“We’re going to play some songs.”
Adam Morrow, lead vocalist of Callooh! Callay!, opened our little chat with that line, and while he meant it as a joke response parodying bad interview questions, it actually makes sense because Morrow and the three-piece band have a craftsmanship to their work that is very philosophical. It’s hard to place them in a genre because fuzzy-rock-folk-pop music is not a rigid genre. Through tales of inappropriate feelings and Ray Bradbury references, the band’s work evolves almost by the second.
“They’re very much a present band,” said Donovan Reinwald, Morrow’s roommate and co-host of their WVUA-FM Sunday night radio show “The People’s Show.”
The next stage of that evolution will hopefully be on display at Tuscaloosa’s Green Bar this Friday night, which Morrow bills as an event show.
“One pure reason is that we’re bringing a band that we like in Bottle Up and Explode,” Morrow said. “We really want them to have a good first time in Tuscaloosa. I want them to be welcome.”
I’m not sure how Tuscaloosa residents and college kids view bands that play often in town because I don’t think anyone has a particular opinion on the subject. However, this show is an interesting experiment, at least in the hope that people do miss seeing these guys live.
“If you tell people that something’s a special occasion, they’re inclined to believe it if you’re not saying this every week,” Morrow said. “We have a lot of new stuff that we want to debut. At the end of the day, if you’re good enough to think that anyone would want to listen to your music, then you want a lot of people there to listen to your music.”
Morrow, bass guitarist Natalie Jensen and drummer Bowen Robertson are now essentially a three-piece for the long term and working on the follow-up to 2010’s “Sassprilluh Champagne” record.
“This is the first time we’ve written as just the three of us,” Morrow said. “The new songs are actually, if anything, a little more poppy than the stuff that we’ve done in the past. I think the best song from the last record, ‘Quentin,’ is almost seven minutes long. And I think for our ability, we did that well. So now we have the added challenge of trying to do that in three minutes and getting out what we have to say in that time.”
I have not personally heard any of the new tracks, although the use of “pop” here is interesting. Morrow doesn’t say “accessible,” which is a music nerd synonym for a more mainstream sound. But obviously this can’t entirely be the case with a band like this.
“It’s kind of like how the Jesus and Mary Chain constructed what are essentially pop songs around so much feedback,” Reinwald said. “They’re doing so many neat little tricks with it that you don’t notice. You don’t figure out that this is actually a pop song. I mean, it’s definitely not like experimental music, but at the same time it’s not safe pop. There’s thought and craft going on.”
Thought and craft is accurate, although knowing what good music sounds like most certainly helps.
“What is the definition of a song?” Morrow said. “There is no real objective definition of a song. I mean, this is just how we choose to play these songs. We could do them acoustically, classical or in a jazz way. I mean, there is no set definition of a song. That sounds so pretentious.”
Callooh! Callay! will play on a bill with Michael Battito Band and Bottle Up and Explode at Green Bar this Friday starting at 10 p.m. Cover is $3, and it is a 21-and-up show. Go to it. You don’t even have to buy a beer.