While the nonsense term "postrock" is often brought up in discussions of Brooklyn trio Callers (doubtless because occasional aspects of the group’s texture and playing bring to mind indie rock of a certain vintage—Dirty Three, Calexico, etc.), the slightly more meaningful "post-punk" is far more significant in discussing the band’s tremendous sophomore album, Life of Love, out Oct. 12.
The record’s conception began with the group’s desire to cover Wire’s “Heartbeat,” itself almost a definitive statement of the post-punk semi-genre: a terse, sparse crescendo of steam engine rhythms and accelerating emotional fervor. And, lyrically, the song’s obsessive circling of ideas and focus on the porous membranes between the self and the external (“And is there something there behind me/ Like a movie, like a movie/ I am mesmerized by my own beat/ Like a heartbeat, like a heartbeat, like a heartbeat”) prove anchors for Callers throughout Life of Love.
Originally meeting in New Orleans shortly before the dreadful warning shot of Hurricane Ivan, Callers (singer Sara Lucas, guitarist/singer Ryan Seaton, and drummer Don Godwin) hail from diverse backgrounds obscenely rich in the building blocks of American music. Lucas sang as a child in St. Louis in the city’s all-pervasive gospel choirs and carries a heavy R&B weight in her singing; Seaton grew up amongst the Methodist hymns and music of the Ozarks (as well as the fertile punk rock scene) of Little Rock; and Godwin describes his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Miss., as imbued with an intense jazz tradition, one which found him playing in small jazz groups tirelessly throughout high school. Jazz and improvised music in fact play a tremendous part in all of the members’ lives and in the work they produce together. Lucas describes her early-in-life thinking as: “To master music was to master jazz. To understand music was to understand jazz.”
understanding that Callers apply is evident throughout its new album
and in its hypnotic and moving live performances— there is an intensity
of attention to dynamic and timbral detail rare amongst their immediate
peers and contemporaries. It is this advanced level of musical
refinement (not complexity) that defines the band’s relationship to the
aforementioned specter of “post-punk” and that makes Life of Love such an utterly unique and interesting record.
this record, we set out to make something with a lot more dynamic
range… spent a lot more time being loud, more visceral, more energetic,”
says Godwin. The primary form that this intentional acceleration of
energy takes is in the integration of the infinite-gazing propulsion of
artists like Wire and Joy Division on songs like the opening “You Are An
Arc” and “Young People,” which prove a winning marriage between this
European focus on the trance-crescendo and the ringing openness that
Callers bring from acoustic jazz. Life of Love feels like one
sonic piece, a somewhat old-fashioned mode of record-making but one that
the group wholly embraces and believes is important to maintain.
describes the band’s lyrics as being derived from a variety of oblique
sources, including a fascination with science articles, particularly
those pertaining to humanity’s relationship to its natural environment.
As a band, Callers is extremely involved with and attuned to its own
natural environment, particularly in terms of the organically responsive
qualities of the group’s live shows. While all bands undoubtedly
respond and adjust, however minutely, to the energy and attributes of an
audience and space, Callers take this concept fully inside as something
of a mission statement. “We’re really
to our surroundings,” says Lucas. “I’m kind of proud of this, [the
music] really changes from show to show.” In a recent performance of the
cover of “Heartbeat” in Williamsburg, the singular power of the Callers
approach was on display. While in an old performance film Wire frontman
Colin Newman transitions from a staunch, nigh-motionless deadpan to
violent, biomechanical gesticulations, Lucas proves a smoother operator,
building very gradually from a near-stillness to slowly expanding and
unfolding movements and gestures, bringing her beat very slowly out to
the world, and drawing the audience fully into Callers’ gravity.
Oct. 6, Zebulon, 258 Wythe Ave. (betw. 3rd St. & Metropolitan Ave.), Brooklyn, 718-218-6934; 9, Free.