"I DON'T THINK we really write songs," says Still Caves bassist Kellam Connelly. "We just play."
Indeed, there's a freewheeling kind of abandon on Still Caves' debut cassette EP Static Lips that backs up this assessment. Adding to its sophomoric nature is a string of improbabilities that might have hamstrung most fledgling bands. Still Caves' two guitar players—Brian Whitmer and Jamey Williams—had never played in a band before. Drummer Travis Visscher emerged as the band's singer after no one would take up the role during the first few practices—he'd never done it before. Whitmer had to be taught how to use effects pedals, adjusting to using amplifiers and electric guitar when the band formed in the beginning of 2011. Williams had previously spent most of his creative energy composing ambient noise music to upload to the internet, and he hates being in front of people.
It doesn't exactly scream, "rock band compatibility." "It was a little rag doll for a while," jokes Williams—but the band soon hit its stride.
"The first time the three of us played [before Connelly joined], we turned up really loud, hit the fuzz pedals, and just started hitting a chord over and over again," explains Whitmer. "Then Travis would hit a beat and something would come automatically right out of the beat. All of a sudden we were playing something."
That the band's music is intelligible at all is cause for celebration, considering their ramshackle creative process. But their arsenal of tunes goes well beyond being merely passable. Songs like "Dutch" and "No Company" employ the selfsame utilitarian accoutrements as any neo-garage crew, but instead inject the fuzzy punk abandon of early Mudhoney or Spacemen 3, with everything levitating in a kind of squealing lo-fi cacophony. An enveloping tsunami of reverb on "Deep in the Grip" surrounds an evil-sounding "ba-ba-ba" chorus, which suffocates underneath a writhing din of junk-sick guitars too fucked up to play more than a couple of chords.
With these elements of arty attitude in tow, the band makes no bones about their desire to kick start a more energetic live music experience in Portland.
"There's a little sneering and a little attitude," says Visscher of the aggressiveness on the EP. "It's not a response to safe music; it's just part of all the elements that come together at this point for us. We're trying to build up some sort of group of bands that don't have to sound the same, but who are having fun, who have a lot of energy."
Moreover, they just want people to dance. "A lot of the bands that people promote in the papers are pretty boring," says Visscher. "They're talented and creative and they're nice people, but it's so polite. I don't wanna go watch a show with my mom and dad."
With just a little over a year under their belts, Still Caves' goals as a band remain grounded, taking each step as it comes without worrying about big touring (they all have time-consuming day jobs) or labels (though they're in talks for a possible vinyl LP release on San Francisco's Loglady Records). In the meantime, they plan on forging ahead in the same manner in which they accidentally compose songs.
"It started with fucking off," says Williams. "And it's still fucking off."