Calico Blue
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Calico Blue

Amherst, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Amherst, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
Band Rock Surf Rock

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This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

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"Music Review: “15 Sunrise” by Calico Blue"

Amherst-based psychedelic dream-pop and surf-blues infused band Calico Blue released its second album early this month, 15 Sunrise, which presents songs that could be best described as meditations on life. They confront the ghosts that live in the corridors of the mind: regret, heartbreak, and solitude. But in the darkness of the lyrics there is hidden light, which builds to bring about a dawning, as the title suggests.
Vocalist Sarah Addi croons across the album; punctuating the songs with sonorous and impactful low notes, gracefully articulated at all times, while guitarist Eli Ayres lays down riffs and chord changes that reverberate and warble, blending surf rock and blues with an Arcade Fire-esque precision. The guitar lines stand out while also balancing the ebb and flow of the entire performance.
The rhythm section, which is composed of John Bergin on bass and Billy Hickey on percussion, is tight and responsive to the interplay between all the members of the group and brings a jazzy feel to this genre-blending band.
Some of the highlights on the nine-song record include “Kites,” which features soaring group vocals with a beat that could easily serve as the anthem for 20-somethings joyously dancing at a groovy basement show, and “Ghost” — a slow creeping ballad, which explodes at the chorus to reveal a moment of epiphany, “We were storming the gates/ I seem to remember/ All the marks they remain and I/ Tried to wash it away/ I seem to remember/ All the living in pain forgot.”
Another song, “Velvet,” discusses the futility of basing life on material desires while the speaker muses about their own isolation, “You spend your life making money/ You spend your life thinking it’s funny/But how could I control myself when I could tell you why/ When all the other kids had fun that I just stayed inside/Keep your head down.”
“Ace” is a song where the band’s blues influences combine with an experimental approach. Ayres plays a blistering distorted guitar solo that reaches high note peaks before morphing into quick melodic phrases. The guitar solo transitions perfectly into the final pre-chorus as the song builds to an apex and then slowly comes back down again.
During the coda, Addi repeats the question, “Who put the ace in the kitchen?”, while Ayres plays dreamy harp-like notes; Bergin creates bass lines that start off simple and then spiral into complexity; and Hickey gently lays down a jazzy groove.
The album comes to a close at the end of “Ace” with a psychedelic avant-garde hurricane of manic energy that is both menacing and captivating. The rhythm section bursts into beautifully controlled chaos while Addi bellows a long-tone that fades into the growing abyss of sound.
Calico Blue’s second work is reminiscent of dream-pop singer Julee Cruise, famous for her contributions to David Lynch’s 1990 cult TV classic Twin Peaks, and 1980s alternative rockers such as Galaxie 500 and Mazzy Star, but the band combines elements from surf, psychedelia, and blues to bring its own unique vision to forefront. ​
Above all, there is a sense of mystery to this album that encourages listeners to dig deeper and take another listen.

To purchase or listen to 15 Sunrise visit Calico Blue’s bandcamp page at http://www.calicoblue.bandcamp.com/album.

Chris Goudreau can be reached at cgoudreau@valleyadvocate.com. - The Valley Advocate


"Calico Blue goes far beyond the waterline LIVE FROM THE GRID (VIDEO)"

There are bands that come along every so often that touch that ethereal place in all of us that defies genre. And while Calico Blue could easily be pigeonholed as ‘surf,’ what they do is far more subtle than that. Yes, there is Eli Ayres’ Dick Dale-esque guitar. But it doesn’t conjure Frankie Avalon hanging ten on a hot summer’s day with Annette Funicello watching adoringly from a beach towel at the waterline back in a time when America was great. Instead, this Amherst band takes you into what it’s like to be the wave and the water and the sand and even the sun. It’s an aural exploration of the existential more akin to The Doors at their most mysterious, that haunting, expansive, eyes-to-the-horizon sound with opiate edges.

The band calls it “Sad Girl Disco.” Indeed, there’s a tristesse that is perhaps its defining feature. Ayres’ guitar combined with Sarah Addi’s vocals at times creates a wall of melancholy that would be almost tragic if it weren’t so damn beautiful. And there is a clean, uncluttered simplicity to it that makes it all the more accessible and compelling. With drummer Billy Hickey and bassist John Bergin, Calico Blue isn’t as much about impressing you with their virtuosity as baring their collective musical soul.

