Colorado pop outfit Candy Claws first gained attention as a self-promoted DIY act, before making the leap to label success with Indiecater Records—who re-released their debut concept LP In the Dream of the Sea Life—and Twosyllable, who put out their recent Hidden Lands. Combining vintage I Hear a New World-style ‘60s noise, murky MBV vocals, SoCal beach pop, world music, and twee elements, Candy Claws are an act that’s not short on contemporaries, but hard to compare directly with any one band. They’re restless, prolific, and have mastered a winsome, inventive, and un-pretentious way of bridging the book nerd/music nerd gap (as is expanded upon in our interview below, they’ve based all of their music to date on works of nonfiction).
We’re giving away two pairs of free passes to Tuesday night’s show at the High Dive with The Chain Gang of 1974. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want one of the pairs, and you’ll be added to list for the show (first come, first serve). Please use “Candy Claws tickets” in the subject line of your email.
In a recent correspondence with CC’s Ryan Hover, we got deep about his band’s inspiration, process, and future plans. Also: playing your record for grandparents.
It's less of an adaptation and more of a "musical companionship." With The Sea Around Us, we felt the book and our music shared almost identical sentiments about the ocean. The book is science, but written in such elegant prose, it feels more like an epic poem, a hymn to the sea. That's exactly what our songs were.
We recently tried a similar thing, but our band is instrumental—you have the benefit of using lyrics to evoke (or even cite) specific passages in the books. Was this something you made an effort to accomplish?
The Secret Life of the Forest informed our lyrics much more directly. We selected our favorite passages from the text and ran them through Translation Party, a simple website that translates phrases back and forth forever between English and Japanese, giving you the result each time. The scientific sentences were morphed into some kind of strange poetry. There was lots of nonsense, but we pieced together lyrics from the most beautiful and surprising results.
In the time since you incorporated personally-recorded found sounds (e.g. the waves at Portovenere) on In the Dream of the Sea Life, oceanic sounds—both literal and figurative—have exploded all over the place, and were, and to an extent still are, pretty ubiquitous. How do you feel about that?
I'd love to think we had enough influence to start some kind of trend, but I think it's just weird timing. At the time I knew it was a little gimmicky to have sound effects in the background, but since we recorded them ourselves in exotic places that were very special to us, it became something a lot more personal. To a listener, it just sounds like obvious ocean noises on an ocean album, but for us it brings back the northern Italian coast and long drives up and down the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The ocean is a fairly obvious source of inspiration for many, but still a pretty profound one. I’m thinking of this great book Music and the Mind, by the psychiatrist Anthony Storr. He’s way too stuck-up to even think about discussing non-classical music from the 20th century or beyond, but he spends a lot of time analyzing music in relation to Freud’s idea of the “oceanic.” “The oceanic feeling is usually compared with the states of minds described by the mystics in which the subject feels at one with the world and with him or her self.” Now, we’ve had decades of music that very literally feels oceanic, some of it oceanic in Freud’s sense. In the Dream of the Sea Life is one of those records for me.
Nice to hear we've joined the canon! The secret is that we overcompressed the mix. If you look at the album's waveform, it's a big blasted-out block of sound. This is on purpose, to make you feel like you're being crushed under miles of seawater. You'll be one with the world when you've imploded in the ocean floor, for sure.
In the Dream of the Sea Life was recorded in a bedroom. Did you upgrade to a studio for Hidden Lands?
No, we just upgraded to a better bedroom. Ha! The way we record, we spend so much time in post-production it would never be worth it to go into a studio. We have a mic and a pre-amp to capture the initial sounds, like a guitar chord or a drum beat, but we spend most of the time assembling the songs on the computer. For vocals on Hidden Lands, we had a nice little setup in our drummer's house at Christmastime. The whole family was away on a cruise, so we had this house all to ourselves, with a Christmas tree and decorations. Kay and I would record vocal takes during the day, and I would play Demon's Souls all night on their giant TV.
Both of your albums are remarkably sonically dense. How do you decide when to stop fleshing out the arrangements—when do you land on the right equilibrium where it isn’t too busy but still sounds really full and well-rounded?
It's usually when I just can't figure out another melody or sound that will fit. I would layer forever if I could, but the song itself has a way of saying, “Enough!” Plus, we like to make sure the songs have variation, so there are some parts that only have a couple things happening, while other parts are very dense with many sounds. It really just comes down to trusting our instincts for each arrangement. We listened to lots of mid-century composers and space-age pop music during this, so we had the feel in our heads already. Then it was very easy to hear what fit the certain sound we were going for and what didn't.
When I ordered In the Dream of the Sea Life from you guys way back, you sent a really kind, thoughtful note with it that talked about how your garden was going and the weather in Colorado and stuff. I really appreciated it at the time, but I imagine that kind of super-personal DIY interaction with your fans isn’t a possibility for you guys anymore.
Yeah, being very busy is a blessing and a curse. It's great to be at a point where touring and recording have become a lifestyle, but we also miss the days when we were hand-printing albums and writing notes. Our garden was mostly a failure, by the way. The corn and tomatoes did well, but everything else died.
The pattern of your work so far would suggest that your next album will be a) based on a book and b) tied, at least metaphorically, to an element or terrestrial location. Are you guys already thinking about what direction you’re going to take on your next release?
The book will probably be Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Right now the idea of evolution through natural selection is the most simple and beautiful thing I know. Who knows what it will sound like!
When musically unhip friends or family members ask you what kind of music your band makes, what answer do you give them?
We call it dream pop, and then try to explain that. Or something about the Beach Boys. Usually we just try to show them the music. The best compliment I ever got was that our percussionist's grandmother listened through the entire album and enjoyed every song. Here's this woman who grew up during the time when all the best pop music was being made, all the classics, and she likes our album! Cool!