Caterpillars' debut EP specializes in dreamy electronic-tinged indie rock. There is not much to shock about their smooth sound, but that’s not the point. What does shock is how they seemingly were birthed fully formed. The three-piece formed around May, played their first show in July and their fourth show was about a week ago at the House of Blues in Dallas for this EP’s release -- a pretty quick ascent I would say. And they sure did their first release right -- with the help of producer Ed Rose (the Get Up Kids, Motion City Soundtrack), their rookie release plays like it’s the work of seasoned veterans.
Turns out there was a development period for the group, but the key to their inception is one that is becoming more and more common in the our Internet-dominated music world: Craigslist. Dallas-area resident Chris Robinson had demoed out what he intended to be a solo project with his guitar and vocals fleshed out with programmed beats and synths. Before taking the songs to a real studio he reconsidered and placed an ad, lucking out with the solid additions of Jason Huff on bass and John Benitez on drums. Robinson’s electronics survived the merge as synths swell and bleep frequently in the mix, and skittish drum loops mesh well with Benitez’s grooves. Huff’s bass adds its own melodic elements and helps with said groove.
Fans of Death Cab and the Postal Service will instantly discover many things to love about Caterpillars, though they land somewhere sonically in between. Robinson’s clean unaffected vocal tone and tendency towards his higher registers recalls Ben Gibbard, and the well-worn emotive indie progressions will make many feel right at home. “Bury Your Words” finds Robinson pitch-perfect on a memorable melody, floating above mellow `80s synths which shift to blips and buzzes as the tune kicks into gear. The song changes frequently, rocking the hardest of the set but taking frequent breaks and then revving back up. “I’ve Been Lost” is another keeper, but is another constantly shifting piece and probably could have benefited from more development of each section. “A Place to Call My Own” boasts a nice Built to Spill-style vocal line and runs a huge dynamic range, but I wish the harder moments would last longer; the trio tends to dwell in their mellow wheelhouse. The electronics have me feeling a bit of Mercury Rev’s less weird work, and the group also share common elements with release show stage-mates Umbrellas.
“Lifetime in the Pretense” has its moments and some sweet reverb-y guitar lines, but doesn’t hit its stride like the other tracks with its loudest moments driving the least. Also, overall the disc is a bit same-y, but works on the EP level. The group should be looking to stretch their boundaries come full-length time.
Safe territory, sure, but Caterpillars go about things with such conviction that I’m swayed over. With the bar set this high on the debut, it will be interesting to see where they take things from here, especially with the full trio on board from the songwriting ground floor.