AH, TEXAS, THAT great nation-state. Land of longhorn debutantes and impoverished immigrants, oil and industry, presidents and prisonersnot to mention a long, illustrious line of musicians: Just ask Buddy Holly or Butthole Surfers fans.
Calla: rainy day sounds from N.Y.C. by way of Texas.
CALLA FCS NORTH, THE STARES Graceland, 206- 262-0482, $8 adv.
But Texas was not the place, it seems, for the rainy-day reverb and bloodied valentines of Dallas ex-pats Calla. "It was hard being there," says drummer Wayne Magruder. "There's not as much exposure, and people aren't really as much into the arts as they are in New York or on the coasts.
"There are a couple bands," he admits, "like Bedhead was always a favorite of ours; but for what we were doing, we just felt like New York was a good place."
New York seems to have returned the compliment. Eight years after relocating, Calla have a trio of well-received records under their white belts and recently finished a successful spring tour with buddies Interpol. Last month, the band headlined its own march through Europe before returning stateside to begin yet another cross-country trek.
The irony of Calla's frequent absence from their adopted home city is not lost on them, however. "Once you get to a certain level, it actually doesn't matter where you live," acknowledges bassist Sean Donovan, who estimates the group spends six months a year on the road. "I think, starting out, New York was definitely important to us to gain wider exposure, but I kind of see those days coming to an end."
Despite strong working relationships with the likes of quintessential Big Apple acts like Interpol and the Walkmen, Calla aren't tied as closely as their contemporaries are to the jagged post-punk hybridization that reigns as the official N.Y.C. sound of the moment. If anything, their dark, narcotic sound draws from points farther east (My Bloody Valentine) or west (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club).
The band freely admits to its divergent, youthful reference points. "We grew up listening to the Cure, Depeche Mode, and Echo & the Bunnymen," says Donovan. "But we definitely don't think of ourselves as living in a cave somewhere, being all dark and mysterious. I mean, we weren't all wearing black all the timethere's plenty of pictures of us walking around in paisley."
Paisley would hardly seem the pattern of choice for songs like Televise's disarmingly sexy/creepy opening track, "Strangler," with its droning refrain, "I can get the same effect/if you strangle me," or the repeated sighing intro, "This day is dead," on "Don't Hold Your Breath." But then again, maybe it's all relative. Says Magruder, "For me, I never thought bands like New Order and the Jesus & Mary Chainall those bands that a lot of people thought were dark, I never really saw them that way. When I listened to them, they put me in a good mood, and I guess that's the same way I look at us. I don't personally feel that we're that depressing of a band. Although," he adds with a laugh, "a lot of people might disagree with me."
True, it may not be the most requested soundtrack for Texas tailgate parties, but judging by their ardent response to the band, New Yorkersand, unsurprisingly, gray-sky Seattleiteslike to wallow in just the kind of down sounds Calla bring.