Above photo credit: Steven Thomas
Crisis Arm are busting out all over. Right now best known in their native Southern California, they’ve just wrapped a full state tour and are back to the business of recording. They’ve got a new EP, “Fetch” in the can, finalizing release date and format as I write this. Guitarist Patrick Capinding brings the textured noise, Cameron Puleo’s lead lines provide the flowers among the weeds, and drummer Kevin McVey provides the anchor, keeping the whole maelstrom from simply flying away into chaosville. Staunchly lo-fi but never sloppy, this is the sound of a band that lives and jams together, and has found perfect ways to complement one another. We sat down with the members of Crisis Arm to ask what their deal is.
DKFM: How in the heck does a band live together? Isn’t that just a messy divorce waiting to happen?
Kevin: It can be pretty rough sometimes, but the good far outweighs the bad! We definitely have learned a lot about each other and play off each other’s strengths (and sometimes, weaknesses, haha!)
Cameron: I wouldn’t change a thing. Occasionally it does get volatile, but in a family-dynamic kind of way. I think we have a bit of an advantage on other bands in that regard. We argue, but it’s not like we’re not going to get into some ugly fight during practice and then storm off and not talk for days… we don’t have that luxury, haha! We’re stuck with each other, so whatever anger we have directed at one another usually just dissolves into banter. Sometimes Pat really gets his panties in a bunch, but then we just slap him around for a bit and he gets over it. And of course, living together means being able to practice every day, and that’s pretty badass. Also, you can’t stay angry at anything when you have a house full of cats.
DKFM: Tell us a little bit about how the band came together.
Kevin: I’ve known Pat since 8th grade. We didn’t become best friends until later in our adult years, but when we did, we started learning guitar together and eventually started writing songs! After a few failed projects with others, we settled on a two-piece which became the early days of Crisis Arm. He learned to sing and write more interesting songs while I learned drums.
After a year or so of the Crisis Arm duo, I met Cameron in college and we started hanging out quite a bit. She would watch us practice once in a while and eventually we all decided to teach her guitar so that she could join us. The addition of Cameron is what really gave us inspiration to keep moving forward with this band.
DKFM: You just played about every DIY shop in California. Was that your first big trek out of SoCal, and how was the experience?
Kevin: Actually, earlier this year in May we went on an 8 day, full west coast tour to Washington and back. It was truly an experience that we won’t forget and we’re definitely working on heading out again sometime next year!.
Patrick: It was rather hectic traveling to so many places in such a short span of time. Logistically, we made a lot of mistakes, taking too much or too little of one thing or the other. Other than that, the people the were fantastic.
Playing in so many varied locations and seeing the spectrum of DIY across the country really humbles a musician.
My favorite place that we played was in a park under a train bridge in Redding, California where a band called the weeny brothers, who were around 16 or something like, that played an insane set that consisted of a tape cassette backing drum track with guitars and vocals. It wasn’t until after that we discovered they took acid prior to their set.
Cameron: Well, I think it’s been established already, but… it was awesome! It’s cool to see how everyone is so willing to help out and support their friends/acquaintances. The people we knew who had helped us with shows and even those we had just met were surprisingly eager to show us around their respective towns and make us feel right at home. Even on the days where shows fell through we had a great time. Oh, and the food! I think that’s the most donuts any of us have ever eaten in such a short span of time. I can’t really wrap my mind around how anyone can complain about things that happen on tour. A vacation where you can take both your favorite pastime and favorite people along with you, leave Southern California, eat donuts for a week, explore unfamiliar places, and sleep at Wal-Mart? Hell yeah; sign me up.
Kevin: I feel like Caterwaul is our best release so far and it seems to be getting a decent amount of good feedback and attention, which is good! We wanted people to listen to it, and they are! We’re happy with it because it’s a lot closer to our live sound than our previous release “junk drawer”. As for working with Family Time Records and Sam Woods, it’s really great because we’ve seen him work and play in the local scene and, not only does he do what he does and do it well, he is also a really cool guy that we’re happy to call our friend!
Patrick: Working with a label makes things easier in my opinion; less work but also more pondering as to the handling of our music. In the end I was extremely impressed with Sam’s work, especially in the packaging.
Cameron: It’s really flattering that anyone would be willing to spend their time and money on your band. Having worked as a tape label before, we’re more than familiar with the effort that goes into a release. We’re extremely grateful towards Sam Woods of Family Time Records for putting out Caterwaul, and — like Pat said — the packaging is super impressive and I’m always eager to show people perusing our merch what a good job Sam did!
