INTERVIEW: Pandemic Born Folk-Americana Band CALICO Share Remotely Created Debut Album, “Under A Sudden Sun.” Talk Inspiration For Starting Band In 2020, Biggest Pandemic Learning and MORE.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in March of 2020, four longtime friends, Tony Cecchetti, Chris Couto, JeanSe Le Doujet and Will Lloyd decided to use the lockdown to come together to create the Folk-Americana band CALICO. It all begin with Tony who had decided to find time between his six-month-old daughter’s sleep schedule to record several of the songs he had been sitting on. Chris joined in next – who Tony had played live music with to yoga classes in Squamish, BC – who produced the songs and added percussion. Shortly after JeanSe and Will were added to the mix to finish off with their additions of bass and electric guitar respectively. The result was the debut album, Under A Sudden Sun that came together with each musician being able to add their own unique style with no direct guidance and all while being completely separated geographically. Under A Sudden Sun resonates as an introspective and refreshing view on nostalgia, life and love. The band already has their second album recorded and while they continue to already work on their third album, we’ve been lucky enough to have Tony take time for an interview with All Access. Check out the full interview below to learn more about the album, how they felt about getting a song playlisted on Spotify, how Tony’s mom came to paint the album cover, his biggest pandemic learnings and so much more.
ALL ACCESS: Now you guys all started making music during the pandemic in early 2020. Describe how starting a band in the middle of pandemic has been? What were the pros and cons of doing so?
TONY [on behalf of CALICO]: Starting a band during the pandemic had many moving parts. In some ways, CALICO would never have been a thing if it wasn’t for the pandemic. When the world shut down and we were all stuck at home we had the time to do things we may of never had the time to do given the normal pace of life. We could record and really dive into the songs that I had written over the years. The pandemic allowed for us to do that. It was our silver lining during the incredibly difficult time. That said, we also didn’t get the opportunity to play together in the same room until this summer, in late July of 2021, just before we released, Under a Sudden Sun. We started CALICO in March of 2020, so that’s a really long time to not get together. We did a good job Zooming and creating music from afar but it wasn’t easy and it lacked the energy that bandmates bring to a room. All in all it was an incredible experience and is definitely a large part of the backstory of our band.
AA: Congrats on the release of your debut album, Under A Sudden Sun! What was it like putting this together? What was the most personal song to release off the album?
T/C: Thank you so much! We couldn’t be more excited. It’s been amazing to put music out and get so much support back from our community. The reaction has been above and beyond our expectations. Given that we all recorded our parts from different locations, putting together the album had a lot of components. The process for each song was more or less the same. I recorded vocals and rhythm guitar from home. That was then sent off to Chris Couto, who recorded percussion/drums. That was then sent off to JeanSe Le Doujet, who recorded bass. And lastly, sent off to Will Lloyd who recorded lead guitar. Chris Couto produced the album and put an incredible amount of time into making sure each song sounded like we were in playing in the same room.
T/C: The most personal song off the album is “Oh My Mind.” The song is about searching for something that has yet to be fulfilled. In many ways it represents the album as a whole. I always wanted to play and make music. The pandemic allowed me to start a musical journey, with close friends, that seemed unattainable prior to. “Oh My Mind” is about putting one foot in front of the other, exploring, and searching for something that you know is out there, you just haven’t found it yet.
AA: Tony – your mom actually painted the cover for the album. What kind of direction did you give her for the album cover? Were there other versions of the album?
T/C: Yes, my mom painted the album cover. It is something I am very proud of that my mom could be a part of it. I did give her an idea but she had complete creative freedom to take that idea and run with it. I loved wandering the hills of Berkeley, CA when I grew up. Hills that my mom knows well and still hikes regularly. The initial vision was to capture that first light of day when the sun just peaks over the hills. It is a special moment. My mom did a wonderful job capturing it. I have the original painting at my house. I have yet to frame it but will soon and will treasure it for a long time.
AA: As mentioned, the title of the album is named after “that magical moment when the first light of the day peaks out from behind the hills.” What is so enticing about that moment that it inspired the name of the debut album? Which song off the album most encompasses that “tranquil and meditative” moment?
