Familiarity feels wonderful, especially after an extended period of newness, discomfort, or transition. If you are or were a college student in the Pioneer Valley, the five-college area has its own sense of familiarity, even fantasy. Everyone knows the thrum of music and sports games emanating from North Pleasant bars on a Friday or Saturday night; you likely have oddly rosy memories of being squished against a glass divider trying to order a slice from Antonio’s at around the same time. Maybe you frequented Cushman’s a lot and especially on mornings you were hungover; maybe you took a bus to the Roost on Sundays to study, maybe the most cardio you ever got was scaling the hills of Central, maybe you stayed for the summer and took a dip or two thousand in Puffer’s Pond, maybe you’ve walked the length of Lincoln Ave or Main Street in Amherst about ten billion times at all hours, with friends or alone, smoking or laughing or sad or just strolling. Maybe maybe maybe.
Calico Blue embodies this specific, dreamy familiarity; they were created by it. I transferred to UMass my sophomore year– fall of 2016– and knew who they were within a week. When it came to local music, the band was almost synonymous with the word “Amherst”; every other party I heard about or attended they played, and everyone who knew them beyond a wonderful band to dance to (while three sheets to the wind) would not shut up about their extremely chill reimagining of a five-decade old doo-wop classic.
Calico Blue was, and in many ways still is, that sweaty basement and not being able to hear your friends, not even knowing where they were (depending on the situation), and walking home with your heart full, arms linked with your pals or a sweetheart, looking at the stars, surviving every day just to shake off the angst of academic responsibility and existential dread every weekend; whatever ate or eats at you in these formative years.
CB remained that blues-driven, psychedelic salve of the pioneer valley until recently. After four years of relentless gigging, building a considerable local following, releasing two full-length records and touring cross-country with other local favorites Spirit Ghost, the quartet dispersed this past July, their members in post-grad limbo, resituating themselves and recalibrating for a newer chapter in their lives.
The intention was never to stop, though. After seven months away, Calico Blue has returned to Amherst for a string of local shows and an excursion to Boston, much to our joy!
WMUA invited Calico Blue to our studios for an in-depth interview discussing their time away, the making of their newest record, the future of the band, the group’s musical DNA and much, much more.
This interview was conducted by Samantha Colby and Hayden Fisher on January 17th, 2018.
Bed music by Calico Blue, Spirit Ghost and Petting Zoo.
Calico Blue plays Allston tonight!