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"Castledoor seeks its peak on ‘Shouting at Mountains’"

Castledoor’s first album is titled “Shouting at Mountains,” but members of the Los Angeles sextet had to feel as if they were climbing them the past three years. After they arrived on the scene with a winsome tune and a smile, Castledoor’s career has proceeded by fits and starts, with two EPs (”‘Til We Sink” and “Follow the Dove”), a single (”Dumpster Diving”) and dozens of high-energy live shows marking them for bigger things while a handful of unfruitful business alliances stalled their progress.

||| Download: “Skipping Stepping Stones”

No wonder, then, “Shouting at Mountains” — released digitally last week and physically this week — deals in a large view with finding your place in the world, and remaining resolute in the face of Brobdingnagian challenges. “Everybody goes through a lot of different things,” frontman Nate Cole says. “Everybody has their mountains and you can react any number of ways. Shouting at them sounds a little punk rock.”

But what do you shout? “That’s a good question,” he says. “I don’t want it to come off as whiny, but the first thing you usually shout is ‘Why?’ Then you kinda get over it. You stop asking why because what’s important is what you do next.”

What Castledoor has done is regroup and keep moving. Two years ago, I’d have bet the band would have been signed and well on its way by now, but whether it’s the volatile industry, the mercurial artist or simply the absence of the “right fit,” it hasn’t happened. “There are times it can be discouraging,” Cole says, “but as long as we’re a band it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when.”

“Shouting at Mountains” is a combination of a handful of older songs along with new material written “during a burst of creative energy” last summer, Cole says. “The waiting was killing us — we felt we had to do something new, something fresh. It ended up being the most collaborative thing we’ve done, and it was a big step within the band to do something like that.”

Even so, the album did not go as planned. The band — which includes the husband-wife tandems of Nate and Lisa Cole and Gabe and Coury Combs, along with Brandon Schwartzel and Joel Plotnik — spent parts of October, November and December recording with a local producer, but for one reason or another (Cole declines to give details) the project was never finished. Then Castledoor met Robert Schwartzman of Rooney, who had recently built a studio in his home.

Starting recording from scratch, Castledoor laid down the tracks in eight days. “Robert gave us a confidence boost, and he captured our songs,” Cole says. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that it shows all the elements of our band very naturally. My vocals, for instance, are unaffected the whole album. It was very empowering to get this all down.”

As with Castledoor’s body of work, “Shouting at Mountains” leans heavily on Cole’s pristine vocals, whether it is backed by stabbing guitars (as on “Skipping Stepping Stones”) or twinkling keyboards (”Hush”). The album occasionally gets tangled up in its own labrynthian arrangements, but its unvarnished emotions, couched as they are in sweet melody, make it worth negotiating the maze. “Bad Day in Monterey” is sweet nod to Monterey and Morro Bay, two places Cole and his wife favor. “Free” sounds as if it were inspired by an uncomfortable dinner with a man in a suit. “Fifth Tambourine” is a simple but infectious pop anthem.

On the title track, Cole sings “Oh, I’m still drunk on a dream,” and as sobering as Castledoor’s reality has been the past couple of years, you want him to stay on that high a little bit longer. - - by Kevin Bronson


The L.A. music scene is in the midst of a renaissance, with many indie bands breaking the mold and defying convention. Artists like Silversun Pickups and No Age have expanded the definition of “indie,” spinning it in bold new directions.
At the center of the movement is Castledoor, a band that isn’t afraid to be “happy.” Catchy, joyful melodies abound, with a wider range of emotions pulsing through the core. They’re indie, but look beneath the surface, and there’s so much more.

Named after lead singer Nate Cole’s blogspot, Castledoor formed three years ago in Northern California. The sextet of Cole, Gabe Combs (guitar), Coury Combs (vocals/synths), Lisa Cole (piano/vocals), Brandon Schwartzel (bass) and Joel Plotnik (drums) immediately began writing songs and recording home demos – testing material in local bars and clubs.

With the burgeoning music scene revival in Los Angeles, Castledoor trekked south and began a friendship with Earlimart’s Aaron Espinoza, who eventually helped shape their sound in the studio while recording their debut EP, Follow the Dove (2006). After two years of constant gigging, writing and recording, the band is in the final stages of wrapping their full-length debut, Shoutin’ at Mountains. The CD, which was co-produced with Espinoza, will drop later this year.

Cole, the group’s lead singer and chief songwriter, is as expressive on stage as he is off. He’s a modest guy who simply labels his sound as “poppy indie rock.”

As the indie scene expands and gets more and more attention, where does Castledoor stand?

“There are all these bands that are doing fresh, cutting edge things, and you can’t really call it indie rock, but they are an indie band,” says the singer. “As far as we’re concerned, I don’t really feel like we’re doing brand new and crazy. I feel like what we bring are strong melodies. We’re not afraid of being a band that makes pretty, poppy music. I mean we don’t want to be known as just a ‘happy’ band, but you know.”

