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INTERVIEW: Cale and the Gravity Well

Hi Cale, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hi! It’s great to be here! And so airy too. I’m great, thanks for asking!

Can you talk to us more about your song “The Age of Envy”? We really enjoy it!

Sure! I’ve written about this one before, but it started with the words “The best thing about the age of envy…” which, by itself, is a nonsense phrase that just popped into my head randomly one day. But the words stuck in my head, and I found myself mulling over what exactly that phrase could mean, as well as the as-yet non-existent second half of the sentence. That’s how a lot of my songs get started. Some weirdly catchy phrase will blow in on the wind and take up residence. From there on, it’s anyones guess where it goes. This one eventually ended up being about life in the digital era, and some of the narcissism that a life online cultivates.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

I wish I could say so, since that seems to be standard among songwriters. Really adds the heft of authentic practice to a song. Sadly though, as I mentioned above, a lot of my creative impulses start basically at random. Which is not a very efficient way to write, but then again, they say Salvador Dahli used to fall asleep sitting upright in a high-backed chair, clutching a spoon. As soon as he began to drift off he’d drop the spoon onto a carefully placed metal plate, waking himself up and allowing him, in his half-asleep delirium, to paint the details of his madness. So relatively speaking, it’s not like I’ve got it hard.

Any plans to release any music videos from the record?

The short answer is no. I did the video for “So Many Lashes,” which was great, but now it’s almost a year after the album release and I, as well as my band, are on to different things, and I think videos for the old stuff are just too late to make much of an impact. That being said, I’d be remiss not to take this opportunity to mentioned that I did try and shoot a video for “Charming Devil” in LA last year. We were going to shoot at California State University Northridge’s campus, and instead of paying for a permit, the director hired a guy from the school to get it at a discounted rate from one of the film professors (I have no idea if that was, or is, a viable option). Needless to say, he did not. The CSUN police shut us down about halfway through when we could not produce that permit, and I was out a music video. That’s what I get, I guess, for hiring a guy I met through my Instagram DM’s. Live and learn.

Why naming the album after this track in particular?

The album is pretty disparate, tone-wise, but for some reason the whole time we were tracking I kept coming back to this one track as kind of the lynchpin. Thematically and musically, I think it is a snapshot of the headspace I was in at the time of the record, which also meant there was a lot of debate about where to put it in the song order on the album. Eventually a friend convinced me that it was probably best utilized as the introductory song, and subsequently it also earned its place on the front cover. Plus, I happen to think it’s a bad ass name for a record.

How was the recording and writing process behind the album? 

Looking back, shockingly smooth. The whole thing basically got written and tracked in the span of like, seven months. I had gone to meet with Nathan Bergman, frontman for Lionize, and through him the rest of the band (shoutouts to Chase Lapp, Hank Upton, Chris Brooks) agreed to act as producers for the project. I had five, maybe six songs written that I thought we could retool into an EP. We did some demos together, and later on I sent a couple more online from my home in New York, and then it was off to the races. The band would record the backing tracks during the week. Two or three times a month I would truck down to DC on weekends, meeting in Chris’s basement to do vocal tracking. It was a lot of fun, the time spent screaming into that microphone in the makeshift vocal booth hanging from the ceiling of that suburban basement. It was a period of real growth for me.

What role does influences of artists such as Fleet Foxes and Black Keys play in your music?

Well in terms of stylistic influences, maybe not as much. I really admire both of those bands; Robin Pecknold’s soaring, almost hymn-like harmonies, the garage pop riffs coming off Dan Auerbach’s guitar, etc. I don’t necessarily use a lot of those except in the general sense that having harmony parts and catchy licks are always positives, but I try and think about what happens in that music that I think makes it exceptional, and then apply those things to mine. For example, Fleet Foxes was the first band I got into that didn’t always use straightforward construction in their songs. “Mykonos” is like two songs in one, but the transition is so seamless you’d hardly notice. That blew my mind the first time I heard that. “You can write a pop song, that doesn’t SOUND like a pop song?!” They go further on songs like “The Shrine/An Argument,” which is really more of a mini operetta than anything else. The Blacks Keys preach the opposite lesson, which is that more complicated is not always better. Those guys are the kings of making one lick go for miles. It’s about having the confidence to stay more or less in one place, and embellish where needed but for the most part cutting the fat. Both of these things are lessons that I try to put into my music wherever I think they’re most appropriate.

What aspect of envy did you channel or explored throughout this record?

A lot of it was envy of another fictitious me, one who was more motivated and more outgoing and more talented. Especially in this interconnected world, you’re likely to come into contact with virtuosic talent or Sisyphean ambition, especially in people your own age, and of course these are held up as the ultimate in desirable traits. Then you look inwards and find that you are not that way, and it’s hard to manage that sometimes. There’s a lot of pressure to succeed in this society, especially in youth, and I think it’s left a lot of millennial-types disaffected, with politics, with careers, with themselves. You become self-deprecating, or cynical, or aggrandized. I was trying to get at my feelings of envy, sure, but also the notion that it’s better to acknowledge that, alongside my actual reality of being twenty-something and not particularly important, it’s ok to be somewhat clueless. I have a hunch that most people are, and that’s really what everyone has in common. No one knows what they’re doing, no one has all their shit together, and those people you’re envious of are probably envious of you right back. Because, you guessed it, they probably don’t know what the hell is going on either.

Any plans to hit the road this year?

There is a vague notion that that will happen sometime a little later on. We have a show at Bonanza Campout on June 24th in Heber City, Utah, so it’s possible that we’ll try and play some shows in the weeks beforehand out there in the west. Otherwise, that brings me to the last question…

What else is happening next in Cale and the Gravity Well’s world?

We’re releasing an EP! Probably! Honestly it’s a little up in the air right now but we do have some songs that are nearing completion, and at least one actionable plan is that we’ll have a release by middle summer. It depends mostly on whether or not we go for a longer release. Following that up, we will probably go on promotional tour. So stay tuned! We have lots of cool stuff on the horizon.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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