Fierce punk. Skittish math rock. 1960s pop. Dreamy New Wave.
This is a typical journey through a song from local indie duo Caddywhompus. The band’s abandonment of traditional song structures is akin to flipping through a radio dial and catching pieces of various songs, which is a wholly intentional part of their songwriting process. “I don’t like unnecessary repetition,” says singer/guitarist/songwriter Chris Rehm. “I don’t like music that bores me. So our songs tend to move from one idea to the other all the way through.”
For such an eclectic pair, this matter-of-fact approach to their songwriting may come as a surprise. But these indie veterans, who have been playing together for 10 years, have an unspoken chemistry that makes bringing such disparate musical elements together a natural and welcome challenge. “Chris will bring in a ’60s pop thing or a more subdued idea and we mess with tones and frequencies to fill the sound out,” says drummer Sean Hart. “There’s a void there, but filling that void is a challenge that keeps things interesting for us.”
Caddywhompus, whose loud and fast style makes them one of the more aggressive local indie bands, formed as a duo in 2008, although Rehm and Hart previously played together in various bands in their native Houston. Since then, they have developed a unique sound and writing process. “It’s just a silent thing,” says Rehm. “We’ll be at practice and the music will be loud but we don’t stop to discuss ideas. We’ll get to a part where a song is going to change and one of us will just go for it and the other follows. There’s a totally wordless exchange of ideas.”
This “wordless exchange” is also marked by a synthesis of various musical elements and influences to forge Caddywhompus’ unique sound. “Chris will listen to a lot of classical or drone or soft pop stuff for melodic ideas,” says Hart, “but when the loud drums come into the picture we realize it could be heavier. We never set out to write a math rock or metal song; we just play with so much energy that it comes out fast and loud.”
Rehm’s classical influence is apparent in the band, as songs typically forego the usual verse/chorus arrangements for an erratic interpretation of classical movements. “I’m incredibly inspired by French Impressionism and its depth of emotion and intricacies you don’t typically hear in rock music,” says Rehm. “I love the mystery and fun of discovering something new that I’ve never heard before. French Impressionism does that.
So far, Caddywhompus’ unique approach has been successful. The band has toured extensively throughout the United States while consistently releasing innovative, challenging music via their own Chinquapin Records as well as local DIY punk label Community Records. The relationship with Community has been especially fruitful for the band. “Our entire musical career as Caddywhompus has been with Community Records and that’s been a fortunate thing for us,” says Rehm. “They’ve been amazingly supportive.”
The band’s efforts even resulted in a mid-2013 European tour with Spanish band Kill, Kill. The shows originated from some European fans asking Caddywhompus to play their wedding via blog comment. “I was editing WordPress comments on our website and I saw some Spanglish on there with dollar signs,” says Hart. “It turned out to be a real couple who wanted us to play their wedding and even said they’d introduce us to a band to go on tour with.” The experience proved to be immensely enjoyable for the band. “To go out farther geographically and find cool bands to play with makes you just want to keep going,” adds Hart.
2014 will see the band release a new album in the summer, which will be a mix of old and new recordings. “We recorded a mix of older songs and stuff we wrote just before the session in Philadelphia,” says Rehm. “The older songs came out great, but after we’ve had some time touring on the new stuff, we want to re-record them with a new perspective.” With a busy—and now international—touring schedule and a new influx of classically inspired ideas, Rehm is still looking to grow the band, but not in the way one might think. “I’m trying to learn more about theory and melody from classical music and incorporate that stuff, but naturally that doesn’t sound anything like Caddywhompus,” says Rehm. “We always have the heavy, noisy stuff. That will always happen with us.”
Both members scoff at the idea of being anything other than a duo. “This band is Sean and me writing music together,” adds Rehm. “The songwriting influences often change for us, but the red thread is us playing the songs together.”