From Orange Opera to Jackie Fly to Streetlamps for Spotlights, Fort Wayne has long been a hot spot for messy-haired bedroom songwriters seemingly built to record golden indie rock tracks at Lou Barlow-levels of excellence.
Enter Calder the Band, the next great entry into this strummy, fuzzy, D.I.Y. lineage.
Comprised of singer/songwriter Joe Stilwell, bassist Lee Cliff, drummer Aaron Cliff, and lead guitarist Luke Matulis, Calder the Band recently released a four-song EP titled He’ll Come Around that has nary a cold beat among its 16-minute playtime.
breezy, fuzzy music
When asked about the band’s influences for the release, Stilwell, who also plays guitar and synths in the band, keeps it vague, mentioning Bob Dylan, Bach, Twin Peaks, Whitney Houston, “metal stuff, jazz, and folk-life stuff.”
Misdirections aside, Calder the Band is a safe recommendation to fans of everyone from Bedhead / The New Year, Ida, American Analog Set, Early Day Miners, and, maybe more than anyone else, the great though mostly forgotten bedroom bands Marmoset and Duster. In other words, Calder the Band make breezy, wholesome, fuzzy indie rock, perfect for lazy Saturday night hangs on hand-me-down couches in cheap downtown apartments.
But it’s indie rock with remarkable warm-but-lonely vocal work from Stilwell. It’s the unassuming hum of your imaginary best friend who can do no wrong. It’s a vocal with all the charm and perceived kindness Evan Dando had in the early ’90s.
Ups and downs
Three years before the release of He’ll Come Around, in a place called Schroon Lake, New York, Joe and Lee started playing music together. Then Luke joined.
Of course, there were ups and downs. At some point Luke left the band and started a side project with Joe. Then Aaron joined. Then Luke rejoined, forming what is the quartet you see in the accompanying photos. Along the way a solid debut full-length album, Till I Get it Right, was recorded.
That record features the hit song “Little Man,” which — Left Lane Cruiser and Addison Agen aside — might be the most-played song by a Fort Wayne artist on Spotify to date with more than 400,000 streams.
As Calder the Band progresses and grows, with John Michael Sellers slated to join by the end of July, the roles of the members become increasingly defined.
“There are several roles in the band, but we consider them more to be point positions,” Stilwell said. “I usually write the structure, melody, form, and lyrics of our songs, but that doesn’t stop any of us from bringing to the table a lyric we liked or a melody. We want the band to operate as a body. Sure, some parts of the body are used more often than others, but each is important and needs to be ready to be used when the time comes.”
For example, Aaron handles the merch and Lee made the band’s most recent video, a vintage D.I.Y. hangout montage for He’ll Come Around’s stellar opening track, “Dead.”
The video was shot mostly at what they refer to as “The Band House.”
“[It’s] where Luke, Aaron and John Michael have popped a squat,” Stilwell said. “We hang, practice, write, eat, and record a little there.”
“The new EP was completely recorded by Lee and myself,” Stilwell said. “We honestly love the idea of that. While the record is not perfect by any means, the mistakes we made can get better the next time, ya know what I mean? For a time we were working with a really great producer named Ethan Kattau, but we wanted to expand our own knowledge of recording. Also, that DIY mentality gave us the freedom to push ourselves harder than if we were to work with [an outside] producer. We like that feeling of freedom.
“Our actual gear is extremely simple. We recorded the whole thing on [Apple’s free software] GarageBand and mixed it on there as well. We figured if Steve Lacy could do it, we could too. One other cool thing about the EP is that there is no MIDI. It was all just a mic and us on the other end of it. This made the whole record feel much more relatable and organic to us.”
Since the recording of the EP, the band has fully taken shape. Now, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, the band is looking forward, planning their next major project.
“With all the new members joining, and the inability to play any live shows because of the ’Rona, we wanted an end goal that we all could work on throughout the summer,” Stilwell said. “So making an album was the natural next step. That’s the No. 1 thing on all our minds. And we’ve really brought on the A-team to make it happen.”
Four shaggy 20-something guys, a bunch of instruments, some recording gear, a lot of ideas and a goal. There’s no better way to sweat out the plague.
If you’ve heard the track “1 Car, 2 Car, 3 Car” from their new EP, you also will be excited to see what’s next for Fort Wayne’s latest, greatest indie rockers.
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