by Tatiana Ryckman
Cowboy Indian Bear is what happens when you combine four one-man bands together. C.J. Calhoun, Beau Bruns, Martinez Hillard and Caitlyn Conroy all seem to do a little bit of everything. After signing to Kansas City label The Record Machine in 2010, the Lawrence, Kan., band released a 7-inch split with Omaha's It’s True!, and a full-length called Each Other All the Time. They regularly play Omaha and Lincoln, so when their Daytrotter Session was released recently, we asked Calhoun a few questions via email about the experience.
"It was interesting to learn that Daytrotter is housed in a modest, unmarked office space in downtown Rock Island, Ill. If you were walking down that block you wouldn't even know it was there," Hillard says. "Inside, you'll find some friendly faces and beautiful instruments and that was fun to take advantage of."
Each song in the band's Daytrotter set is distinct in style and mood. The first track, “I Want A Stranger’s Heart,” is an evening song. The magical ways the group’s vocals echo and haunt are almost too much to take in with breakfast. Aesthetics reminiscent of Lykee Li and Eagle Seagull twist throughout the track. This is a song that's meant to be heard through headphones while you lie on thick carpet in your parents' house.
“Heart Be,” their second track, is unavoidably catchy. The blend of electronic and traditional instruments and solid rhythm makes it difficult to hold still. The drums featured in this song are neither showy or overbearing, but exactly what you want them to be when you’re dancing around your apartment alone. Conroy's vocals bubble like a rolling boil. By the end of the song, you can sing and shake along to the hook, without a hint of self awareness.
Hillard says the band established a goal right awy to keep its songwriting eclectic.
"Over the years, that goal has remained and, with as brief as Daytrotter sessions tend to be, we wanted to get that across to anyone who wasn't familiar with our work," he says. "Plus, it gave us an opportunity to do some fun stuff like play an alternate version of "Saline" and introduce a brand new song, "Your Favorite Son, Methuselah."
The set gets surprisingly folksy, in the best way, on “Saline.” Cowboy Indian Bear's perfectly executed harmonies hang as if suspended in jelly on a backdrop of subtle piano and tambourine shakes in the vein of Fleet Foxes.
“Your Favorite Son, Methuselah” is better listened to than talked about. Even at 2 minutes 22 seconds, the song feels like it races by. It swings like a pendulum while rolling always unmistakably toward an end that comes too soon. It’s a great way to wrap up the set, with an epic quality that stays appropriately shy of ballad, and lingers closer to Arcade Fire than Meatloaf.
This session is more than the sum of its individually wonderful parts. Each songs seems to represent a different mood and creates its own complete experience. Cowboy Indian Bear plans to tour through our parts again in February, and to wrap up recording of their second full-length next spring. You can download their Daytrotter session here.
Tatiana Ryckman is a Hear Nebraska contributor getting her music fix in Austin, Texas. Contact her at email@example.com.