Driving from Canada through upstate New York, Caddywhompus drummer Sean Hart says he earned his "honorary Canadian drivers license" after dragging the band van through brutal Canadian fall weather. The band — Hart and guitarist and vocalist Chris Rehm — returns to its native southern U.S. after a month on the road to preview its latest release, Feathering a Nest (Community Records).
The band's albums often play like miniature suites, with each song full of its own movements in a kaleidoscopic set of suites-within-suites. The band pushes the dynamic on Feathering a Nest — a simple sing-along melody on "Company" returns as an oversized, overdriven version of itself, followed by the straightforward, propulsive pop of "Thirst" giving way to a playful metallic riff before ending where it began.
"Songwriting-wise, we picked up where we left off," Hart says. "Chris comes up with riffs and ideas and chord progressions, he brings them to me and we figure out the songs together. That hasn't really changed. For this, we made a conscious decision to do a studio record and have someone else turn the knobs. It's the first record Chris hasn't set up the mics."
Rehm's densely layered guitars often float atop one another, pushing and pulling hazy, echoing riffs in one direction and chunky, brutally beautiful chords in another. Rehm's soaring near-falsetto weaves the melodies through the band's key-jumping aerobics.
Hart doesn't merely play along — the duo is in lockstep harmony, from start-stop riffs with offbeat time signatures to booming, spaced-out, space-filling drums. Hart's four snare hits introduce the appropriately titled closer "Layers," beginning an unpredictable 10 minutes of heavenly, teeth-baring riffs with measured and wild blasts of percussion before collapsing into static.
The Houston natives, both Loyola University graduates, formed Caddywhompus in 2008 and released the punky, experimental noise-pop releases EPs in 2009 and Remainder in 2010, followed by 2011's focused four-song effort The Weight. For November's Feathering a Nest, the band wanted a "proper vinyl release" for its renewed post-college productivity. Recorded and mixed by Matt Coppola in Philadelphia, Hart says the album represents a "good snapshot of songs we had written two years ago that are now coming to fruition."
"Once we recorded those, we started writing more stuff and we already had some ideas we recorded in that session that we wanted to save and rework for the next record," he says. "We're in a new phase. We're in the same spot, but we're at least changing sonically and being more mature about how we're dealing with records."
The band's live setup has changed little. Rehm's towering, mismatched speakers and amplifiers (and floor full of effects pedals) meet Hart's huge (and huge-sounding) drum kit.
"Our gear has been in shambles," Hart says, laughing. "That's the dream, to have nice gear that doesn't break and sounds how you'd want it to sound and you treat it nice. But we break stuff a lot." (At a recent show in Ontario, Canada, Hart used a microphone stand as a cymbal stand.)
"Whatever we have, we're going to use," he says.