame of mind than 1999. There was a certain naivety with the
first record (which I personally love) and I think we have all matured since then."
LK: You've come a long way soundwise from your debut album to the new one now...
Was there an important turning point?
Aurelio: "For me it was where I was at, I felt I was being alot more forward and aggressive
with my personal life, and alot was happening emotionally. it was inspiring to have that reflect
in the music, it is different because the time we spent writing it was different...I'm proud of
Wayne: "I felt like we eventually got to this place by playing out live-it was a natural
progression for us-next album might be opposit of this direction-who knows, playing songs out
live extensively really effects yr mindframe."
Sean: "We are never really content with anything so we are always looking to change things
around and try different things. Once we started playing the first record live, things started
to gradual shift focus into what they are today. The electronics and experimentalism are still
there but the approach is more direct and focused."
LK: What inspires the changes? (Events in your life, people you've met or maybe
just new records you listened to or new equipment you bought?)
Sean: "All of the above. I got married last year and making that type of decision really
focuses your attention on the long-term as opposed to what song you want to write next. The events
of Sept. 11 also had a tremendous impact of everyone living in NYC. It's very cliche but nothing
will ever be the same again. It really focuses you and makes you prioritize your live which then
translates into the music. The new record was also very influcnced by the way it was recorded.
We spent much more time recording as a band in a proper studio as opposed to overdubbing individual
parts at home on the computer. The new record is a continuation of the organic elements of
Scavengers ("Tijerina", "Fear of fireflies")."
Aurelio: "I think it's unpredictable alot of the time, it could be one song that you hear
that can spark ten idea's or simply what is eating at you from the inside makes it's way out...
Wayne: "Listening to harsher music with backbeats like Def Jux label artists and Fennesz
and Neil Young/Crazy Horse were all influential to me making this album."
LK: Does than mean the getting there is more important than the finished piece of
Sean: "We are all control freaks so while we are working on something it is quite easy to
get wrapped up in that process. It really is that process that creates this thing that is "Calla".
The individual personalities are very similar and strong that the constant interaction of ideas
is really what seperate us from other bands. We try to never lose focus on the end result though
because in the end, the result is much more important than the process. Most listeners will have
very little interest in the process so although it definately works on that "deeper" level our
primary interest is in grabbing the listeners attention so that can really start to dig in
deeper and start to notice the subtlitiess and processes that underly our music."
Aurelio: "Sure but we listen to a song a million times before deciding that it's done! I
get the best feeling from writing then rehearsing and seeing it take shape, then it gets better
to see others react to the music!"
Wayne: "I'd agree with that-you really have to be able to step back and see the end
product for what it really is though in the end or you can end up with some really self-indulgent
LK: Does that also mean the atmosphere is more important than the song itself? Is
there a definite answer to that?
Sean: "Probably 3 different answers!!! Since we are a rock band the answer should probably
be songs however i think it's our attention to detail and tones that really make it interesting.
The differnence of opinion (and your confusion) are what's interesting to me about the whole
Aurelio: "The song is as important as the atmosphere, you need to have a scenery and a
focal point...like a photograph or a film."
Wayne: "This struggle between is the sound of Calla."
LK: I suppose you've been compared to just about everbody from My Bloody Valentine
to The Gun Club, Bowery Electric and Nick Cave. Has it reached the point yet, were those comparisons
Aurelio: "It seems to get more and more ridiculous as we go, but I love it, when you've
got such a wide range of comparisons it's nice that they can't pin you down."
Wayne: "We've been compared to so many different artists that I find it amusing. Sometimes
people hit it right on an others are so ridiculously off."
Sean: "It's always nice to see the comparisions and the diversity speak to what each
individual listener is bringing to the table."
LK: How picky are you when it comes to accept support slots? I think Interpol is a
pretty good choice, was that just coincidental?
Aurelio: "We aren't picky, but the decisions we make, if you have the option, have to try
and make sense, we've always played shows with Interpol, we've been friends for a few years now
and when they started doing well, they stayed supportive. That's what's going on in New York,
all these bands are playing for the same team."
Sean: "Very picky. It's a waste of time to play w/ people that you have no connection to.
They have always been friends of ours and its great to see them having the sucess. It's been a
great experience to be on the road w/ them."
LK: Talking of live shows: what can we expect from your live shows this time
Wayne: "Lots more variety this time around-slow, fast, aggressive, soft..."
Aurelio: "An extra guitarist, and a performance that reflects the music."
Sean: "More cops, less rock. Ah, the tempos will be faster and more emphasis on the
guitar (like Televised)".
LK: Do you think the fact that you're a very good live band has something to do
with the fact that you made the transition to performing live pretty late, thus avoiding the
usual learning-by-doing phase of a band starting out as a live outfit?
Sean: "Thats an interesting question. I think it probably has something to do w/ that and
the fact that originally we wanted to sound very big but just had the three of us so it really
focused our playing (ie no note could be wasted, every gesture had to really count)."
Wayne: "Spending so much time together playing in different groups has had the greatest
influence on me, Sean and I have been playing music together since high school."
LK: Was there a special event in your life, a piece of music you heard that made
you decide to become a musician? What was it?
Wayne: "Listening to my brothers records like U2 and Talking Heads had the greatest
effect on me growing up-without him I dont know what I'd be doing today."
LK: Last question: Any famous last words?
Wayne: "I hope people know that calla, behind some serious music do have a good sense of
Copyright © 2003 Carsten Wohlfeld
Photo © 2003 Alex Wright