DKFM: If I were to describe your current sound, it’s sort of a controlled chaos shot through with moments of beauty. How would YOU describe the Crisis Arm sound?
Cameron: I was the last to compose my answers for this interview, and I see no one has answered this yet… I think that explains how well we are at trying to describe ourselves! I think we’ve finally come into our core sound, but our songwriting is always changing. Mostly because we all have short attention spans… but also, we’re pretty keen on the belief that evolving one’s sound is a lot more admirable than falling into formulaic songwriting. Trying to explain what we sound like is always tough, because there’s nothing we’re really striving to sound like, and no style we want to commit ourselves to fully.
Because of that, everyone has a different explanation for what we sound like, and that’s pretty cool. In any case, I like your description of us! I think that’s better than any of us could do.
DKFM: What’s next for Crisis Arm? The album’s out, the EP is soon, we understand you’re writing tracks for the next LP?
Patrick: Yeah the next LP is still in its infant stages.
Kevin: Yeah, the EP should be out soon digitally and with a cassette release on Perpetual Bullshit, a tape and CD label out of Ohio that our friend co-owns. We recently signed with Mayfly Records, which is huge for us and is being announced this EP release. He is putting out our next LP and we are definitely making sure to take our time with writing to make sure it’s something we’re completely stoked on (which is usually how we are anyways). Hoping to start recording in February with a release sometime in May!
DKFM: “Fetch” sounds a little bit more haunting (for lack of a better word) than Caterwaul, even featuring reverb-soaked instrumental segues between tracks. Conscious choice? Is Crisis Arm evolving?
Patrick: It was sort of a natural progression for us. Caterwaul felt more like a transition into the direction we felt we had to take. “Fetch” itself is the proto future crisis arm we have in our heads but hasn’t been fully realized.
Kevin: For me, working on “fetch” has been a lot more focused and is definitely a natural and conscious choice for us to take it this direction. I’m not really positive if we will continue straight down this path we are heading or if we will mix things up a bit more for the LP. Only time (and lots of writing) will tell!
DKFM: What do you do in your spare time? As if recording, touring, recording, touring and living together wasn’t tough enough… what do you do outside of the band shell to recharge?
Patrick: Food. Making fun of people.
Kevin: We don’t get a lot of down time, but when we do, we definitely spend a lot of it on making (and eating) really good vegan food, haha! Playing video games, listening to music, watching movies/anime/tv shows, and just writing music are a lot of things I like to do on my free time. Internet dwelling works its way in there quite a bit as well. A lot of networking, hanging out with each other and my son Zach, going to new places, going on hikes. The list could go on and on!
Cameron: Cats. Playing with cats, cuddling with cats, taking pictures of cats, watching cat videos… also, I love to make food, drink lots of coffee, work on artwork, and do all the things that Kevin and Pat already listed.
DKFM: What bands inspire you? And what sounds were you listening to before Crisis Arm came into being?
Kevin: Really inspired by a lot of DIY musicians, bigger (and smaller) bands in the shoegaze/post-punk scene, lots of our friends and their music and so on. There are way to many to name, haha! Before Crisis Arm came into being, I lurked around on the internet and discovered a lot of underground music. Lots of present day shoegaze, experimental and noise music. Also, going to a lot of shows then really helped me in the decision to start Crisis Arm.
Patrick: For myself, my big inspirations as a musician have been Jeff Buckley and the prog rock bands King Crimson and Yes.
Cameron: Well, I can’t imagine it’s possible to not frequently be listening to new music when you have friends who are such great musicians, and have tools like Bandcamp and Soundcloud at your fingertips! I feel pretty lucky to be living in a time when a decent recording is no longer something difficult or unattainable, and sharing your music is as simple as clicking a few buttons. Because of this, there is more awesome music now than ever before. I can’t really say that I am influenced stylistically by any one thing in particular; however, I am surrounded by so many amazing artists that there is rarely a moment when I don’t feel inspired to create.
DKFM: Finally, what would you like to share with our audience about yourselves, your music, life in general?
Kevin: Life is definitely what you make it, and we want to make it as awesome as possible, all of the time! Hopefully getting to go on the road more soon so we can do what we love all over the world! Thanks for taking interest in us and our love for all that we do.
Patrick: A man’s dreams will never die.
Cameron: Pat sucks.