One of my favorite albums of the year was Calling Hours’ debut album ‘Say Less,’ out now on Revelation Records. Calling Hours might be a new band but its line-up boasts some familiar faces. Featuring Farside vocalist Popeye Vogelsang along with Don’t Sleep guitarists Thomas McGrath and Tony Bavaria, bassist Garrett Rothman, and drummer Jim Bedorf, Calling Hours excels at combining brightly shining melodies with crunchy guitars. If you haven’t already checked out ‘Say Less’, do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy now. We caught up with Popeye to talk about the band’s start, their debut album and recording with the legend that is Brian McTernan.
PRT: First of all, congrats on the album! It sounds amazing… familiar, but different.
Popeye: Thanks! (I think. Hahaha!) Glad you like it either way! We’re all very proud of it!
PRT: The seeds for Calling Hours were sown when the others invited you to play a New Years Eve reunion show with The Commercials. Was there an immediate chemistry that made you all think it should be a more permanent thing?
Popeye: There was definitely an immediate chemistry before we even met in person. Garrett (our bass player) and I got on the phone one night, weeks before the show, and we bonded right away. We spent about three hours on the phone getting inebriated and figuring out what songs we were going to do together. But even then, I don’t think any of us were thinking that we would do anything beyond that show. That is, until, Tom (our lead guitar player) mentioned that they had been working on some songs but didn’t have a singer. I wasn’t doing anything musically at the time so I asked if I could try out. It just kind of went from there. Fortunately, the chemistry has continued to be incredible among us.
PRT: With the others already being a tightly knit unit from already playing together for years, did it take some getting used to one another when you started writing and recording?
Popeye: Absolutely! I felt like a total outsider with those guys, like I was the new kid at school and I’m trying to navigate how I’m supposed to go about things. That being said, those guys are so incredibly friendly, supportive and nurturing, so I became comfortable with them very quickly.
PRT: Was there any hesitation on your part to be in a band again?
Popeye: No, not hesitation, but I will admit that playing music isn’t something that I typically think about very often. As much as I love writing, recording and playing music, I have plenty of other things that occupy my brain, too. I suppose it has more to do with where I am in my life at a particular time, rather than feeling like I need to do it.
PRT: Does starting a new musical adventure feel different compared to back in the day or did it come with the same level of excitement?
Popeye: The level of excitement hasn’t changed one bit! The difference between then and now is that technology makes it more convenient to send song ideas back and forth between your bandmates. Also, none of us have any desire to go on long tours, and there’s a lot more ibuprofen being passed around.
PRT: Has there been one standout moment so far where you were like, ‘god, I’ve missed this’?
There hasn’t been one moment in particular; it’s the entire experience. I definitely missed the whole band experience and it feels great to be a part of a gang again.
PRT: You recorded the album with Brian McTernan, who always seems to be able to capture a band at its best. What is his secret?
Popeye: I’m not sure what his secret is. I just know that he’s brilliant and he’s able to develop a level of trust when you work with him. We went into this knowing that we shouldn’t be too attached to anything and that there would possibly be a good amount of changes to everything that we had been working on. We had the mindset of, “Here’s a lump of clay, Brian. Let’s make something awesome out of it.”
PRT: I read that he’s a huge Farside fan and even named one of his cats Popeye. If you were to name your cat after someone you look up to, who would it be and why?
Popeye: Haha! I got to meet Popeye the cat once on a Farside tour. I don’t know if I had ever been so nervous about meeting a cat, just in case he didn’t like me. Fortunately, he was cool and even let me hold him. I’ve had several dogs and cats over the years and I’ve always wanted a Chihuahua named Elvis. (I’m a huge fan of both Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello.)
PRT: You started this new band, Brian has Be Well, you just toured with As Friends Rust who have a new album as well,… What is it about music that keeps drawing you all back in?
Popeye: I enjoy the challenge and the fear of it. Playing music scares the hell out of me. You’re putting yourself in a very vulnerable place when you’re pouring your heart out with your songwriting, going into a recording studio with the hopes of not sucking, and also risking looking awkward on stage. I suppose I do it to get me out of my comfort zone.
PRT: I feel like nowadays bands have a much shorter musical trajectory. Do you think bands from the 90s have a different mentality or working ethos?
Popeye: I think the 90s was a great period for alternative music, even though it got overblown as the current trend at the time. If anything, I think that many of us from that period who still play now just do it for the joy of it and don’t have any starry-eyed expectations. At least, for me, if I’m going to do anything, I want to be able to feel like I did my best even if nobody else likes it.
PRT: What is up next for Calling Hours now that the album is out?
Popeye: Right now, we just want to find opportunities to get together and play. The more we play together, the more dialed in we get with one another. Not just as bandmates but as friends, too. We’ve got plenty more songs in our arsenal and we’re already talking about setting up more demoing sessions with Brian McTernan for our next record. We’re all super excited with what we’ve done so far and we’re hungry for more!