Summer might be officially over, but that doesn’t mean the music festival season has to end. Before the leaves change color, the temperature dips and the debate between pumpkin spice and apple cinnamon begins, there’s the Sound On Sound Music Festival at Seaside Park in Bridgeport on Sept. 24 and 25.
This extravaganza has an incredible bill that includes Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews, Brandi Carlile, Gary Clark Jr., The Revivalists, Jenny Lewis, The National, The Roots and Spin Doctors and others.
Also playing are Columbus-based folk rockers Caamp who’ll be on the Seaside Stage during the first day of the festival at 5:15 p.m. For Caamp, Sound on Sound is part of a tour in support of their fifth album Lavender Days that came out on June 24.
Caamp was founded during the early 2010s by childhood friends Taylor Meier and Evan Westfall. Meier played guitar and Westfall played banjo, and both contributed on vocals. Bassist Matt Vinson and keyboardist Joseph Kavalec joined soon after to form the creative nucleus of the band.
I had a chance to speak with Westfall ahead of Sound On Sound about the making of the album, getting a couple friends to contribute on vocals, how he started playing the banjo and often performing without a setlist.
RD: During the making of Lavender Days, what would you say was the main vision you, Taylor, Matt and Joseph had heading into the studio with Beatriz Artola and did the vision evolve at all as the recording sessions went along?
EW: We didn’t really have a vision, honestly. We were bored and we wanted to make a record during the pandemic, Taylor had a batch of songs that he’d been working on during quarantine and we started getting together in late 2020. It felt really good to be in a room with everybody and playing music again after a year so there wasn’t a real vision to it, we just wanted to make a record together. I guess we knew in the back of our minds that we wanted to incorporate banjo along with some rocky songs to have a nice blend of folk rock songs. That’s about it, no crazy vision there.
RD: How did you go about getting Nathaniel Rateliff and Katie Crutchfield from Waxahatchee to contribute backing vocals for the album? Did they do them remotely because of what was going on with the pandemic at the time or did they actually come into the studio?
EW: They actually came down to the studio. We had plans to record with Nathaniel, we were going to have him co-produce the record with us originally but he ended up getting super busy. He played Saturday Night Live and flew in the next day to meet us at the studio. We were originally supposed to have Nathaniel help us out with a lot more of the album. He came in, he was there for a couple days with us and then Katie came in because she’s friends with Nathaniel as well, they all kind of run in the same circles. We made a couple calls and got some people there.
RD: After the album came out on June 24, it was revealed that “Apple Tree Blues” off the album was part of former President Barack Obama’s summer playlist on Spotify. How did you guys find out about this and what are your thoughts on it?
EW: There’s no words really to describe that but it was funny how we found out because we were doing a radio session, we were live on air and the host at the station was interviewing us and he asked how it felt to be on Barack Obama’s playlist. I don’t know if you can find that interview anywhere but we were all freaking out, it was raw emotion live on air. It was pretty cool and pretty special, I had no idea he knew about us so it’s pretty wild.
RD: Yeah, I’ll say. I can definitely agree with that. You mentioned how you incorporated banjo in the making of the record and it’s your primary instrument when you perform with Caamp live. How did you come across playing the banjo? How did you get familiar with it? What made you want to play it? Is it more complex than playing guitar or does it have similar properties?
EW: I grew up playing guitar so I first picked it up around 10 years ago when Taylor and I were starting the band. He had a batch of these folk songs which ended up being the first couple of Caamp songs but at the time Taylor was only singing and I was playing the guitar. Then he started getting better at guitar and we didn’t want to be one of those two acoustic guitar duos so we thought the banjo would be a nice fit for sitting around a campfire, folky songs. I picked it up instantly, I started playing it like a guitar and that’s just kind of how I still play it. I’d like to think I found my voice playing it that way like a guitar, it’s easier than playing Scruggs style, clawhammer or anything like that.
I feel like I get looked down on by old banjo heads for playing it with a flat pick but I could care less. It’s fun for me, it’s fun to come up with melodies on it.
RD: As long as you’re having fun and you’re comfortable with it, it shouldn’t really matter what other people think. You get the best results when you do that so why not?
RD: It’s been said that Caamp has a very spontaneous way of playing live and you guys don’t use a setlist during a show. Do you feel that this approach opens the door for improvisation, live jamming and extending songs?
EW: Oh yeah, absolutely. It keeps it fresh for us which is super important, we roll without the setlist most nights and it’s fun. I think the crowd enjoys seeing us this way, some of them know that we don’t use setlists so they’re shouting songs out. It’s a fun way to interact with the crowd too, it brings us all together instead of us being way up there and them all the way down there. I think the crowd feels more involved when they see us deciding which song to play next or we’re joking around to make them laugh.
RD: It’s more symbiotic, I totally get that.
RD: With that being said, can folks who aren’t familiar with Caamp expect that kind of vibe when they see you guys play at the Sound On Sound Festival?
EW: They can expect a booze-fueled set, I can’t predict the future but we’ve been looking forward to the festival for a while. It’s an amazing lineup, we’re just super excited to be there and I’m sure the weather is going to be great. We’re going to be bringing it that day, I know that. It’s going to be good old-fashioned clean family fun.
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