Calico Horse
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Calico Horse

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A copper hand-bell tolls in the distance, as if breaking through the fog of a dream. It summons us to gather, be seated and give our full attention to the show that is about to commence. A dim light casts a dusky glow over a two-tiered Victorian-era ballroom. A heavy velvet curtain stands ominously before us behind a lonely stage. We don’t feel uneasy, but we don’t exactly feel safe.

Then the curtain opens, the music begins and we slowly fall into the wistful words of Emily Neveu like we’re slipping onto a bed of soft cotton.

“Rest your head, slowly close your breath/Completely satisfied, completely say goodbye/
“It’s your time…”

This is what it feels like to listen to the beginning of “All We’ve Left to Do is Pay the Boatman,” the first song from Calico Horse’s upcoming debut album, Mirror. The subject of the song is death, but I’m not quite sure it’s ever been approached with such grace or warmth.

The entire album feels like the soundtrack to a dusty reel of flickering, grainy, disconnected images of childhood friendships, locked eyes, beating hearts, withering skin, peaceful resting and momentary portraits of sadness. Upon first listen, Mirror has me pondering my own mortality—something I honestly hadn’t considered much at all. But that spiritual inquest appears to be a journey that Neveu, vocalist and songwriter for Calico Horse, has taken many times.
“I think to some degree, everyone is fascinated with the idea of death,” Neveu says. “It’s the ultimate unknown. That’s why I like writing about things like death and the universe. You can sit and analyze those two things and you’ll never really know how it works.”

Such cosmic questions loom heavy throughout the album, but not in the traditional impending-doom sense. Death is treated with the same delicate beauty and new-skin wonder as birth. Listen to the track “Happy Placebo Syringe Day” and you’ll understand. Neveu manages to replace the clichéd fear of that sudden stop at the end with an almost welcoming feeling, like a new chapter to a book that goes beyond this physical existence.

“We can’t live our lives in fear of death—that’s not a life,” Neveu says. “I am not obsessed with death, but I’m fascinated with the thought of an inevitable that is obscure. I’m also discouraged with the idea of a definable afterlife scenario: heaven and hell. Life isn’t that simple, so why should the afterlife be?”

Good question.

I was invited to meet the band at Stereo Disguise Research Laboratories, the studio where parts of Mirror were recorded and where the band is now recording some new tracks.

I find local musician/producer Pall Jenkins—best known for leading The Black Heart Procession—in the studio’s control room, intensely focused on the dual computer screens before him as Neveu lays down the vocals to a wide-open, western-tinged waltz in the booth. Her vocals are beautifully controlled, haunting and vaguely operatic.
The recording stops and Jenkins frenetically clicks and drags vocal sections on the computer and pieces them together. During the pause, Neveu apologizes for a section she’s assumed she screwed up.

“Don’t worry about it, it sounds great,” Jenkins sounds off over the control-room microphone.

“Pall is a dream to work with,” Neveu gushes. “The recording atmosphere is almost fairytale-like. He is extremely open to experimentation and using strange noises and instruments. He encouraged me to expand my musicianship by recording with instruments I’m not familiar with. It’s inspiring to be around a musician like Pall that I have respected for a long time.”

The experimentation follows into Neveu’s songwriting, which seems to have grown more confident since the first recordings of her former band, The Clock Work Army.

“The Clock Work Army was my first attempt at a band,” Neveu says. “It was a growing experience that helped develop me as a musician and frontwoman. Adding Matt [Mournian] and Tom [Peart] also made a huge difference. They are both seasoned musicians and know how to communicate and collaborate efficiently. It’s really an honor to be playing with all three guys in the band.”

The three guys are bassist David “Petti” Pettijohn (another former member of The Clock Work Army), drummer Peart (Comfortable For You) and guitarist Mournian (Goodbye Blue Monday).

“This is a whole new style for me,” Mournian says. “The whole technique is different, the whole approach. But I really enjoy it.”

Given the short time Calico Horse has been playing together live, they’re an incredibly tight unit and have already created a huge buzz. Just this year, the band has opened for the likes of Yeasayer, MGMT, Helio Sequence, Dead Meadow and Beach House.