So if they’re not doing anything crazy, what is it that has created such a buzz around this group? Seeing Castledoor perform live, their propulsive energy, raw honesty and commanding presence are great indicators.

“I guess we’re a really expressive band,” he chuckles and then retracts himself. “Well, I guess not everyone in the band is. I’m really animated. On stage, I’m immediately trying to convey my feelings to people.”

On the other hand, the two female members give off a somewhat esoteric, aloof allure during the band’s performances, which has been a cause for criticism and much derision. Cole explains that there are people that aren’t physically expressive on stage yet provide certain emotion and presence to the show. For Castledoor, it’s a perfect juxtaposition between Lisa Cole’s and Combs’ cooler demeanors and the exasperated, energetic frontman’s mad parade around the stage like a child on a sugar rush; they provide the harmonious yin to Cole’s yang. Castledoor might be called “poppy” and “happy,” but their songs have deeper and sometimes darker meanings.

“All of my lyrics are really personal for me,” admits Cole. “I hear people talking about us as being a really poppy, ultra happy band – one of those really overly joyous kinda bands – sort of like Polyphonic Spree. I think we sort of project that onstage, but I feel like our lyrics show a pretty wide range of emotions. A lot of times we perform a song that’s sad or dark but has this element of hope, which we always want to convey to people who listen to our music.” - Campus Circle

"Their moment is now"

SOMEDAY I'm going to write it all down. No, I mean write it all down.

Not just how the Airborne Toxic Event got its odd name (from Don DeLillo's novel "White Noise"), or how Deadly Syndrome sounds like Wolf Parade-meets-Cold War Kids, or how when you close your eyes the singing voice of Castledoor's Nate Cole echoes equal parts Jeff Buckley, Lindsey Buckingham and Paul Simon.

Whether it's Airborne's danceable post-punk, Castledoor's sweetly yearning pop or the Deadly Syndrome's angsty chaos, their music is nothing if not of the moment.

The familial feel is literal in Castledoor, a six-piece founded by singer-guitarists Cole and Gabe Combs that grew to include their wives, Lisa and Coury, respectively, and Brandon Schwartzel and Joel Plotnik. If their penchant for neo-hippie fashion doesn't get your attention, their folk-pop melodies -- carried by Cole's voice -- will.

I was actually taken aback the first time I heard them at the Silverlake Lounge, where singers go to die, either under the weight of oppressive volume or the incessant chatter of the crowd. There was Cole, cutting through it all, at once oblivious and optimistic.

"When I write the songs it doesn't feel that way at all," Cole says, "but onstage we project this optimism -- though sometimes I think we're just trying to convince ourselves that everything is gonna be OK."

Castledoor's growing audiences, culled from a year of playing every gig the band could land, seem to seek that reassurance too.

"In a way, it's curing the symptom without getting to the root of the problem," Cole says. "Playing is the best moment we can give them. If you were the answer for 30 or 45 minutes, you were the answer."

The band itself might turn out to be one answer for Cole and Combs, who as youngsters were singers in the major-label act Plus One. Intent on making their own music, they moved to Southern California and fell into a scene full of bands that share little sonically but support one another enthusiastically. In fact, Castledoor (also not signed to a record deal) is recording an album produced by one of the forebears of that scene, Aaron Espinoza of Earlimart.

"Nobody seems to worry about who's gonna be the next big band from Silver Lake," Cole says. "In a way, we're celebrating our uniqueness."

- Los Angeles Times

"Castledoor - Shouting at Mountains"

I'm as big of a fan of Castledoor as I believe I can possibly be based on the 11 songs, (from both 'Til We Sink and Follow the Dove), that I'd heard prior to Shouting at Mountains. Each track I'd heard from Castledoor was a perfectly cultivated indie-pop number that never failed to impress. Each of the tracks took on their own life and I still refuse to skip a single song from that tiny discography. You'd be more than correct, then, to say I was excited for their debut full length album, Shouting at Mountains. In fact, the word "excited" doesn't begin to convey my enthusiasm to hear more of Castledoor's genius. Now that I've heard it, I can truthfully say that my enthusiasm wasn't misplaced: Shouting at Mountains is easily one of the best albums I've heard (or expect to hear) this year.

Shouting at Mountains is simply brilliant. Recorded in only eight days, it doesn't have any of the "rushed" feeling that most albums would leave the studio with when recorded in this amount of time. Instead, this sounds like the natural progression for the band, and the entire thing sounds completely well thought out and put together. As what seems like a culmination of their first four years of work to this point, Castledoor hasn't halted their creativity, and with every moment on this album, whether it be the more vivacious, jubilant tracks or the slower, more emotional tracks, the band proves that they're going to redefine their sound again and again, while always delivering something fresh. There's not a contrived, stale moment on this album, and the entire thing pushes along at a steady pace with not a single letdown.

