In its brief run, Fort Collins band Candy Claws made quite the mark, in Colorado and elsewhere. In fact, in the short time that Candy Claws was active, the duo of Karen McCormick and Ryan Hover earned a fan base big enough to include Ben Phelan, John Ferguson and Robert Schneider of the Apples in Stereo.
“They were really excited about Candy Claws, and they’d been following us for a while,” recalls McCormick. “Ben e-mailed us, saying, ‘Hey, I really like your record. It would be really fun to work with you sometime.’ It started out with Ben recording with us, and he started talking to his bandmate John, and got John on board. They talked to [Apples frontman] Robert Schneider, who wanted to be in on it, too.”
The five artists dubbed their new project Sound of Ceres and started collaborating on a set of space-themed songs that McCormick and Hover wrote last year. “This new project is more [about] exploring the human experience than just about the universe itself,” says Hover. “Now that we know so much about the universe, we can see how immense it is and how small we are, yet each of us is the center of our own life looking out at all of it. We’re writing from that viewpoint.”
Hover and McCormick have focused on theme recordings before. The first Candy Claws album, 2009’s In the Dream of the Sea Life, was ocean-themed. Next the band released the forest-themed Hidden Lands. Although the last live Candy Claws performance was in 2012, Hover and McCormick quietly released an album in 2013 called Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time, which is set in the Cretaceous Era.
The Sound of Ceres record isn’t done yet, but the group hopes to release it later this year. The recordings feature all five musicians, but the three Apples members, who live in Georgia, won’t always appear live. Sound of Ceres will make its debut this weekend at the Oriental Theater, represented by McCormick, Hover and a brand-new stage set they’ve built.
“It’s supposed to immerse you into a cave-like atmosphere,” offers McCormick as a hint of what fans can expect.
In the past, Candy Claws wore outfits and head gear designed to convey a sense of the otherworldly, and that is likely to be a part of the show, as well. McCormick and Hover have always been skilled at creating memorable experiences at their live concerts.
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The incorporation of the Apples musicians (on the record and potentially in future live performances) should be seamless: The impact of the atmospheric yet organic psychedelic rock music that the Apples in Stereo helped pioneer in the ’90s was clearly a major influence on Candy Claws, particularly on Hidden Lands.
“I was into everything on Elephant 6,” says Hover, referring to the musical collective and label co-founded by Schneider in Denver in the early ’90s. “Just the idea that you could make ’60s music these days and it could still be new and creative.... I think all of our music has that kind of retro sound and influence, enhanced with new electronic sounds.”
Sound of Ceres is reinterpreting a classic Denver sound for the modern era. But McCormick and Hover are no imitators: They have always been artists capable of remarkable freshness and imagination.