Calhoun has been a band for more than a decade, but in many ways, it feels like it's only now functioning as one. The indie-pop group formed as a vehicle for Tim Locke's songwriting in 2004 after he became known in the late '90s for his work with the bands Grand Street Cryers and Flickerstick.
Calhoun has involved various musicians over the years, but the forthcoming Football Night in America — due out Aug. 18 via Idol Records — reveals it as a full-fledged, five-piece band for the first time. The current incarnation, intact for a few years, includes Toby Pipes on keyboards, Jordan Roberts on guitar, Danny Balis on bass and Josh Hoover on drums. Among the 10 tracks on Football Night are some of the best songs Locke has written, such as “New, Improved Nightmare” and “Backwards Speed Walker."
Many of Calhoun's older songs are still in rotation on radio stations KXT and KTCK (The Ticket) years after they came out. Locke, a stay-at-home father living in Fort Worth, has a way of drawing people in with songs that are simple in form but have intricate and charming melodies. His songwriting style has been compared to that of Crowded House frontman Neil Finn.
“We’re huge fans of Calhoun here at KXT and have played several of their songs on the air over the years,” KXT program director Amy Miller says. “They’re great songwriters who put on an equally great live show.”
Football Night is the first new release from the band since 2013’s Paperweights EP. It's difficult for Calhoun's members to schedule time for shows and recording. Hoover and Balis live close (Fort Worth and Dallas, respectively), but Pipes is in College Station and Roberts is in San Francisco.
The distance is a challenge, but Skype and email help bridge it.
“Even with the long distance, it's easy for us to keep a band like this together,” Pipes says. “After all the years of playing shows and writing songs, we still have a ridiculous time hanging out together. Sometimes I think the entire thing is just an excuse for all of us to get together, have a few drinks and act like idiots.”
The band convened twice at a New Mexico cabin to work on songs for Football Night. Dallas Cowboys games were playing on the TV while it rehearsed, hence the album title.
“Half of the songs came just from jamming,” Locke says. “Some good stuff came out of that.”
The recording was done in Shreveport, and the album was finished locally with Jordan Richardson at his Electric Barryland studio in Justin.
For Balis, who has played in several bands — in addition to producing the Hardline afternoon show on the Ticket and co-owning Twilite Lounge in Deep Ellum — it's a relief to focus his musical efforts on Calhoun.
“My plate was full. I used to say yes to everything I was in,” he says. “After Carter [Albrecht] passed away, I loaded myself down with work.”
When Locke asked him take a vacant bassist slot in the band, Balis was happy to cut ties with his other bands to accept the offer. Both men are happy with where they are in their lives; they say they're getting a lot of more enjoyment out of being in a band in their 40s, compared to when they were younger.
“When you’re in your 20s, you have that delusion of, ‘Oh, I’m gonna do this! I’m gonna make it! I’m gonna die trying,’” Balis says. “Such a small percentage of people actually get to become financially independent by playing music. You end up wanting to get the best players, and it doesn’t necessarily matter if they’re your friends. You put up with a lot of incongruent personalities just to have the best drummer, the best guitar players. You kind of force these square pegs, and it ends up not happening.”
For Calhoun, it's just about producing quality material. The members don't have stars in their eyes.
“When you get to your 30s and 40s, you’re doing it because you want to hang out with the people you’re playing with,” Balis continues. “If you happen to make decent music and it’s fun to play, that’s all icing.”
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