Brothers Oliver and Jakob Mueller and their longtime friend David Dugan, who make up the Fort Collins-based band Slow Caves, have dreamed of successful music careers since they started playing together in middle school more than a decade ago. Having built their reputation on high-quality singles and EPs, they’re getting ready to drop a full-length record, the excellent Falling, and those dreams are finally taking shape.
“It’s just something we’ve talked about doing since seventh grade,” says Dugan. “I don’t think there were any other options. No one had a Plan B, per se; it would be so weird to not play music together. I don’t know what our lives would be like.”
Originally performing under the name the Rewards, the bandmates play poppy, airy jams that nod to ’90s alt-rock. And they just keep getting better.
“We’ve definitely improved,” says Oliver. “Jakob did a lot to hone his craft. He took guitar lessons for a long time. Playing together for so long, but also going on the road, I think, we’ve just sharpened up as musicians [and become] more aware of the identity that we want to have,” he adds. “We’re really thinking about the band as a whole — not just musically, but the imagery, the aesthetics of everything, even down to the clothes. I think it’s all definitely more focused.”
Falling, which comes out March 22, is a strong collection of new material, offering emotional highs on songs like “Sorry” and “Girlfriend” and lows on “Falling Through the Clouds” and “Annie.” The band shows off its knack for high-flying, sing-along melodies on “Out of State.”
“I feel like something that’s really helped shape our music now is simplicity,” says Dugan. “Really trying to simplify songs down to their core. You can still hear a little bit of us showing off in some songs, especially on the drums, but I think that’s something that we really try to achieve when we play: Play for the song, not because you can play something.
“You can listen back to some of those early recordings, and it’s like there’s so much going on,” Dugan continues. “There are too many ideas, and nothing was restricted or restrained; there’s no self-control. We’re not fully there, by any means, but it’s something we’ve tried to focus on a lot more as we’ve matured.”
The band finished something close to a final cut of Falling more than a year ago and has taken the months since to fine-tune the record.
“It feels so good. It feels like a weight off my shoulders. I’m glad we took the time to do it the way that we did it,” says Oliver. “We really wanted to do it right, make it something that we’re really proud of. We definitely scrapped plans several times to do it, and I’m glad we did. I feel like the amount of time was necessary for this to be the record that it is.”
Slow Caves descended upon Austin for several shows during South by Southwest just before the record release, which will be followed by a large U.S. tour. While the bandmates are generally easygoing, their expectations are high, and they’re eager to find out how audiences will respond to the project.
“We’ve been sitting on it for over a year now, and we’ve been playing a lot of the songs live. We love playing them, but I’m so excited for other people to get a chance to hear the songs and go see them at the show,” says Dugan. “Hopefully they’ll be as stoked as we are.”
“I think the singles and EP releases were different,” says Oliver. “Before we recorded those songs, we had been playing them for years…By the time it was time to record, we had what we thought was the best version of every song ready to go. By the time those came out, we were kind of tired of them, honestly. This time, I feel like I’m just so excited to play all of the new stuff.”
“It’s a totally different feel this time,” Dugan adds. “No fatigue, just anticipation.”
Slow Caves album release show, 9 p.m. Saturday, March 23, Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street, $15.
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