From there, his next steps were obvious: "I'm going to put my music out there and see what the response is," he remembers thinking at the time. "I'm going to put myself out there to be accepted or rejected, one of the two. Either way, it's not going to be good enough anymore — I'm not going to be satisfied to just write my music and show my friends every once in a while and leave it at that. That's not good enough anymore."

With that in mind, Caleb gathered up the songs he'd been writing on the piano and started recording demos on his laptop, and on the advice of Isaac, he began working with Warren Huart, a Los Angeles-based producer who engineered the Fray's second record. After co-writing and tracking songs with Caleb, Huart pointed him in the direction of Jeff Linsenmaier, a member of the Fray's crew and Dust on the Breakers, a revolving collective that Caleb belonged to at one point, to continue writing and recording. When duty called Linsenmaier back on the road, he encouraged Caleb to meet with Tim Husmann, a multi-instrumentalist who turned out to be as much a mentor as a collaborator. The two spent several days a week writing and arranging before heading into the studio with Nathan Meese, who played guitar and bass on the sessions, to finish recording what became Victory in Defeat, Caleb's splendid six-song debut. Listening to it, there's no question that Caleb has boldly stepped out of the shadows. But again, the comparisons are going to be inevitable.

Musically, the Slade brothers clearly draw from the same pool of influences. Caleb's songs, while piano-heavy, are less directly pop-oriented and even more artfully steeped in sweeping, widescreen post-Brit pop. Vocally, the pair share a timbre and range, but Caleb's faux-Cockney phrasing is a little more exaggerated, as though he's savoring each and every word as it leaves his lips. The differences become even more pronounced in the lyrics. Despite being born on Valentine's Day, Caleb is much less of a romantic, heart-on-his-sleeve troubadour than Isaac is. Because of this, Caleb's songs tend to be less evocative and more reflective.

Birds of a feather: Tim Hussman (left) joins Caleb Slade as he enters the fray.
Chris Kuehl
Birds of a feather: Tim Hussman (left) joins Caleb Slade as he enters the fray.

Location Info

Map

Meadowlark

2701 Larimer St.
Denver, CO 80205

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Downtown Denver

Details

Caleb SladeWith Kal Cahoone & the Dirty Pretty and Joshua Novak, 9 p.m. Saturday, January 29, Meadowlark, 2701 Larimer Street, $7, 303-293-0251.

"I think he approaches things from a more emotional state than I do," Caleb says of his brother. "His emotional intellect is comparatively off the charts. I would say my approach to things has always been a little more on the intellectual, rational side. A lot of times, my songs are attempts to understand something that's difficult to comprehend, like a relationship or the dynamics of love — why love has so much pain involved in it.

"To put it another way," he continues, "I think Isaac's more capable of representing the immediacy of that emotional experience. He's really good at capturing that experience, whereas I think the thing that I'm good at is explaining and understanding that experience."

Caleb's view of that experience takes a more stoic approach to love's redemptive power, and when his lyrics examine our hopes, disappointments and shortcomings, they're not necessarily buoyed by an underlying sense of optimism. Take "Sure as Hell," for instance: "Sure as hell, there are days when I don't want you/There are days when I can't see past our differences/I can't see past my fingertips/To see the separation is only finger's width/But in your eyes I am working on this/And I am working on this."

And on "Hand to Reach For," he's even less starry-eyed: "There you go again/Blaming your circumstance/On some random happenstance/When are you gonna figure out/The world doesn't work this way/The world doesn't work for pay/And you're not rich anyway."

But being rich isn't really the point; neither is fame, from the sound of it. "I think my goals are pretty small and tangible," he says. "I would love to make my living making music. I would love to not have to work a job so I can do what I care about — but I think that's kind of everyone's goal, though. But as far as the grandiosity of it, I don't have a specific goal. I exist in a world that runs on money, you know? So I want people to buy my music. I want to make money on my music. I want to be compensated for the hard work I've put into it. I don't think that tarnishes my art. But I will be making music for my life. I have for the last eleven or twelve years, whether or not I was playing for anybody. I've always played music, even when it hurts my wrist. Even when it's caused me tremendous amounts of physical pain, it's always been worth it. It doesn't matter. I will always have that piano, and I will always play it.

"I think what I don't want to have happen is I don't want to be successful, musically, as a result of non-musical elements," he concludes, launching into a stream of Lloyd Dobler-worthy assertions. "I don't want to be marketed really well and therefore be successful. I don't want to be packaged right and be successful as a result of that."

Welcome back to the fray.

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2 comments
urbanbohemiac3
urbanbohemiac3

I can relate.  My brother was and always will be an inconsiderate prick.  We did not part ways as passively as the Slade boys.  I broke his nose and we both lacerated each others face with our fists.  We're both musicians as well.  We played together and it could no have ended soon enough.  You cannot play music with family.  They will always be standing next to you taking for granted your presence and efforts.  There is always an attitude amongst family members who play music together that you are supposed to give each other what ever the other one needs.  That falls apart one or both are narcissist who exist for themselves to the exclusion of their blood.  Too bad Caleb didn't break Isaac's nose.  It sounds like he needed it.

Katie Crombie
Katie Crombie

It is difficult, as a fan of Isaac and the guys, to listen to Caleb's music right away, simply because I was afraid that I wouldn't give it a fair chance. But I think that will pass in no time as I get used to Caleb's individual style.

As a fan of both the Slade brothers, I am happy that they are both doing something they love and look forward to following the progress of them both.

 
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