|Callum Plews of Sleeves and Analog Candle|
When I was 11 years old, I moved with my family to Chicago. I started in the 6th grade there and one of the first friends I had was Callum Plews, this rad guy who had a funny English accent. Callum was my best friend then but he left our school after 6th grade and we kind of lost contact. Recently, we got in touch over Facebook (there really is a use for that site sometimes) and bonded over both becoming music geeks. Callum had played in a bunch of bands and made music since High School, but I never really heard anything of his until his new album "The Sky Ghost Part 1" by his band Sleeves came out.
I'm so glad that I clicked that link he posted because I absolutely love that album! It's really wonderfully constructed and layered. Kim, the permanent vocalist, has a wonderful voice that floats over surreal soundscapes. And the music is just so rich, but also immediately accessible as it's rooted in an incredible pop sensibility.
The album is streaming on their website (see: http://theskyghost.com/). You can download the whole album for $3. THREE DOLLARS! And you can get a physical album with the unreal album art, lyrics, and some surprises for only $7.
Naturally, I had to ask Callum for an interview. Aside from quickly catching up and talking about one of our favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, we got down to business in regards to music. Callum had a lot of really enlightening things to say about how one creates music through production and collaboration that was something I hadn't heard a lot about. He makes the album immediately personal but alien enough to apply to any individual, regardless of where he or she came from.
It's really an amazing album. Aside from that, Callum runs a music collective called Analog Candle (see: http://www.analogcandle.com/) that releases Sleeves music as well as other side-projects of Callum's and other bands. Like the Sleeves album, it's really great.
But Callum explains everything much better, so without further ado...Callum Plews of Analog Candle & Sleeves!
Jordan: So, what made you start making music?
Callum: Wow, good question. I think it was back in high school, joining high school bands and stuff and I really became interested in the recording process. I went to a bunch of recording studio sessions and recording EPs in high school. And it was like wow, I really enjoy the recording process a little bit more than making music, and that’s how I got into that, recording other people and music. Recently I’ve been making more music and recording, but I really like to collaborate and record other people: I’d say it’s a passion of mine. I’d probably say I started around 16 and 17.
Jordan: How has the music you made in High School impacted the music you’re making now or the bands that you’re recording?
Callum: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think that when you first start making music, you’re doing your best to create something in the moment. Of course, two months later, you look back and think “oh I should have done that differently” or “I could have done that better.” You have to understand you did it in the moment; years from now. Sometimes I look back and think “oh, that’s crappy,” but, you know, I’m proud of it and I’m glad I made it because otherwise I wouldn’t be interested in the stuff I make now, which is a little less rocky and a little more psychedelic. I don’t know. It’s different.
Jordan: So your band sleeves. What is your role in the band?
Callum: [Chuckles] okay, okay, what’s my role? It started for me in New Orleans, I was taking a break from college – I was kind of between schools. I was in a really bad state: I had no friends, my girlfriend had broken up with me and I was really depressed and I decided I’ll just start a band called “Sleeves” and wrote my first song in New Orleans and went on Craigslist and found a singer. It started up as a solo project and I wanted to bring singers in and collaborate with them, but I eventually met Kim, who eventually became the permanent singer and we had a good collaboration going. So Kim and I recorded our album last year and this year we recruited a violinist named Tabitha and a guitarist named Justice. I would say my role now is producing music and helping with the collaborative process between the members and also contributing my own songs and trying to give a vision and direction. But sometimes the other members collaborate and write music without me and I’ll, you know, play a guitar part. We all have very fluid roles in the band. I’d say probably producer/songwriter, a guy who helps where it’s needed.
Jordan: Pretty big transformation within like a year or year and a half.
Callum: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, a lot’s happened since then. I moved to Boston where there’s a great music scene and being at Northeastern and doing music technology really got me into classical music. Those influences really moved me and kind of kept pushing me forward. Sometimes I don’t even go out on weekends, I just produce. It’s my passion.
Jordan: So what events or bands influenced the songs you have on your new LP “The Sky Ghost Part 1”?
Callum: Good question. I would definitely say Broken Social Scene, Modest Mouse. Also strangely some classical composers like Debussey or Mahler. The way they layer their music. And then kind of electro stuff like Barry Truax and a lot of experimental composers and new music. You can’t really tell it’s influenced by classical music, but it definitely is when we write a song.
Jordan: What kind of music would you call it?
Callum: I would say it’s folk-influenced, but that we try to incorporate some experimental elements too. We definitely try to add some psychedelic or freak-folk tinge. Like Akron/Family or Grizzly Bear. I’m sure you could think of some others too.
Jordan: The Grizzly Bear comparison was something I thought when I first heard it but, to be honest, I like your band more. I think it’s rooted in a better pop sensibility, but I saw the layers be something in the two.
Callum: Yeah, this record is very poppy. I don’t know how it happened, and we’re going to try and move in a different direction for new stuff. But yeah, it has that pop element definitely.
Jordan: So what can expect in the next album? Is it called “The Sky Ghost Part 2?”
Callum: Actually, we’re going to do an EP before that, which is going to be a free download, and it’s going to be called the “garden district EP,” which is going to be mostly folk like by Bob Dylan. We’re actually doing a Bob Dylan/Johnny Cash cover between the two female vocalists, Tabitha and Kim, called “Girl from the North Country.” It’s going to be a lot more folky and then “Sky Ghost Part 2” is going to come and go back to the psychedelic direction and we’ll generate some ideas about what we want to do with that.
Jordan: So the EP’s going to be more acoustic based?