Following the mid-May release of Mirror (on Banter Records), the band will hit the road on a nationwide tour. Momentum seems to be the phantom fifth member of the band, as Calico Horse is poised to become the next San Diego band thrust into the national consciousness - San Diego CityBeat


After opening for several high-profile indie acts recently (Yeasayer, Dead Meadow and Beach House, in particular) Calico Horse offers up its first batch of haunted recordings. At times evoking Blonde Redhead circa Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons or a female-fronted Black Heart Procession playing circus music (yeah, Pall Jenkins produced this bad boy), Calico sounds like a band already on its third or fourth record, instead of its first. The songwriting is mature and fully formed, with Emily Neveu’s gentle vocals and sublime, repetitive piano leading the way through ebullient highs and melancholic lows, often within the span of a single song. Hitting on such a range of emotions without sounding pretentious is difficult, but Calico Horse makes it sound as natural as breathing. Plus, they kick ass live. Here’s one you should definitely keep on your radar. - San Diego CityBeat


I arrived while Calico Horse was already playing, but caught most of their set. They sounded great with Emily behind the keys at times and at other times playing guitar. A couple months ago I got an email from someone in New York who is a publicist and she asked if I'd heard of Calico Horse and said of them "next big thing out of San Diego in my opinion." While I know San Diego is teeming with talent, it's cool that someone across the country is taking note of our music scene and Calico Horse definitely deserves to be noticed.
- SD Dialed In


What's a typical friday night for you? Let me restate that; what's a typical friday night for you residents of San Diego, California? Does it involve getting all dressed up to go to a bar you've been to 10,000 times before? Does it involve spending the first hour and a half you're there hating all the douchebags because you're still not drunk enough and still see them for what they are? Does it involve knowing you're going to waste $150 bucks with nothing to show for it but a blinding hangover and black ink smeared all over your wrist?

I've got a better idea. Go see a live show. Even better, go see a live show at the Casbah. Even better than that, go see the best show that the Casbah is throwing down this month. One of the best bands in San Diego right now, Calico Horse (formerly The Clockwork Army) takes the stage probably around 9:30pm this Friday evening to be followed by Brooklyn (where else?) indie scenster biggies, MGMT and Yeasayer. If you haven't listened to any of these bands yet, take a moment to go do it now because they're all fucking ridiculous. I'm so pumped about seeing Yeasayer I'm thinking about heading over to the 7-Eleven parking lot and starting a one man mosh-pit for no good reason.

I saw Calico Horse two weeks ago open for Black Heart Procession and they were incredible. They had a keyboard malfunction and the lovely tigeress frontwoman, Emily Neveu improvised using someone's glockenspiel. That woman has mad glocken, yo, and her vocals are hauntingly gorgeous. They have a bassist with a penchant for all things Jean-Luc Godard and a guitarist who will teach you vocal harmonies for 48 Thai bhat and a Parliment. They are fearless.

And at $10 bucks a pop advance purchase to see three of the best bands out there? Shiiiiit, good value holmes. I'll be there, come have a greyhound with me.

P.S. UPDATE!!! This show will sell out. Repeat, this show WILL SELL OUT so don't get stuck at the door, go buy your ticket now here. - Maggotron Has Spoken


Well, I just about barfed when I read a one-sheet describing Calico Horse as "what Radiohead would be like with a female at the helm", but I swallowed it and listened anyway. The bands don't often write those things, so you just hope an intern, or worse yet a blogger, did it and either pass or pop it in. The group, formerly known as The Clock Work Army, will release a new album this year - under this new Calico Horse moniker. The new name marks Emily Neveu (vocals, guitar, piano) and Dave "Petti" Pettijohn's (bass) split with former guitarist Scott Wheeler as well as their previous drummer and the addition of two part-time newbs. The album was produced by Pall Jenkins, member of MOKB-approved Black Heart Procession, ultimately led me into checking further into this band.

Immediately, if you're familiar with BHP's work, you can tell Jenkins was a good choice. The majority of Calico Horse's songs are dark, moody and piano-driven - similar to BHP. It's all very Feist on some serious downers, or very Blonde Redhead minus the art scene and helium. - My Old Kentucky Blog


Sometimes it’s easy to overlook a band. Sometimes it’s easy to see a band written up on all of the major channels, hear about it from all of the right sources, and just assume that you, as well, have also featured this band. Sometimes it’s just a little too easy to lose track of things. And then, you realize your mistake. You search your archives and notes for nearly hour convinced that you must have featured them at some point but you’re completely unable to find any record of this. You’re completely in shock since not only have you heard of this band countless times in the past few months, but one of their singles has appeared consistently on no less than three of your last few mixes. And then you’re ashamed. Very ashamed.