One night last December the band set up in the studios of Amherst Media to record the first-ever session of “Live At The Grid.” The place was a hive of activity with several UMass interns setting up cameras and lighting and running sound to capture the moment. It was our first time recording a band in the studio and we were making it up on the fly. But everyone was buzzing at the idea that these guys were essentially going to give us our own private concert. We had originally wanted an audience, but the time crunch and our inexperience made that just one ball too many to juggle. While it would have been nice to have fan feedback, in the end it didn’t matter. The camera operators and everyone else in the booth applauded and hooted and hollered after every song.

What was most compelling about the band was their genuineness. Billy was in first to set up the drums so we could mic them. Of all the members, he most exudes that clean-cut earnestness that makes you feel jaded if, well, you are. And then came Sarah and John. They brought in their gear and set up with the self-sufficiency of an experienced road band that isn’t waiting around for a hand. In the moments that Sarah stopped and talked, she was disarmingly present and self-possessed.

In the end, the evening all boiled down to Eli. He had been up on Mount Snow giving boarding lessons and was on the road back. We had his guitar and rigged his amp and mics as best we could without him. We were pretty slammed right up until the moment he walked in the door so we didn’t have much time to wonder what could go wrong with the whole scenario. We had to delay twice already because of scheduling problems so when he strolled in with a slow, lazy gait and easy grin, the whole mood shifted. It was going to happen after all. After a bit of light banter, he plugged in and started the sound check. Within moments that “Sad Girl Disco” wall of sound filled the whole studio, evoking a place somewhere far out over the waterline where a perfect wave was starting to roll in. - The Collective


"Meet local band Calico Blue"

We discussed everything from milkshakes to Emma Watson to all kinds of surf-related music

After being greeted with a ‘fuck yeah!’ and a smile from bassist John Bergin, I was lead into lead singer Sarah’s home in Amherst. Expecting only three of the four members to actually be present, we waited a few minutes for the third to arrive. By happy surprise, both guitarist Eli and drummer Billy showed up within the next 20 minutes, making for the full Calico Blue experience. The four UMass upperclassmen assembled on the couch.

They recently released their debut, self titled album and are working hard to release their sophomore efforts in the near future.

“Our next album is gonna be called ‘Calico Two’,” joked Billy.

There was a scramble for fitting adjectives when asked about the genre of music they produce. A few examples included ‘surf-psych’, and ‘surfer-blues-dream-pop’, but it was Sarah who took on the task of describing with more than just adjectives:

“I feel like the trance just kinda comes from all of us being kinda off, like, spaced off a little bit. But we all kinda have our tastes in music that all kinda come together. Like Billy has his clearly Jazz style, and then John is someone who is classically trained with music taste all over the place, and then I come from a place of classic rock and kinda jazzy and Eli has introduced a lot of progressive electronic indie stuff.”

The band officially got together last October, and said that they were two pairs of people that met by chance. Sarah and Eli were friends from class and studio while John and Billy have been friends for a while and run a side milkshake business called ‘Billy Shakes.’

“Billy Shakes is a milkshake and t-shirt company that revolves around the logo of William Shakespeare drinking a milkshake. That’s really the only reason it exists. We sell t-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, and a variety of gourmet milkshakes.

“Calico Blue is like the tangibly successful version of Billy Shakes,” explained John. “Eli and I met through us bringing milkshakes to the architecture studio.

“Eli was like, ‘My friend Sarah and I have been writing some songs and we’re looking for a drummer and I bassist, do you know anyone?’ and I was like ‘yeah! I can pick up bass! Let’s do it!’”

“I came into the group with the name,” said John, “but I always just feel like the name always gives off more of a feeling. It doesn’t really mean anything directly. It’s like the sound of it and the image that you hear when you think of it just kinda mirrors our sound. I feel like we’ve grown into our name.”

Sarah added, “I’ve always thought of calico, which is like the textile pattern with the little flowers, as being something that is so ‘western mass’ and then the ‘blue’ is something more like, jazzy or surf-y. It adds the dream element.”

When it comes to writing the music, Sarah is usually in charge of lyrics: “One of the ways I go through the writing process is I just say whatever comes to the top of my head, just mumbled nonsense, and then I make sense of it later.

“A lot of the topics I feel like I touch on are dreamscapes. Not necessarily what you dream but just the idea of being in a dream. And also, kind of a lot of dark topics that are masked in lighter sounds. I’ll be listening to the recordings of the band jamming and I’ll try to picture almost like a music video and usually a story will come out of it.”