Callum: Definitely more acoustic based. We’re going to try and do some sort of concept, but it’s definitely going to be more acoustic. Actually “Sky Ghost” tells a kind of story. I’m not really sure what it is, but we’re going to try and have the EP be a transition story that sits between parts 1 and 2 that’s kind of a transition between the two. Whether it’ll be successful, I don’t know, but we’re going to try.
Jordan: So what would you say the story in Sky Ghost Part 1 is?
Callum: That’s a good question. Actually each of the members has a different interpretation. I kind of think it represents, and it’s cliché, but I think it’s about someone’s life cycle. I personally think the first song is about rebirth and the second song has the lyrics “I don’t know what you made me for/ you used to be in love, but not anymore” which is kind of like a child’s sensibility. The second song is about a child and then it moves into being a teenager. It’s hard to explain. The other members could probably explain and their interpretations are a lot better, but something like that.
Jordan: So what’s up with the physical release album?
Callum: Yeah, there’s going to be 200 copies and we’re sending some to an affiliate label with my friends from Illinois and they’re called “Catpak Records.” They’re going to get 100 copies and we’re going to have 100 copies and it’s going to be full-panel with all the lyrics and we’ll have secrets to those who ordered one. I know you ordered one, which is exciting. It’s definitely worth the $7. But yeah, we’re going to get 100 copies and sell them at shows and stuff.
Jordan: Yeah, I’m psyched! I was really curious about the album art. Who made it? What’s the story behind it?
Callum: Right, well actually that was made by my friend in high school who’s named “Zach Meyer” and I bought the print off of him. I really like working with people I know, like for example you as opposed to a random blogger. I feel like I can open up to you (aw, shucks Callum, you’re making me blush) since we’ve been friends since way back when. I love collaborating with people I know and meeting new people. But I called him up and we hadn’t spoken in a while and I was like “yo, I’ve got this idea, can you do this and this?” and he drew it up and it worked really nicely. He’s really talented so I was really grateful for that connection.
Jordan: I absolutely love that print. It looks so sweet.
Callum: Yeah he did a great job. It’s incredible. I actually think that print almost tells the story or gives clues to interpretation. There’s definitely a connection with the moon; it’s a big part of the record. It’s kind of like a feminine relationship with the moon and how it affects the life. Maybe “The Sky Ghost Part 2” will be a male relationship with the moon, whatever that is.
Jordan: Can we look forward to seeing more collaborations with Zach Meyer?
Callum: I wonder. Yeah probably. I was wondering if he could do art for the new album. I know he released a sort of flip-book with his art work and maybe we could do some sort of collaboration that could be included with the next album.
Jordan: I’d personally love that. I’m like geeking out over it.
Callum: [laughs] I’m glad you like it!
Jordan: So who’s Atuin, the guy featured on the first track?
Callum: Oh, Atuin! (pronounced ATOON). He’s a French artist I met on Soundcloud. I love collaborating on Soundcloud. There’s a lot of musicians I like collaborating with. But yeah, he’s just like a Soundcloud musician. He has a unique voice and is a great lyricist. He wrote his lyrics for his part in that song. It was really an honor to work with him.
Jordan: Any plans to press it on vinyl?
Callum: Yeah, maybe if people respond to Sky Ghost 1 and we get money from shows and can sell merch and t-shirts. I think we could definitely press Sky Ghost 2 on vinyl and then maybe go back and press Sky Ghost 1 on vinyl. Maybe include them in a package. It’d be awesome to see how people respond to that. I’d love to make the investment but it could definitely be worth it. It’s definitely a good idea. I’m going to steal that idea from you.
Jordan: It’s definitely an album I’d like to have as a record, to be honest.
Callum: You listen to a lot of albums on record?
Jordan: Yeah I pretty much buy everything on vinyl. I was just at the store and picked up a few records.
Callum: I know with new records they include a slip of paper with the digital download link so you can get that too. The vinyl’s only like $12 so it’s a sick deal.
Jordan: Do you have any plans to tour?
Callum: Yeah, we’re trying to play some local venues in Boston. We’re friends with this band called Stone Cold Fox who we’re remixing. And we’re trying to get some shows with them and this other band. God, I forgot their name. But our friend Paige played at the release party for our album with her band "Sounds of Venus" so we’re trying to get some shows. Hopefully Boston and we’ll try to expand and see where it goes.
Jordan: So what’s your role in Analog Candle? You created it yourself?
Callum: Yeah, yeah, Analog Candle came out around the same time as Sleeves. It’s kind of an umbrella under which I can release Sleeves. But then it kind of grew into a collective involving different people and then I started working with this guy in New Zealand who’s actually a professor and he sent me some ambient music and I started mixing them and writing lyrics and then giving them to Kim and she would write lyrics. So we started a side-project “Sink/Sink” and we put them on Analog Candle too. I’m also trying to release my roommate’s music on Analog Candle. It’s kind of growing into a combination of a collective where everyone works on each other’s projects, a recording studio that I have set up in my apartment, and also a label for which we can release music and promote bands and put them on Soundcloud or the website or whatever.
Jordan: So what can we look forward to in the future of Sleeves and Analog candle?
Callum: Let me think. I’ll talk about new releases. We’re talking about releasing my roommate’s album in about two months. The Sleeves EP in about a month. My side-project Sink/Sink is releasing an album on Feedback Loop Label and they’re making physical copies. They’re in Spain or Portugal and they’re selling it for Euros So that’s coming out April 16 and then a remix album of Sleeves, and my friend’s band Children of Kids. I recorded them and we’re going to do a physical release and a split/remix album on that. So yeah, physical releases, just kind of pushing forward.