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Calla photo by Alex Wright flag US - New York - Full Moon 79 - 03/18/03

Calla - 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 it."
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 work?
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 garbage."

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 thing."
Aurelio: "The song is as important as the atmosphere, you need to have a scenery and a focal 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 annoy you?
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 around?
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 humor."

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Photo © 2003 Alex Wright

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