Better Know an Artist (Vol 35): Jared Caraway

The dream of the 90’s is alive and well in the DFWd, and Jared Caraway is here to help you reflect on those times. Channeling hometown heroes like the Toadies and Tripping Daisy, along with Weezer, Green Day, and all the other anthem singing heroes of the day, Jared drives home that angsty, crunchy sound you’re looking for. He took the time to sit down and answer those pesky questions we’re always throwing around and it went a lot like this. 1,2,3,4:

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

JC: Music has always attracted me like a magnet – I’ve always loved art in general, but music in particular has always had the strongest pull on me. I think it’s fair to say I’m obsessed with music – I’m a music fan before I’m a music maker – and my compulsion to create is a natural result of that. It’s my passion. As a music fan, I’ve been under no illusion that “making it” as a musician is an easily achievable goal. I remember reading interviews about touring bands – superstars, in my eyes – that were lucky to break even touring on a shoestring budget to pursue their dreams of making new fans while bringing a great live show to their current fans. I think I’ve known my whole life that not only writing, but performing music is something I WANT to do for a living, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve had the resources to start taking real steps to make it happen. (The “for a living” part is as of yet a glint off in the distance.)

What drove me to play guitar was my desire to get that satisfyingly crunchy, dry distorted tone produced largely by Pro Co RATs and Boss DS-1/DS-2s – great example is “Possum Kingdom” by Toadies, which contains one of my all-time favorite guitar tones (and which I cover on occasion). I was also a big fan of the tones the Kinks managed to get out of their amps. I was sorely disappointed, though, when I got a beautiful green, shiny American Fender Strat and a tiny Pignose battery-powered amp…but no distortion! (My desire for distortion was finally satiated when I got a little Peavey practice combo I could crank the drive all the way up on.) For years, I played acoustic guitar because I couldn’t round up a band, but recently I’ve finally been performing with my Strat onstage and building up a pedal board to increase my aural palette. My friends Arik Harris on bass and Frank Gonzalez on drums are very talented musicians, and I’m luck to have them on my team.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

JC: It’s catchy, simple, usually about love or heartbreak (two of my specialties), and often in a major key. My sound is largely influenced by 90’s alternative rock bands, like Foo Fighters and Weezer, with some pop punk, alt-country, and folk elements weaved in. There are almost no solos (although I’ve got one in the works that will feature my first solo when complete). My creative output is just a mashed up version of all the stuff I’ve listened to over the years manifesting itself as something new. To describe my music most generally, I’d call it pop rock or alternative.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

JC: Although it might not be obvious in my songwriting, I was heavily influenced in my early childhood by late 80’s/early 90’s pop country like Diamond Rio, Hal Ketchum, Shenandoah, Clay Walker, Garth Brooks and countless others. Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was a huge record for me – an addictive blend of angst and accessible tunes which I might dare call a masterpiece. Definitely Weezer circa Weezer (the blue album), Green Day circa Dookie, and most popular rock produced in the mid 90’s (Everclear, Harvey Danger, Lit, blink-182, Tonic, Sublime, and so many more).

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

JC: I’ll say “Weather Me,” which is the title track off of my upcoming debut. It has multiple meanings weaved together into one sort of narrative. It’s one of the quickest songs I’ve ever produced from start to finish, one of the first to prominently feature a picked melody rather than just chords, and it just encapsulates the way I felt at what I now realize was a pivotal point in my life on several different levels. I know that’s kind of a vague answer, but I’d rather leave the specific events and things and people forming the basis of this one up to the interpretation of the listener.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

JC: Probably Brand New. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands, and it would just be an honor to be able to share the same stage as some of my heroes (though it looks like that might not happen unless it’s before 2018 rolls around)

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

JC: I love Animal Bar, based out of Denton. They’re still a pretty new band, pretty young (all under drinking age), but they rock way harder than I probably ever could. Really talented kids – great songwriting and musicianship across the board. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I recommend that you do so. LeQube and Thrill Bill also put on awesome live sets.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

JC: I could agonize over this decision for hours, but I’ll just go with the Toadies’ Rubberneck. Crunchy, gritty, dark, and weird. I can listen to the whole thing from start to finish (and start over again) with ease. 20+ years later, I’m still not tired of it. Alicia Keys’ Songs in A Minor and Saves the Day’s Stay What You Are are a few other candidates.