That’s basically what happened with The Clock Work Army. I have no illusions that the majority of our readers will not have heard of this group. I don’t believe for a moment that many of you will check out this track and think to yourselves “wow, where has this band been all of my life?” No, odds are most of you faithful kinksters out there likely to do not banish yourselves from other sources of emerging artists out of an unwavering devotion to us. Most of you likely read many indie news sites and magazines, listen to college radio, and dare I say, visit other music blogs.

That being said I won’t waste your time telling you that The Clock Work Army is the vehicle of Emily Neveu, Dave “Petti” Pettijohn, and Scott Wheeler and that they are based in the beautiful city of San Diego. I will spare you the redundancy of knowing that their debut EP has been made available courtesy of the good people at Banter Records and can be purchased directly from said good people. And I won’t bother you with the information that if you dig this track then you’ll absolutely love their other tracks available in full streamy goodness on their MySpace site.

Personally, I would recommend checking out “Can’t Hold it Down”, but then again, you already knew that. - Kinky Origami


Discography

A Catlyst for Change EP - 2005 (as The Clock Work Army)
Mirror - May, 2008

All songs are available for streaming, just ask where! All tracks from the Catalyst EP received extensive radio airplay and reached 109 on the CMJ Top 200 chart.

Photos

Bio

Historically speaking, San Diego is by no means the Mecca of music innovation, and chances are, it never will be. That said, there does exist a small sect of talented bands creating noise of importance that at times tend to be overlooked due to this stigma. One of these bands is Calico Horse.

Born out of the ashes of the now retired band The Clock Work Army, Calico Horse is a new line-up, but has lost none of its song writing prowess due to the fact that it is still fronted by Clock Work’s singer and co-songwriter, Emily Neveu. Following Clock Work’s EP A Catalyst for Change, Emily and guitarist Scott Wheeler began writing the songs that were to be Clock Work’s first full length album. Catalyst was a huge success and created a kinetic energy that came as a bit of a surprise for the fledgling band. Within a few months, they were consistently selling out shows, gaining more and more momentum as the word spread across the city that these guys (and gal) were special and seeing them was important. Requests were coming in from established venues to open for larger nationally touring acts; the highlight being Akron/Family.

Not long after the build-up, Scott Wheeler moved to Portland and Emily was left to finish the album all by her lonesome. Luckily, she had the help of producer extraordinaire, Pall Jenkins, best known for leading The Black Heart Procession and Three Mile Pilot and his contributions to The Album Leaf. Together, the two of them crafted an album that is equal parts haunting as it is amazing. Jenkins helped Emily to step outside herself and view things from his somewhat beautifully warped approach to song writing. Because of conflicting schedules and other priorities, the project became a feat in discipline, taking nearly a year to come to fruition. What could have easily ended up a disaster to a less dedicated musician and producer, they instead embraced this small hitch and every session was a whole new playground of ideas. Pressure was definitely not an issue. The extra time was truly a blessing. The result of those sessions is Calico Horse.

Aside from Emily Neveu, Calico Horse shares another common thread with Clock Work as bassist Petti has returned from a 6 month hiatus filming the national tour for the band Augustana to re-join Emily onstage. Although there is no denying that former member Scott Wheeler’s sonic and innovative guitar work is amazing, Calico doesn’t miss a step with the acquired services of Goodbye Blue Monday’s guitarist Matt Mournian, who fits the change in Emily’s songwriting to a tee. Another big score for Calico was the coup of Comfortable for You drummer Tom. Nobody knows his last name for sure, not even his birth parents, but that’s not important. What is important is that Tom is an inspired and incredibly intense timekeeper who has been involved in the San Diego indie scene for years, lending a plethora of experience and professionalism that will no doubt help to catapult Calico to the next level.

With the new lineup, the lengthy studio sessions, and the metamorphosis of Emily’s song writing, it seems only fitting that The Clock Work Army was laid to rest. What started as the Clock Work sessions at Jenkins’ studio became Calico Horse, and it makes perfect sense. Emily has grown and so has her sound. And with the help of seasoned musicians rounding out the Calico Horse lineup, only good things can happen in the future. Following the May 2008 release of the Calico Horse album, we’ll see them hit the road and win over fans with a nationwide tour. Without even the release of an album, they are already building relationships with bands and venues, opening for indie behemoths Helio Sequence, Yeasayer, MGMT, The Black Heart Procession, Dead Meadow, and Beach House, which will no doubt make the monumental scope of a national tour seem a bit more manageable. Given all the positive elements surrounding Calico Horse and their first release, things are shaping up to be pretty good for the young, but well tested band of equestrians.