How Denver's Caramel Carmela Is Finding a National Fan Base

Caramel Carmela knows the right connections can only take you so far.
Caramel Carmela knows the right connections can only take you so far.
Courtesy of the band.

Sometimes it seems like it's all about connections. After the members of Caramel Carmela linked up in 2009 and began playing together, a network of old friends proved valuable in helping the band get better gigs. "We played a bunch of our first shows with Saige, and I had gone to school with Tyler Glasgow of PLACES and the Autobiography. Plus, I had known Nick Cocozzella of Kill Paradise for a long time," says lead singer Jack Roberts of the group's initial moves. But it wasn't just who Caramel Carmela knew. In fact, the EDM-influenced post-hardcore act was booking all on its own, playing its unofficial first show at Hodi's Half Note in Fort Collins. Not long after, the band earned a slot at the Broomstock music festival in Broomfield and played regular appearances at the now-defunct LIFEspot in Centennial, the Marquis Theater and Summit Music Hall, building a devoted fan base along the way.

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Caramel Carmela has evolved over the years. The group started when Roberts took some guitar- and synth-driven melodies to his guitarist friend Ryan Bratton. Bassist Sha Gipson and guitarist Joe Meggison came aboard shortly thereafter. Later, when Bratton left the band, guitarist Kyle Browning (formerly of Drop Dead, Gorgeous) joined; drummer Mike Boyd is the most recent addition. Gipson reports that he had never played bass before throwing in with Caramel Carmela.

"I grew up singing in the church choir, and I had played guitar a little, but at that point, I hadn't picked up a guitar in months," says Gipson. Nonetheless, he went on to provide the band with the foundational bass lines and lower-register screams that his church choir had unknowingly prepared him for.

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Making records and self-booking tours has been Caramel Carmela's grind for the last half-decade, but the band hit a certain highwater mark in 2014. In January, the guys left for Detroit to record their second full-length, Till Death Do Us Party, but Roberts says that after the initial mix, the record just didn't sound right: Caramel Carmela wanted to be able to blend its party songs with serious tracks and create an album that reflected its stylistic vision of a true dance-rock band.

"Our focus has changed over the last couple of albums we've put out. With Till Death Do Us Party, we wanted to make something that was meaningful, something that made people feel good about themselves," he explains. "Now that we've been doing it as a band for almost six years, I want to transcend just sharing our music; I want to inspire people."

It took more than five months of mixing and mastering the record to get it right. Taking it on the road was the next step. Caramel Carmela recently made progress on that front, as well, joining forces with Shawn Milke, a longtime acquaintance and lead singer of East Coast post-hardcore giants Alesana. Milke had been watching Caramel Carmela for quite some time, and a few months ago, he began managing the band. It was a much-needed change: Roberts and Gipson had been in charge of booking and day-to-day band operations for five years, and they were ready to turn that responsibility over to someone with the experience and vision required to take Caramel Carmela to the next level.

Milke has already proven a valuable addition, having arranged a tour for the band alongside national acts the Animal in Me and Consider Me Dead. It's a start that has Caramel Carmela poised to make 2015 its best year yet. And while the right connections took them to new places, the band's members know that only hard work will keep the momentum going.

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