The remaining members explained that they usually write songs by starting with a simple riff and adding different things onto it – they eventually create one big jam that they record so they can listen later on. John said, “There’s a lot of listening involved. We’ll all leave and take it with us. Like Sarah will have a recording of it, and just having it in your ears makes you think about it all the time.”

Eli exclaimed, “Some of our songs I’m like, ‘what the fuck are we playing right now’. Not in a bad way but like, ‘what is this?’ A lot of the stuff on our first album was Sarah and I writing, and then John and Billy bringing in the full parts. Our style is definitely changing because now it’s all four of us.”

John added,“There’s no limit to what we learn about each other the more we play with each other.”

The band has played different venues including Radio Bean in Burlington, VT, and Pearl Street in Northampton, but house shows are their favorite gigs. Sarah said, “We definitely started at house shows and it’s still just the most fun to play. Western Mass in general has a really good music scene that’s been around for a really long time that people don’t know about.”

Billy then added, “[House shows are] definitely where we thrive. I feel like the energy of a house show is unrivaled. We’ve started booking shows for next semester. Hoping to get into the festival circuit for the summer.”

The goals of the group, both long and short term, were described by John: “I wanna play in space. And for Emma Watson. I wanna do a living room show for Emma Watson’s family.

“But short term for the next few months, we’re going to be working on this album, and hopefully churning it out as the semester starts, and just play shows as much as possible.” - The Tab


"Calico Blue Brings Vitalized Surf Sound to O'Brien's"

If asked to name a band that could be representational of what's popular in indie music today, Amherst's Calico Blue could serve as an unlikely, if not interesting answer. They have a dreamy, nostalgic sound based on pristine guitars, minimalist tendencies á la The XX, and deeply sad vocals reminiscent of a lo-fi version of Lana Del Rey. Their self-described "surfer blues" is able to capture vintage elements and contemporary influences and coalesce them into something new and intriguing. Their 2015 self-titled album drags the listener down with heavy lyrics while also keeping them afloat with light guitar work. You can check them out at O'Brien's Pub on 7/1. - The Deli


"Spirit Ghost kicks off first national tour with Calico Blue"

Thursday night at the Iron Horse marked a historic point in the careers of two local Amherst bands. Calico Blue sparked the fuse for Spirit Ghost’s explosion into their first ever cross-country tour, which will reach as far as Rock Island, Illinois.
The venue was packed with UMass students, friends and family of the bands, teeming with anticipation to show their support. Spirit Ghost sat among the crowd, indiscreetly at the table closest to the stage. As Calico Blue set foot on stage, they were immediately showered in hometown acclamation.
“We love you Sarah!” echoed through the floor as lead singer Sarah Addi humbly shied away from the center stage mic. Without a word, drummer Billy Hickey led the band into a preluding jam session, giving the audience brief insight as to what was in store.
After a few sincere words of appreciation to the audience, Calico Blue opened their set with “Postman,” the first song they wrote together as freshman while living in the UMass dorm, Van Meter.
Addi’s cavernous voice resonated across the sea of swaying heads, her eyes drifting to the upper balcony. The tension in the song built to the final verse, breaking with an 8 bar riff from guitarist Eli Ayres, revealing the blue side of Calico Blue. As the riff melted into the final chorus, Addi matched Ayres’ energy, improvising the inflection of the traditional Motown jam.
The vivacity of Calico Blue’s set continued to build as John Bergin’s thick bassline led the band into “Annie,” his calico dress flowing with the melody. With Ayres’ use of off-beat triads over Hickey’s loose percussion, Addi was able to display her full vocal range. Each woeful strum of Ayres’ guitar and deep cry from Addi’s chest contradicted the pink lights above, dancing off Hickey’s cymbals with each crash.
Calico Blue followed ‘Annie’ with debut tracks off their unreleased album, hinting at a subtle shift in tonality.
“Sarah’s all about tone,” Ayres explained. In the unreleased songs, her leaden voice seemed to have developed a sharper and more refined timbre. Ayres’ use of the guitar also evolved. He has gone through “20 pedals this year alone, trying to find the right sound.” The new tracks maintain the same sway and reverb, while “sounding a little less dark,” Ayres said. The band is slowly finding their voice and will continue to do so in local shows over the next few months. - The Massachusetts Daily Collegian


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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