Houston Calling

10 Questions for Duvall

June 8th, 2004 · No Comments

Duvall, featuring former members of Smoking Popes, is playing at Fat Cat’s on Saturday, June 12th, with The Catheters, Panic in Detroit, and The Connotations.

Smoking Popes had a radio hit in the mid-nineties with “Need You Around” and were indie/emo favorites for a lot of music fans in Chicago and around the globe. Their album Destination Failure is one of my favorites of all time. Morrissey went so far as to call The Popes the greatest band in America.

In 1998, lead Pope Josh Caterer became a Christian and decided to quit the band. There was a final studio album of cover songs–aptly titled The Party’s Over–and also a Popes tribute album, both of which can be purchased at Double Zero Records.

But Caterer didn’t stay gone from rock for long. In 2001, he formed Duvall (named for actor Robert Duvall because of his performance as a preacher in The Apostle), which also features ex-Pope Eli Caterer and Rob Kellenberger (from Slapstick, Tuesday, and Colossal). The music is much the same as the Popes–raw, guitar-driven pop songs with heartfelt, thoughtful lyrics.

Duvall released the Standing at the Door EP in 2001, and opened for the likes of Weezer and Dashboard Confessional. They even contributed a track to the Popes tribute album.

I recently contacted Duvall frontman Josh Caterer, who was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Houston Calling. Enjoy.

Ten Questions for Duvall

HC: I know after Smoking Popes dissolved you took a bit of time off from music. How did Duvall get started? Why the return to rock?

Josh: After I quit the Smoking Popes, I only played music in church for a couple years, but I put out an EP of acoustic gospel songs which I sold through mail order. So, alot of the Popes fans who ordered the EP would include a letter that said something like, “I’m so glad to hear about your decision for Christ. I’ve always been a Christian, and I love your music, and I’ve got alot of unsaved friends who are Popes fans too, and I know they’d be open to hearing what you have to say.” And after awhile, I just started to realize that I had an opportunity to share the gospel with people who wouldn’t normally go to church to hear about it. So, I felt it was time to rock again.

HC: What do consider to be your primary musical influences?

Josh: All the stuff I was listening to when I was a kid really shaped my style. From my Dad I got classic rock, like the Beatles and Zeppelin, and from my Mom I got the country influence, like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. Then when I got old enough to start buying my own records, I was into AC/DC and Kiss, and from there I sort of progressed into punk, especially the Ramones and the Buzzcocks.

HC: Many of the Popes songs seemed to be mainly about failed relationships and love gone bad. Your return to the rock scene was titled Standing At The Door, and I get the reference. I read an interview where you said, “They all seem to be happy with the quality of the music, but the message is a little more controversial. Some people are excited to hear songs about God, but others aren?t so comfortable with it. They might choose to like our band in spite of that, or they might not. Christ tends to divide people.” How does your faith play into your songwriting? Do you find it difficult to balance your music and your faith?

Josh: My faith in Christ is really the foundation of all my songwriting now, just as romantic love used to be my foundation because on some level I believed that falling in love would give meaning to my life. And for me, songwriting is a process of grasping at some deeper meaning and bringing it out into the open through a song. But I never knew that the true love I was looking for was really found in Jesus Christ. Once I realized that, it was only natural to start using music to express it.

HC: What is your songwriting process like these days? Does the band get together and bounce ideas around or how does it happen?

Josh: I usually write the basic chord structure and lyrics on my own, then I bring it to the band and we work out the arrangements together.

HC: How does Duvall differ from Smoking Popes? Your voice is so distinctive–for me, it’s hard to tell one band from the other. Not that it’s a bad thing, of course. I just want to know your thoughts on the bands. You could have monopolized on the band’s name recognition, yet you chose to do it differently–what was the reasoning behind that?

Josh: If we had taken the old name, we would have been expected to play the old songs. It would have been just a continuation of the old thing, but I wanted to show that because of what God has done, it’s really a new thing. Even if we sound similar, we’re really not the same band. We’re coming from an entirely different place.

HC: You spent some time on a major label during your tenure with Smoking Popes. What was the best and worst things about major label life? Are you for or against the MP3 “revolution”? What’s your take on the state of the music industry?

Josh: Yeah, the Popes were on Capitol for awhile, which was a pretty overwhelming experience for me because I was pretty young and I was going through a lot of emotional stuff at the time. So I didn’t get a very objective view of the music industry because I was looking at it through a cloudy lens, so to speak. And with Duvall, we’ve been doing our thing pretty much outside the mainstream industry, so I guess I wouldn’t be a good person to ask.

HC: On the latest record, Volume and Density, you cover “True” by Spandau Ballet. If you could have any band cover one of your songs (ignoring the Popes’ tribute album, of course), what song would it be and what band?

Josh: I’d like to hear Morrissey cover “Jesus Never Leaves Me.”

HC: What is the one description that you hate to hear about your music?

Josh: I’m just glad to hear people describing it at all, so I’m not too picky about what they say.

HC: What’s next for Duvall?

Josh: We’re working on a Christmas album. Hopefully, if we finish it time, it will come out this year.

HC: What is in your CD player right now?

Josh: “Soul Journey” by Gillian Welch.

Thanks for Josh for answering these questions. Be sure to come outto Fat Cat’s this Saturday night to see a great night of rock. Duvall plays with Panic in Detroit, The Catheters, and The Connotations. Cover is only $5 so be sure to tell your friends and make a night of it.

Duvall’s latest album, Volume and Density, was released on Asianman Records, and can be purchased for only $8 here.

Now Playing in My iPOD: Longwave — Life of the Party EP

Tags: Music