"The plan is to quit our jobs and make a million dollars," Aaron Hamby kidded, when asked about future plans regarding his band Callupsie.
"Each," Liz Wattoff finished, completing the joke that Hamby started.
Hamby (guitar and lead vocals) and Wattoff (drums) make up one half of Tulsa's most popular indie darlings of the moment. The facetious tone of their exchange underscores both the band's workman-like approach to making music and its determination to maintain a humble, self-aware sense of perspective as it continues to find success.
Rounding out the band is Clay Welch (guitar) and Daniel Sutliff (bass and keys). Hamby, Wattoff and Welch have been making music together for over three years (Sutliff is a recent addition, having replaced bassist Sam Ewing in November), and on Sat., April 5, they will finally unleash their debut album upon Tulsa as they host a CD release party at the Blank Slate. Shortly thereafter, the album will hit the rest of the world, quite literally. Via Little Mafia, Hard Work Records, Data Panic Distro and Carrot Top Distribution, Callupsie's album will find its way into record stores all over the U.S., Canada, Australia, Europe, Japan and the internet.
And what exactly will the world be hearing?
The album itself is a swaggering piece of indie pop-punk that's aggressive, emotive and catchy as hell. The band's secret weapon is a combination of Hamby's unique vocal delivery (quivery, high-pitched, punk-ish instability that's less manic than deliberate, at times vaguely reminiscent of Ben Gibbard's sensitive coo-ishness mixed with the drug-addled misanthropy of Isaac Brock), combined with Welch's and Hamby's interweaving reverb-drenched guitar melodies and counter-melodies. The band makes good use of Welch's background as a gypsy jazz guitarist, and the complex arrangements are frequently among the most immediately impressive aspects of Callupsie.
The album isn't able to fully capture the raw energy and enthusiasm of the band's live show, but it maintains a loose, off-the-cuff immediacy that's the result of Stephen Egerton's fast-paced guerilla production methods.
"We recorded this whole record in two sessions," Hamby said. "All the instruments, live, in two sessions. Nothing on this album is overdubbed, everything is done live--Stephen is really good at capturing that."
Egerton, the noted guitarist from '80s punk band The Descendents (trivia sidenote: the character Stevo in the popular cult film SLC punk is apparently named after Egerton), has been in Tulsa and producing through Armstrong Studios since 2004. The fast-paced, do-it-yourself-and-quickly punk rock mentality of Egerton meshed well with Callupsie's desire to simply capture their live performance as-is.
"We had recorded an EP with him," Hamby said. "Four or five tracks, and we'd done it in a single day. He dug our stuff so he was our first choice."
Straight to the Top
In many ways, this is a big breath-holding moment for Tulsa's indie scene. Over the last two years, some semblance of unity and coalescence has emerged among musicians, fans, promoters and venue operators who desire to help shape and nurture a healthy, viable artistic community that can produce nationally-recognized talent from within the city. Callupsie has led the pack thus far as a group of musicians who seem to have their shit together, both professionally and artistically, and it's easy to credit them as being contributors to the momentum that a handful of new bands are riding.
The looming possibility of Tulsa eventually garnering national recognition as some sort of artistic indie mecca in the vein of Austin or Portland is still wishful thinking, but, as the first of the crop out of the gate with both an album and lucrative distribution, Callupsie's success (or lack thereof) will likely have a small but forceful ripple effect on the city's musical landscape.
Coincidentally, Tulsa's music scene is featured in this month's issue of Spin magazine. Over a two-page spread, readers are pointed to venues such as Soundpony and The Continental, among others, and the writer highlights several noted Tulsa acts. PDA, Crooked X, The Effects and, of course, Callupsie are featured with informative blurbs that sum up the essence of each band. This is not by any means earth-shattering news, but it's a notable achievement for a band, such as Callupsie, that has developed and cultivated a grassroots following based solely on live performances and word-of-mouth advertising.
The timing could not have been better, but now that the proper introductions have been made, it's anyone's call what will happen next. The rumor mill is in full swing now, and word has it that tastemaker labels Polyvinyl and Suicide Squeeze may be eyeing the band as a possible addition to their respective stables of talent. Regardless of whether or not those rumors pan out, it further serves to show that this is Callupsie's time in the sun, and they plan to use it effectively.
"Our plan is to knock out cities," Hamby said. "Play Lawrence twice a month for six months, then play Austin twice a month for six months. Keep pounding. My experience is you tour constantly and you do thirty dates in thirty different towns, by the time you get back to (the first town), nobody's going to remember who you are."
That strategy will be put to use for the first time this summer, when Callupsie embarks on its first tour.
"We have the last half of July booked," Hamby said. "We're going to Chicago and down to Austin and everywhere in between."
Besides being the most obvious, tried-and-true way of self-promotion, the members of Callupsie see touring as a way to satisfy the travel itch without moving to New York or L.A. Unlike past Tulsa bands who've moved to Seattle or wherever immediately after success brushes them across the shoulder (Unwed Sailor, Aqueduct and Ester Drang all moved on to bigger cities years ago), Callupsie has no plans to leave, and each member seems firmly committed to the idea of remaining a Tulsa band.
"If we can get to the touring stage that we want to, there's no point in moving out of Tulsa," Sutliff said. "To me, my ideal situation is to be able to tour and support myself that way, but also live here, because it's a small, simple place."
"It's the greatest place in the world to set up shop," Hamby continued. "It's centrally located. We can go anywhere."
Share this article: