We gotta get out of this place: Things are much better for the members of Calla now that they've moved to New York.
We gotta get out of this place: Things are much better for the members of Calla now that they've moved to New York.
Ali Smith

Calla the doctor

Sean Donovan knows better than most people about the kind of support musicians need. He spends his days sending money to songwriters, making sure they all get what they deserve. The money belongs to the publishing house he works for in New York (the highly regarded Harry Fox Agency), and as day jobs go, Donovan's isn't so bad. To hear him tell it, he'd rather pick up his paycheck ensuring other musicians get theirs -- and stay connected with music in some way or another -- than watch the clock for eight hours a day, "typing in numbers that don't mean anything to me." And besides, it's better than working in a temp agency or delivering pizzas.

But Donovan also knows that what's really important to some musicians -- especially the ones trying to do something different, himself included -- is the support that can't be endorsed and deposited in the bank. It's the kind that involves performing at venues that encourage what you're doing, and doing it in front of audiences that wouldn't fit in your living room. It means playing shows instead of glorified rehearsals, staring out into the crowd from the stage and not just seeing a cement floor staring back at you. And for Donovan -- as well as the other two members of his band Calla, guitarist-vocalist Aurelio Valle and drummer Wayne Magruder, both former members of The Factory Press -- it meant leaving Texas for New York.

Luckily for Donovan, he wasn't the only one from the area who had the same idea. A number of members of Denton's Good/Bad Art Collective have migrated north over the past few years as well, as have several other musicians and artists from Dallas, Denton, and Fort Worth. Still, that wasn't always the case.

"There's almost a little colony up here of people from Texas," says Donovan, who grew up in Allen and went to college at SMU, studying musical composition. "All the people in the Good/Bad and stuff are really close. New York can be a tough town if you don't know anybody, so that kind of makes things a little easier. For the first year I was here, I probably didn't do that much music. It was more of like a survival thing. I moved up here with my girlfriend, so that made it a little easier."

Now that Donovan has settled in, he's working on more music than he has time for -- of course, that's the reason he moved in the first place. In addition to Calla, which recently released its self-titled debut on New York-based indie label Sub Rosa, Donovan is also continuing the experimental compositions he began in Dallas under the name Fallen Vlods. Not everyone was a fan of his more esoteric work as Fallen Vlods, since rechristened Crumbles Recovery. Not that it matters much to Donovan, who cheerfully includes in his press kit Robert Wilonsky's Dallas Observer review of Fallen Vlods' low crumbles recovery disc -- a review that includes the memorable line, "[this] is as far removed from 'music' as shit is from chocolate."

It doesn't bother Donovan, because he's found a home for his music in New York, both as Calla and Crumbles Recovery. He's set to release an EP of Crumbles Recovery music on his own eacherHundreds label in the next few weeks. And Calla, with its mix of reverbed guitars and metal machine music sound effects, has already found a following in the city. (Think of it as a cross between John Cage and Link Wray -- which is, well, pretty cool.)

"The Calla response has been great," Donovan says. "There's a couple of really good places in New York that kind of specialize in that stuff, so we've had a really good response with that. At this point, we've really been focusing more on that than Crumbles Recovery. That's more like a side project, I would say, right now. We just kind of do that in between Calla. At this point, we haven't played out in New York."

Still, even though he's been living in New York for more than three years, he doesn't quite feel at home. But, as he's realized, it's almost impossible to feel completely comfortable in New York. He'd rather just make the most of it while he can.

"There's so many things that are different," Donovan says. "I mean, there are good things about New York and bad things, depending on the day. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it. But as far as music goes, it's much more satisfying here, because no matter what you do, if it's interesting, there's a place for it. Sometimes in Dallas, there wasn't as much support for some of the things we were doing."


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