Plain Faraday Keeps it Authentic, Humble and Really Good

Plain Faraday
Plain Faraday Photo by Nicholas Hochstedler
Caleb Sanders isn't your average guitar slinger. The twenty-year-old Denver native also studies physics at the Colorado School of Mines, sings like a bird, writes compelling lyrics and plays percussion with his feet. He and his band, Plain Faraday, make a very pleasing noise, with Sanders's songwriting and artistry deftly lifting up the overall sound.

The group's indie-tinged vibe stands somewhere between Americana and modern folk, and integrates aspects of jazz, country, blues and pop. The core of the band consists of a father-son duo, with Caleb on vocals and guitar and Rob Sanders on upright bass. The group also includes cellist Katie Burns, drummer and percussionist Miles Jenkins, Ezra Bram (percussion, trombone and guitar) and Nacho Varela (trumpet).

Working with The Spot Studios in Lakewood, the group released two singles in 2017, "Porcelain Fine" and "My Friend." Plain Faraday released a third single in April 2018, "Declivity," in partnership with local music producer and coffee aficionado Tyler Venter. The band is presently working on its first album, a five-song EP, and has just released two new tracks.

When not performing their music, the bandmembers enjoy consuming craft root beer, chess matches, playing Frisbee with friends in the Colorado sun, kicking the hackysack and exploring the mountains.

Westword caught up with Caleb Sanders to get the full story ahead of the band's Larimer Lounge concert on Wednesday, July 31. 

Westword: Where are you located?

Caleb Sanders: We're based out of Denver. We live in Littleton, and we primarily play shows in the Denver area, though we're looking to branch out more to Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs.

Are you from Colorado?

Yeah, I was born and raised here. My old man is from Missouri originally, but he's been out here for thirty years now.

How long have you been at it?

I started playing with my dad back in 2017, and the two of us have been the core. We've been through a couple iterations of folks in the lineup. But this last year, starting in 2018, we solidified our group. We've been playing pretty seriously since then.

You've got a cool sound. Are there any particular people that made a big impact on you?

We like a lot of Colorado artists like the Lumineers and Gregory Alan Isakov. We're also big into The Oh Hellos, Fleet Foxes. We like the indie-folk vein. We dip our feet in jazz, funk, blues, bluegrass. It's hard to classify our sound, because we have so many different interests in so many different areas, and that kind of comes out in each song, with one song being on a completely opposite end of the spectrum from the last one. We write pretty much all the music we play except for the occasional Johnny Cash cover. I write most of the songs and then bring them to my dad, who kind of trims up the edges and takes a bigger-picture look at them. He ties up all the loose ends. He's actually a really great poet. He's written a few songs, too. I'd say we co-write together most of the time.

Did your dad study music or writing?

No. He studied economics.

I'm guessing he has a day job?

Yeah. He works in business development and natural gas.

I saw that you strummed your guitar on stage but that you also wail on some licks. Do you always play the acoustic guitar?

My heart is with my acoustic Taylor guitar, but I recently picked up a Fender Telecaster, and I've been enjoying playing that. Especially on songs that call for some Nashville twang.

What's that box that you're sitting on and hitting (with a pedal) using your right foot in the video of your 2016 song "Where Are You?"

Oh, that's a suitcase that we found at a thrift store, and we doctored it up a little bit. In that cave you can really hear the reverberation

How many people are currently in the band?

There's myself on guitar and vocals; my dad on bass; Miles, our percussionist and drummer; and we have a cellist named Kate and a multi-instrumentalist Ezra who also plays percussion, guitar and trombone. And we have since added a trumpet player. It's a big, happy family up there.

What's the general age range of the band?

Most of us are in our twenties. My dad is fifty. So we've got a wide range.

Did your dad teach you to play?

Yeah, Dad put me through the whole guitar-lessons deal when I was a wee lad. I didn't like it too much, but then I learned under this mentor figure in my life who taught me all about songwriting and the artistry behind creating music, vocals and writing music. That opened up a space for me to be more creative instead of just doing my guitar homework. Once I started learning how to write music and create my form of art, we started to form Plain Faraday.

So what's the story behind this interesting band name?

Michael Faraday was a scientist. Both myself and our trumpet player currently study physics at Colorado School of Mines. Faraday is a really famous physicist. Einstein actually had a picture of Faraday in his study. He made all kinds of discoveries in electromagnetism and all this crazy stuff. Anyway, he received a lot of accolades and praise from people, but his response was always one of humility. He responded to praise with a quote: "I must remain plain Mr. Faraday" — the idea being to balance showiness and humility.  So when you're a band, you're like, look at me, come see our show, pay attention to us and so on, but you also want to maintain an element of  humility, authenticity and genuineness. So that's kind of where the band name comes from. It's from that quote from Michael Faraday.

Anything cool about your latest songs?

The new material is actually a two-song release, which is technically a single, I believe. However, the songs are connected lyrically and musically, so they fit pretty nicely side by side. They're kind of Frankenstein creations. We partnered with a studio, so we dropped some money on these releases. However, we found it difficult to get a good creative space in the studio environment where we felt like we were on the clock, and being that the majority of us are college students, we can't really sustain the price of studio recording, so we've kind of started shifting toward doing more stuff on our own. We recorded the drum tracks at the studio and then tracked everything else at our homes and in our basements and so on. There's a lot of character in these latest tunes that we were able to capture that way. For example, I've got my little brother singing on one of the songs in the outro, which is kinda cool — that kind of thing. I mixed the songs, too, though we did send them to get mastered in New York.

Do you think you'll pursue a career in science eventually, or are you planning to stick to the music?

Honestly, I'm just along for the ride. I love physics, and I love music and I want to pursue both of them as much as I can. I've tried not to think too much about where I want to end up. I try to focus on where I am right now. 

Anything else?

Yeah, I'd like to emphasize the creativity of the group. Our cellist also plays in the Denver Philharmonic, and our drummer, Miles, is studying jazz at CU Boulder. We've got some high-caliber players. Their input brings so much out of our music. And that goes for every member of the band. We've got some super-creative people who I'm really happy to be playing music with. We’re looking to sell this [Larimer] show out, and we're going to shoot a video.

Plain Faraday, with Halleway, 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 31, Larimer Lounge, $10.
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Nick Hutchinson writes about music for Westword and enjoys playing his guitar when not on deadline.
Contact: Nick Hutchinson