Yes In My Backyard is a semiweekly column showcasing MP3s from new and emerging local talent.
Brooklyn’s Callers make an indescribable, codeine-ready micro-ruckus that straddles some downtown-via-Bedford line between grandiose indie rock gestures, art-jazz slither, dusty folk, and swooning soul. The band understands how to seamlessly mix disparate sounds–they are originally from New Orleans, after all–and second album Life Of Love (due October via Western Vinyl) is a triumph of genre mashing, often sounding like Norah Jones fronting the Cowboy Junkies, or like Patti Smith playing a TVOTR record at half-speed. Though they began as a New Orleans home-recording project, the crew moved to Brooklyn after Katrina. Life of Love is their first album written and recorded as full-fledged New Yorkers. Far less smoky and somnambulant than their critically acclaimed debut Fortune, album opener “You Are An Arc” captures the bustle of the big city, even though it’s mostly about Florida (read more below). The track teams the late-night soul-tinged croon of vocalist Sara Lucas with the ill-angled edges of band like Dirty Projectors. Says guitarist Ryan Seaton, “We try to let our songs go where they want to go. ‘You Are An Arc’ felt good in eleven, so we went with it.”
What is “You Are An Arc” about?
Sara Lucas, vocals: I was reading about pythons in Florida and a forest ranger whose job is to chase them down. They are an invading, exotic species that are destroying all manner of life in their foreign environment. The images he described were unbelievable to me, like finding a dead python with an alligator’s legs poking through the underbelly of the snake because he’d swallowed it whole. They were laying their eggs in all the wrong places and traveling all the way to the panhandle, not knowing where they were going. They were screwing everything up big time in a silly, bumbling way. It was sad and darkly humorous to me. I’ve also never been to Florida so it’s sort of fantastical and absurd to me just like the giant snake that doesn’t belong there. So yeah, it’s about a python.
Ryan Seaton, guitar: I came up with the melody at the beginning of the song on the subway platform. I was just hearing a single note chugging along with this line weaving around it.
What’s the difference between writing an album in New Orleans and writing an album in New York?
Don Godwin, drums/horns: Writing and recording an album in New Orleans can be a more languid, experimental process. You have to work less hours at the job to make your expenses, and you can spend so much more time playing and developing art and music projects. Also, the houses are bigger and roomier. The whole concept of home recording is completely different down there, you can really do living room recordings with some genuine ambient personality. The studio rates are much less, and there are some spectacular studios in New Orleans. On the other hand, there’s something about being in New York–the pace and time demands, the prioritizing of what little downtime is available, that pushes us to be really focused and effective. It also forces us to be more open to more dynamic composition processes: making little recordings at home, overdubbing on each others home-baked ideas, and jamming in the bedroom on instruments we don’t usually use in performance.
Sara, what did you do before you were in a band?
Lucas: I was never in rock bands. Coming up in St. Louis I sang in choirs at school and learned Civil Rights songs, spirituals, gospel and blues. If Mahalia Jackson sang it so did we. At home I sang folk songs with my mother. When I was a teenager I tried to master singing standards while performing in blues clubs and with small groups. Jazz and r&b were all that I cared about at one point. In my mind at that time, they were the source for understanding music. Period. I sang in bars, at weddings, and once at a fundraiser with a Def Jam comedian to raise money for band uniforms broadcast live on the local r&b station. I went to college because somebody told me they hung out with Betty Carter on campus. She was my hero. While in school I also studied music in Ghana and learned to play a traditional harp. After finishing I moved to New Orleans and actually made a living gigging in clubs. I was a back up singer in an r&b band–sometimes we were on cable access and sometimes we rehearsed at our guitarist’s barbershop. And then I really started listening to rock. I was about 22 years old.
What’s your favorite place to eat in Brooklyn?
Seaton: A&A Bake and Doubles on Nostrand: It’s a little Trinidadian kitchen with amazing doubles. $1.25. Incredible.
Lucas: Melanie’s on Fulton at Nostrand.
Godwin: Gen Sushi on Washington in Prospect Heights.
Are you an emerging local band who has an upcoming 7″, MP3, or album? Are you not totally fucking terrible like 90% of the bands in this city? Then please send us an email at email@example.com. Links and YSIs only. No attachments please!
Callers play Zebulon on September 8 with El Sportivo and again on October 6 with Highlife.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 2, 2010