T/C: One of my favorite things to do as a kid was get up at the break of dawn and go fishing. We had reservoirs in the Berkeley Hills where I would go fish. When I was too young to drive, one of my moms would take me. When I became old enough to drive I would go with my closest friends and my sister. To this day, fishing at those lakes is one of the fondest memories I have of growing up in the Bay Area. We would sit for hours in our lounge chairs, look out at the beautiful scenery, and wait for a bite. It was so peaceful and a wonderful place to connect with myself and my favorite people.
T/C: “A Little Light,” which is the first song of the album, best described that tranquil and meditative moment. It is about the importance of light in our lives and was first written as a poem about spending time in those hills as a kid.
AA: “My Darlin’” off the album made it onto your first official Spotify playlist – Renegade Folk. Where were you when you found that out? What does it mean as an artist to make it onto an official Spotify playlist?
T/C: I got an email from Spotify a couple days after we released, “My Darlin’.” I was sitting at home feeding my 2 year old daughter breakfast. I was so excited. For me, it was a testament that we had made music that was quality enough to be grouped with some great names in the Folk world. I was very proud of everyone in the band. It means a lot to be recognized. I don’t think that Spotify is the be all end all but it’s important to be on that platform. Most people listen to and find new music there nowadays. I still think we have a long way to go. We have yet to play our first show and have a lot of things we want to achieve. We believe we have potential to write more music that moves people and plan to do so.
AA: Although the band started early 2020, you guys only recently got together in person to play songs and take band photos. What was that moment like – finally being all together and playing the songs live after over a year of working on them? Do you think the music would’ve sounded any different if you had all been in the same room instead of remote for the entire process?
T/C: It was an incredible feeling to watch the guys get off the ferry in Victoria, BC. Chris Couto had come out a few days early to settle in and do some prep for our recording session. Will and JeanSe came in on the Friday Night ferry and had to leave on Sunday morning. We didn’t have much time but we made the most of it. The four of us have been friends for years long before CALICO was a thing. Chris, Will, and JeanSe have all played in other bands together. When we all lived in Vancouver I would go hang out and watch them play. I always thought I had the most talented friends. They are incredible musicians and wonderful people.
T/C: I do think there would have been some differences if we had all been in the same room. I am not sure how much that would come through with the sound but definitely with the energy in the room. There is an irreplaceable dynamic that is created when musicians physically play together. It’s a vibe thing. I will say that recording from afar had immense perks, too. Everyone had complete creative freedom with their individual parts. What you hear as a final product is what four musicians felt added most to each song. There was little guidance. With everyone recording from afar, we could do it on our own time, when we felt we played best. There wasn’t the pressure of doing it at a specific time in the recording studio.
AA: What is the main thing you hope listeners take away from your music?
T/C: I hope that you all resonate with the stories that we share. Most of the songs began as poems and grew from there. They are snippets of our lives that bring us back to particular memories. My hope is that the music can do similar things for you. That you find some inner peace listening to the music and that, maybe when the album has finished, you’re brought back to a place that you think of fondly.
AA: For you, what was the biggest learning from this past year and a half in quarantine/pandemic?
T/C: I learned to slow down and treasure the small things. The pandemic was a time to be introspective. I gained insights about myself, my ambitions and pursuits that I had never given space for. There was also immense struggle that we all went through. The virus was one thing but the loss of community was a whole other. Losing connection with loved ones was difficult. I had never felt so far from those I cared about. All in all I think it was a time to reflect on what’s important and begin to prioritize that. The pandemic really highlighted the fragility of this life.
AA: If you could only listen to (5) artists for the rest of your life who would they be?
AA: What’s the rest of 2021 and early 2022 look like for CALICO?
T/C: We will continue writing and hopefully can start playing some live shows soon. Now that shows are happening again we plan to get our foot in the door. That might not happen until next summer but we are really excited about the idea and await the opportunity. We have recorded our second album, that will be released in 2022, and are working on our third album currently. Stay tuned for more music and we really look forward to playing live for you all one day. Thank so much for checking us out and giving our music a listen.
Excited to have had Tony from CALICO join for this latest interview! Be sure to check out all their socials and music below and be on the look out for those upcoming shows and upcoming second album.