Vocalist Nate Cole remains on the top of his game on the new album. His singing has always been something I've appreciated about the band, and his energetic vocal delivery makes a lot of the tracks shine. One such example of this is "Free," where his determined tone during the verses really moves the track along. However, when he wants to slow it down, he's more than capable. The greatest example of this on Shouting at Mountains is on the track "Hidden Treasure," where the emotional verses lend way to an explosive and paramount chorus that's both catchy and very impressive. I'm also throughly enamored by his delivery in "Skipping Stepping Stones," where his vocals get emotionally charged and stressed, and his extremely calm delivery in "Hush."

The musicians shouldn't be slighted in any way, either. Guitarist Gabe Combs' delicate leads add a certain flair to the tracks that would be missing without, the bassist, Brandon Schwartzel, and drummer, Joel Plotnik, both excel at setting the tone of the tracks, and The piano melodies brought in by either Combs or Liska Cole (who also lends the scattered female vocals) incorporated throughout the tracks add another certain flair that I'd surely have missed had they not been there. You can't deny the charm of things like the noodling guitar riff and thumping bass line in the title track or the beautifully delicate piano arrangement of "Moving Mountains." The instrumentation really lends a hand in the moods of the tracks, which range from somber ("Moving Mountains"), to jubilant ("Fifth Tambourine"), to even a little edgy ("Dusty"), each of which is determined by the whole of the musicians' contributions to the tracks. The synth lines brought in by Coury Combs bring in even another layer of sound when they're incorporated, and various instruments (played by various band members) like the autoharp and glockenspiel lend a hand in making their sound that much more eclectic and original.

Always a band to be at the top of their game lyrically, Castledoor definitely doesn't disappoint throughout the album. Since many of the tracks are commanded by Nate's vocals, the lyrics take center stage and do everything they can to entertain. "Hidden Treasure" has particularly interesting lyrics, and I can't get over the excellent chorus where Nate sings:

"Oh my darling, don't you know there's something coming back for us? All good deeds go out unto the sea like a hidden treasure chest! So wave your flag with every single color - don't you let it fall! When the tide comes in, everyone will be rewarded, even if it's small."

The title track, along with it's vivacious guitar line, has Nate singing emphatically and proclaiming:

"There's still a piece of me, that's holding on. I can feel it in my bones - I'd let the anchor drop, if it felt wrong, but I would rather lose control. There's really nothing left to do but shout."

These kinds of quips from the album work to great avail. They don't oversaturate the lyrics in metaphor and unneeded complexity and are, instead, much more intimate, charming and warm. This, in my opinion, is the better of the two styles, and I certaintly appreciate the lyrics throughout the album.

The entire album is a solid venture. From the bouncing opening vocal lines to the soft piano lines of the intimate closer "Moving Mountains," Castledoor proves that they craft music that is intelligent, infectious, and purely heartwarming. Though 2009 is proving to be one hell of a year for music, I can truthfully say that if Castledoor is given audience, they'll surely impress more than a few people with their debut LP Shouting at Mountains. This album, so far, has proven to be the most impressive album I've heard so far this year, surpassing some extremely ambitious albums, and has a likely shot at being one of my all time favorites and the first ever deemed, by me, to deserve a nearly perfect score. It's not often that you can find an album that is catchy, intelligent, intricate, heartwarming, and beautiful, (since many of these factors seem to play against each other), and with Shouting at Mountains, Castledoor deserves to be commended for doing just that.

"The Best Music of 2009"

The purest distillation thus far of the bracing arcs and gentle swoons that make up the band’s infectious rock and pop, Castledoor’s debut full-length, Shouting at Mountains, operates within the nexus of a bizarre timewarp in which Jeff Buckley lived to compose the soundtrack to one of Wes Anderson’s pastel phantasmagorias—translation: it’s excellent, giddy stuff, with tracks such as the rollercoasting, breathless gallop of “Fifth Tambourine” ringing between your ears long after the disc is done spinning. -


Follow The Dove EP 2006, 'Til We Sink EP 2008, Shouting At Mountains LP 2009. Airplay on Indie 103.1 & 106.7 KROQ



Friends since high school, Nate & Gabe started Castledoor in Northern California as a home recording project with hopes of finding members to fill out the band. After moving to Los Angeles they did just that and even added their wives to complete the line up. Eager to play shows they took whatever opportunity came their way, eventually packing out small clubs in Silverlake and even conquering residencies that would be talked about long after. In 2007, the Los Angeles Times called them the top band to look out for in 2008. A style that's hard to pin down, the band seems to combine the spirit of old soul singers with the ambition of beloved indie rock acts like Arcade Fire. Mix in Beatlesque pop sensibilities and you have a sound that is fun yet deeply emotional.