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

JC: Least favorite thing is how saturated the market is, which means you’ve really got to grind and make connections if you want to get noticed and bring people out. But as a music fan, this doubles as a positive – a ton of music for me to consume and enjoy!

My favorite thing is how supportive everyone is of one another, from supporting acts to venue management to sound guys to fans. The music market in DFW is obviously extremely competitive, but it’s not cutthroat. We all want to succeed, but in my experience, most of us also want to make friends and just have a great time, so a lot of us tend to have each other’s backs.

I’m also really impressed with the quality of work and the passion and drive I see coming out of the Dojo (and Team from Nowhere). Donny Domino is a high school classmate of mine, and I’d say his love for music easily rivals mine. Those dudes at the Dojo are making music nearly 24 hours a day. If someone hops off the computer, someone else is jumping on to work on a project, or someone’s stopping by to lay down a few verses. Such a cool vibe. Donny, -Topic, Bobby Sessions, KoolQuise, Xes, Zyah, Sam Lao, all those folks…I’ve got so much respect for what they’re doing.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

JC: Favorite place to play is probably Sundown at Granada. Their brisket tacos are incredible. I love that they have amps available for use, sounds great, staff are friendly…it’s hard to find a negative. Not coincidentally, Granada is still probably my favorite place to see a show, even though I haven’t been there in a few years. I need to go back soon. The sound’s always great there, and it’s hard to find a bad spot in the house.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

JC: I will mention RTB2 every chance I get, because Ryan Thomas Becker is such an incredible guitarist, songwriter, and performer, and their live shows always kick ass. Animal Bar. – Topic. Bobby Sessions. Sealion. Moon Waves. Pearl Earl. And Ashley Somogyi – her songs are very rhythmic and hooky, which I can relate to.

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

JC: I was captain of my high school spelling and vocabulary UIL team. I made it to regionals every year and competed in state finals my senior year. I’m a total word nerd.

Thanks a bunch to Jared Caraway for the time. He’s got a bunch of shows coming up under his new band moniker, Jared and the Jewelers. You can catch them this Friday at the Foundry in Dallas with Pearl Earl, and Saturday at Taps & Camps in Denton. There’s a few more later this month and next and you can find those here. Keep an eye out for his debut album and check out his track, “My Calypso”, below.

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Better Know an Artist (Vol 31): Kris Knight (Un Chien)

Un Chien is a fantastic psychedelic band out of Fort Worth, led by singer-songwriter Stephen Beatty, formerly of Stella Rose. The band also includes Kris Knight on keys, Jerrett Lyday on drums, Rachel Gollay on guitar and Taylor Craig Mills on bass. Their sophomore release, Where We Belong, is due later in the summer, but the debut single off of that record, “Amarillo”, drops tomorrow. I had keyboardist Kris knock out our usual slate of questions. If you haven’t voted yet, Un Chien is nominated for Best Rock Band in the Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards.

Me: For starters, tell us a little about yourself. How did you first get into music? And when did you know this is what you want to do for a living (money be damned)?

KK: When I was 16, I saw the band, Ozma, open for Weezer on a national tour. They were maybe 17-18 years old at the time and I remember saying to my friends, “we could do that.” So we started a crappy high school band.

I got started with Un Chien when Beatty called me on a random Sunday morning and asked if I want to play keys.

Me: How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?

KK: For people in my parent’s generation or older, I describe it as a cross between Pink Floyd and when the Beatles started doing drugs and playing experimental songs. For the people my age or younger, I would compare us with the Black Angels or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Me: Who are some of your biggest musical influences, and why?

KK: Ozma and Weezer got me started. Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Zombies for just great pop rock writing and vocals. Radiohead, for their ability to adapt and always make beautiful creative songs.

Me: Which of your songs means the most ot you, and if you don’t mind me asking, why?

KK: On our first record, “A Heavy Hand”, is probably my favorite because playing it live , we all kind of let loose and really get into the emotions of the song at the end. On our upcoming record, “Where we Belong”, for really the same reasons.

Me: If you could open for any act, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

KK: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. I think our music is similar enough to where we could gain a ton of fans.

