After a handful of solo albums, North Carolina musician Caitlin Cary is back with a band: The Small Ponds, and EP (Caitlin Cary & Matt Douglas Are The Small Ponds). On its way to Austin for SXSW next week, The Small Ponds makes a stop in Houston at Big Star Bar in the Heights for an early set. The showtime is 8pm on Tuesday, 3.15.11.
I recently asked The Small Ponds about the band’s music, its plans for South By Southwest 2011, and plans for the future.
Houston Calling: What prompted you to start The Small Ponds?
Caitlin Cary: Well, Matt and I got together when I asked him to be my partner for The Love Hangover, which is a great Raleigh tradition in which boy/girl duos, usually ones who don’t normally perform together, pair up to sing songs about love, un-love, good love, bad love, on the day after Valentine’s Day. It was obvious really quickly that we liked each other. I knew I was a big fan of his music, and maybe he’d say the same. But more importantly, it just felt easy and sounded great when we sang together. And it wasn’t long before we were bringing bits of songs to each other and finishing them together. And from there, it was cocktails, a band name, a studio–and onward!
HC: Are you pleased with the response you’ve gotten to the band’s music so far?
CC: I am! I think the world is exactly poised for our twisted take on romance. We have a lot of fun writing together because while we love each other, we’re both married to and in love with other people. It’s not often that you get to talk about, write about, riff about, sing about love with someone of the opposite sex who isn’t your lover, you know? I think it opens the blinds to shed some bright light on things that often stay in shadow. It’s very exciting and I think people get that when they hear our songs.
LISTEN: “Horse On A Bus”
HC: Are you planning a new release for 2011 or are you playing in Austin this year to help spread the word about the band?
CC: Well, both. This will be my first time back to SXSW after a few years of hibernation. I’m excited to show off this new gem to my old friends and cohorts–I think some folks have been waiting to see what I’d do, and I’m really excited to show them. We released a five song EP a little while ago, but it didn’t really get a push. We’re working to rectify that in several ways now, and our appearance at SX is part of that–an introduction, really, to us live AND on record. But yes, the year is young and we intend to record a full length–perhaps in the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of eleventh year of the century? November would be good.
HC: What are you looking forward to most at this year’s SXSW?
CC: I guess it’s honest to say that I’m looking forward to warm weather (if we get it), great Tex-Mex, some reunions with old Texas friends (I lived in Houston for a time–did you know that?), and, to be sure, the chance to show off what we’ve been working on.
Matt Douglas: I love the dudes that set up and play in the street. Not always super awesome, but I think it’s great that they are there. And I like the heavy metal pizza place. And of course, lots of friends will be there. I just found out that Josh Ritter, who I’m on the road playing horns with right now, will be playing this year. Also some recent favs will be there, like Bhi Bhiman, Allie Moss, David Wax Museum, and some others. I’m pumped!
HC: Any bands in particular that you want to see during SXSW 2011?
CC: I’m always a big fan of Japan night–I wonder if there’ll be one this year? Do Japanese bands even need or want to make it in America anymore?
I want Matt to see this band The Civil Wars. I saw them play the other night, and they’re really great. I’ll seek them out. And it’s always fun to see our NC friends play: American Aquarium, I Was Totally Destroying It, Chip Robinson (who’s moved to Austin now), and probably some others I don’t know about yet, but will when we meet up at the Texaco on the way down.
HC: What’s your most memorable SXSW experience?
CC: Well, it was nice the year I showcased on the release of my first solo record and a line wrapped around Antone’s. Then there was the year that Tres Chicas played 12 shows in four days. Won’t pull that stunt again! There was the year that Whiskeytown played for the release of Pneumonia, having not played together for at least a year; that was scary. Of course I remember Whiskeytown’s very first showcase at a place called the Split Rail–wanna talk stage fright? What’s always memorable is Alejandro’s party at Maria’s. But we won’t be able to stay for that this year–got a money gig in Georgia!
MD: I was playing with my old band The Proclivities two years ago. We were listening to the cock-rockin’ band that was on before us, and commenting on how good the house amp sounded. After their last song the bass player, in an incredibly theatrical motion, swipes his hand down the dials of the bass amp therefore resulting in a complete zero-ing out of all the settings. I was playing bass at the time, and knew nothing about how to get that sound back. Incredible.
HC: How has digital technology changed the way you create music?
CC: I’m a bit of a Luddite. But we’ve done some quick home recordings and released them. That’s fun–kinda “show-‘n-tell.” I like being able to promptly make a demo. It keeps me from forgetting things. And of course we do all the Facebooking and shit.
HC: Other than SXSW, what does the band have planned for 2011? Do you plan to release another solo album?
CC: Well, we bought a van. So we’re going to have to stay on the road a little to pay for it. And yes, as I said, we definitely intend to record a full-length this year. There’s no solo record in the works right now, but, God-willing, life is long.
HC: On a personal note, I was/am a Whiskeytown fan and was lucky enough to see you play in Houston several times. Are you happy with the legacy of music you made during that time?
CC: Well, it’d be sort of sad if I said I wasn’t. They say pride goeth before the fall, though, so I won’t get all braggy about it. It’s pretty cool when someone comes up and tells me “Stranger’s Almanac changed my life.” But, of course, I don’t have that kind of relationship to it. Well, no, I guess it changed my life, too, come to think of it.
Whiskeytown, “Houses On The Hill”:
HC: Finally, any music you’ve been listening to lately that you’d recommend?
CC: I feel like I’m always a little behind the times. I’ve been listening to Anthony and the Johnsons a lot lately. And to Chuck Prophet–the record he made in Mexico. I’m really excited about some bands from around here: Filthybird, Mount Moriah, Jon Lindsay. I mentioned The Civil Wars, from Nashville; I haven’t heard their record, but their live show blew me away. I love Dan Auerbach’s solo record. I still listen to a lot of old soul music. But who doesn’t?
MD: I’ve been obsessed with Blake Mills’ new record for the last six months. I’m also really into the Sharon Van Etten record. And the Beach House record, even though I really wish that they had a different band name. All the people I named above have relatively new records that are really great, like Allie Moss and David Wax Museum. Really great stuff.
Thanks to Caitlin Cary and Matt Douglas for taking the time out to answer these questions for Houston Calling.
The Small Ponds plays its official SXSW showcase on Wednesday, 3.16.11, at tenOak (409 Colorado St.) in Austin. Catch the band in Houston at Big Star Bar on Tuesday, 3.15.11 at 8pm with My Cousin, The Emperor.
Visit The Small Ponds online at www.thesmallponds.com.