The band began as a wee experimental-twang project by Chicago-bred multi-tasker Tim Rutili (of rockers Red Red Meat and the excruciatingly perfect record label Perishable). Rutili, who plays Wurlitzer electric piano and guitar, expanded Califone for their recent tour with Modest Mouse, to include Eric Johnson on guitar and banjo, Ben Massarella on drums, and Matt Fields on bass. Here, Rutili lent us some of his tour diary.
may 12-minneapolis (prince's house)
the plan is to drive up from chicago, play a califone set, play keyboards for modest mouse (search and destroy style. we never got to rehearse with them), get paid and drive back to chicago. the first few steps worked but on the way to the van after loading out loftus, ben, matt and eric wanted to have one more drink in a cheesy pre-fabricated irish bar across the street from the club. there was a man on the stage with an acoustic guitar and sequencer playing everything from margaritaville to aqualung. drove home dangerously
"Califone started out as a lot more machine/loop based and more about exploring the smoother aspects of pop music," Rutili begins, "but everything is different live. We won't be bringing the machines for this tour so we're only depending on flesh and blood. We're not going to imitate the records, it'll be more fun that way, to leave more room for human error and other fun possibilities."
may 13-chicago-metro--it was a beautiful night of music. after we left the club, modest mouse got into a fight with some homophobic cubs fans. jeremiah ended up macing everyone before the metro bouncers and the cops took over. one of the drunken cubs fans called the cops fags. it turns out that one of the cops was gay. all the cubs fans were arrested no one was seriously injured. cuts and bruises only. while this was happening i slept dreaming of car crashes all night long.
On the cover to their recently released EP (on Portland imprint Road Cone), there's a picture of a Solid Gold preacher-man grinning away for the Rutili Family Kodak moment. And there beside him is a youthful Tim Rutili. The glint in his eyes speaks volumes; it's that same mischievous glint that echoes in the scrapes and mumblings of Califone's organically electronic music.
Rutili brings up another point of reference: "Califone is about waking up from a perfect wet dream next to some one-legged lion tamer you saw at the circus when you were seven."
may 16--cleveland, oh¯as soon as we enter ohio we start sighting the black vans. at a gas station i hold the door open for a group of sinister amish men and their wives. The women smile and the men scowl behind their beards. the club is run by nazis and we will never play there again. after load-out, i left a lit cigarette between the cushions of an old dirty couch in the dressing room.
When you realize how perfect the world can be, it is imperative that you remember to keep looking and listening. Rutili has never stopped building an impressive catalog of releases¯the kind of releases that remind you of the glint in your eyes.
(More of Rutili's tour notes can be found at www.perishablerecords.com)