Calla | ArticleCalla For Your Dreamin' Calla's avant take on old-fashioned slowcore makes former Swans leader Michael Gira swoon.
Three transplanted Texans—Aurelio Valle, Wayne Magruder and Sean Donovan—are settling into a Brooklyn bar's sofa when a local hipster shuffles over and blurts: "Hey! Are you Calla?"
Valle nods shyly. Magruder and Donovan trade embarrassed glances. "Whoa!" enthuses the drunken fan. "You guys just made this place so much cooler!"
Although the trio shrinks from the compliment, much of New York's music scene has acquired the same energetic affection for Calla's well-hewn, if plainly decelerated, post-rock.
"I thought they were superb musicians," recalls former Swans field marshal Michael Gira, who now heads Young God, the label that released Calla's new album, Scavengers. "Their concentration of dynamics and restrained emotional intensity amazed me—understatement coupled with unexpected bursts of noise, and rock sections."
Calla took root shortly after Valle and Magruder moved to New York from Dallas in the late '90s with their band the Factory Press. They found themselves chafing at its "straight-up" sound and recruited Magruder's old friend Donovan, a classically trained composer and avant-sound maven who hadn't played rock in years.
"I made it clear that whatever we did, we would have to integrate lots of different elements into it," recalls Donovan. "And Aurelio and Wayne were on the same page completely."
Their open-ended mission to integrate rootsy guitar, layers of gauzy dissonance and industrial noise (think EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten), and make it "sound good" complemented Gira's vision for his Young God roster, which has been growing notably in the past couple of years.
"Everything [on Young God] is interesting—at least to me—or pushes some limits sonically or in terms of songwriting," explains Gira, who also produced Scavengers. Certainly, there's not much else that unites Calla with fellow Young God acts like the aggressive Flux Information Sciences or tone poet David Coulter.
Donovan says having Gira in the studio not only helped Calla get all of the sounds they wanted, but served to curb the bandmembers' perfectionist tendencies. "We would keep working and working and working on songs," recalls Donovan, "whereas Michael would step in after a certain point and say, 'Hey—this is it.'"