Aloha's Tony Cavallario discusses 'Home Acres,' Cleveland and being in a long distance band.
Tony Cavallario and the rest of Aloha have always been a nomadic band. Very rarely rooted in the same place at the same time, the band relied on a blog to write newest album Home Acres. Fitting that we’d catch Tony, once again, on the move for our interview. HEAVE talked to Aloha frontman in his car driving from New York to New Jersey.
HEAVE: A lot of reviews for Home Acres talk about the feeling of a broken Midwest dream. I know you live in Boston now, but do you still “claim” the Midwest as an inspiration?
Tony Cavallario: Yeah. One hundred percent – whenever I’m writing music and I’m running imagery through my head I feel like I’m always in Cleveland, which is where I grew up. My wife is from Detroit and we lived in Pittsburgh, which I guess isn’t the Midwest but it’s not like Boston or New York.
When I’m writing songs it’s a chance for me to sort of revisit that part of me, which is a big part of me. I’m sure I’ll end up back living in Chicago or Cleveland in the not too distant future.
It’s a big inspiration for me because it’s a part of my life that I don’t get to live everyday, and I love to go there in my mind in various ways.
HEAVE: Like a “screw Brooklyn, This is what we do in Ohio” type thing?
Tony Cavallario: (laughs) It’s really hard to say that now because three of us are on the East Coast, and Cale is really good at being a Brooklyn person – he is really successful living there and he loves it. I love it, too; but, as a band, we completely identify as a Midwestern band because that is where we come from. We got our start by playing basements and punk shows – not art galleries and bars, you know?
HEAVE: What’s the most important thing that happens in Cleveland, Ohio?
Tony Cavallario: I wish I could say something that actually mattered to the city on a big level – but I got nothing.
HEAVE: The sports are pretty bad outside of Lebron.
Tony Cavallario: Yeah. I’ve got to say the Browns getting to the AFC Championship game three years out of four and coughing up two trips to the Super Bowl was pretty tough. I was ten or eleven years old – and that was pretty devastating. I’ll use that as a metaphor for the city itself.
What’s funny about Cleveland is when I left for college. Three of us went to school in Bowling Green. I wasn’t paying much attention to Cleveland at that time. When I moved back to Cleveland after college and it was a like, a model for a city on the rebound. It was an exciting place to be. Since the economic downturn it really fell. I thought Cleveland was doing awesome things, but it was just a product of the short economic boom for a while. It was no different than what was happening everywhere else. I was tricked.
HEAVE: Those Cleveland Tourism videos on Youtube are really funny.
Tony Cavallario: Oh yeah, I actually those were really funny. However, in defense of Cleveland, you can go to a public square of any town and February when everything looks shitty. Go on a Sunday when nobody is working and of course you’ll see plastic bags flying around and stuff. You’ll see a few homeless people, too. Those were funny – though.
HEAVE: You wrote Home Acres through a private blog. How exactly did that work?
Tony Cavallario: We were basically trying to figure out a way to write songs from a distance. I wanted to start writing songs. I get to this point where I’m just ready and want to do it. We didn’t have any studio days booked or anything. I just get this way. Usually when we come back from a tour or something like that. I wanted to institutionalize writing demos and give everyone a chance to say what was good and wasn’t good. It was a way to sort through all the ideas from a distance.
I would usually stay up until four in the morning on nights and work on a demo and then post it. The guys would wake up in the morning and listen to it and give me feedback. They’d start thinking about their own parts.
For so many records we would just book studio time and just show up. We’d go through hell – it was some half magical half destructive process of writing music on the fly. This was a chance to put more forethought into it and a little more word craft into it.
If you listen to some Aloha songs it will seem like it’s four people playing four different parts and there are just vocals on top of it. Which was cool and I respect that and it was a fun thing to do for a while – but we all had this tendency to lean towards something that people could grab onto when it comes to songwriting without losing any edge.
HEAVE: Are your lyrics coming from you, or from a different side of you?
Tony Cavallario: I would say a different side of me - a darker side. For Home Acres a lot of the lyrics I wrote came when my wife and me just had our first child and I’m staying home with him. It was a trying and emotional time, but also a very wonderful time.
I had these songs I needed to finish and I would go down into the studio and try to write them and it would take me to a darker place. It was a way to exercise all of these anxieties I was having during a brighter time.
When I finally got the songs done I didn’t really know what I had done. We mastered it and I was sitting there listening and writing down the lyrics for the lyrics sheet and I was left trying to make sense of it all.
HEAVE: You guys are an old band now. Over a decade. What do you, personally, do to keep it fresh?
Tony Cavallario: It’s really easy to keep it fresh because we never see each other (laughs). We’ve done that forever. We started being a long distance band in 2001. Ever since Cale joined. We were never going to have band practice three times a week. For Some Echoes we decided we were going to do everything. We were going to tour as much as we could and see what happens. We spent a lot of time together during that era. Now we only come together to do a national tour or record an album. We aren’t really “coworkers” and we all do other stuff and other music projects. When we do get together there is such a finite amount of time so we try to enjoy each other’s company and we try to be productive musically.
We’ve built up this relationship for ten years where we can just get together and make music. I don’t think we even realize how rare that is. You can play with four random musicians that are talented and create songs – but you really have to build relationships to be able to make music you all want to make. The scarcity of the time keeps it fresh.
HEAVE: What’s your friendship like?
Tony Cavallario: It’s really interesting. I keep up with Cale through his Twitter – but he doesn’t call me and be like, “Hey, I’m doing a remix for Neon Indian!” It’s not a day-to-day friendship – but it’s much like a family in the same way. If you don’t talk to your brother for a while you can get together and have it be exactly the same as it always going to be.
I value that a lot. In the world of music there is a shit ton of acquaintances that you see throughout a tour and it’s nice and wonderful to go down to SXSW and hug a bunch of people. But there are only so many people that you have such a big history with and that you have such a permanent connection with.
Posted by Wes Soltis on Apr 19, 2010 @ 9:00 am