Me: Any favorite new musical acts, local or otherwise?

KK: Locally, Quaker City Night Hawks, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Holy Moly, and Jetta in the Ghost Tree are my favorites. I know those bands aren’t new, but I’ve been friends with their members forever and love listening to their music and seeing their success. Gollay and Mills & Co aren’t too shabby either. Also, check out Bear Ghost! Not local, but incredible.

Me: What’s your “stranded on an island” record?

KK: [Radiohead’s] OK Computer

Me: Moving onto the home front, what are your favorite (and least favorite) things about the DFW music scene?

KK: Favorite would have to be the people. We are all working to do the same thing. My least favorite would have to be the middle man “booking”, taking money off the top, and doing zero promoting or trying to promote competing shows for the same night.

Me: Favorite DFW venue to play (or see a show). Why?

KK: The Grotto or the Chat Room are my favorite places to play. No booking agent, just a hand shake with Carney or Cody. Everyone gets paid, gets drunk and has a great time.

Me: Any favorite local acts people should be looking out for?

KK: Un Chien (duh)

Me: And for shits and giggle, what’s a fun fact that most people don’t know about you?

KK: I’m completely self taught and play by ear. I don’t know what chords I am playing. I just play what sounds good.

Many, many, thanks to Kris for taking the time. Honestly, he popped this sucker out fast for me, so much appreciated. I really look forward to hearing the new material from one of my favorite Funkytown bands. You can catch up with them live at the Crown & Harp on June 27 with Cutthroat Finches, the Hollow Ends and Tawaine Noah. The new album drops later this summer, but for now, you can check out the first one and today’s new single, “Amarillo”, below.

Photo Credit: Ronnie Jackson Photography

How I Would Plan It: Free Press Summer Fest 2015

Free Press Summer Fest is a 2-day annual music festival in Houston, generally at Eleanor Tinsley Park. The fest started in 2009 and got my attention a few years back. I think this year’s lineup felt a little weaker than the last few years, but the schedule looked pretty good once I laid it all out. Due to the flooding in the South Texas area, the event has been moved to the NRG Field lots near Reliant Stadium, because everyone wants to party with 50,000 people in a parking lot. They also have a Fancy Pants Stage, exclusive to attendees with Fancy Pants passes, but I left those performances out of this schedule, for the little people. If you fancy, check it yourself. There are some good performance times for some solid acts there. Anyways:

Free Press Summer Fest 2015

Saturday, Jun 6
12:00-12:30 the Vanity (Mars Stage)
12:40-1:20 Twin Peaks (Saturn Stage)
1:20-2:10 Sarah Jaffe (Neptune Stage)
2:10-2:40 the Suffers (Saturn Stage)
2:40-3:10 Sturgill Simpson (Mars Stage)
3:10-3:50 Houndmouth (Venus Stage)
3:50-4:10 Portugal. The Man (Saturn Stage)

4:10-5:10 Gary Clark Jr. (Mars Stage)
5:10-6:00 the Bright Light Social Hour (Venus Stage)
6:00-7:00 Band of Horses (Mars Stage)
6:50-8:00 Tears for Fears (Neptune Stage)
7:50-8:20 Chance the Rapper (Mars Stage)
8:20-9:00 St Vincent (Saturn Stage)
9:00-9:40 Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires (Venus Stage)
9:50-11:00 R Kelly (Mars Stage)

Sunday, Jun 7
12:10-12:50 Buxton (Saturn Stage)
12:50-1:30 Futurebirds (Neptune Stage)
1:30-2:20 the Band of Heathens (Mars Stage)
2:30-3:20 Grizfolk (Venus Stage)
3:20-3:50 Diarrhea Planet (Jupiter Stage)
3:50-4:40 Future Islands (Neptune Stage)
4:40-5:00 ILoveMakonnen (Mercury Stage)
5:00-5:30 Flume (Mars Stage)
5:30-6:30 Flogging Molly (Neptune Stage)
6:30-7:30 the Decemberists (Saturn Stage)
7:40-8:10 Belle and Sebastian (Neptune Stage)
8:10-8:40 Benjamin Booker (Venus Stage)
8:50-10:05 Weezer (Saturn Stage)
Hope this helps.

Anyways, if you’re going, have a good one.