Stephen O'Sicky of Caterpillars: "I Love Old School Emo. That's Who I Am."
Local act Caterpillars won't play their next show until July 20 at the Crown and Harp, but until then, they have a new record to finish. They took some time out at the Double Wide a few weeks ago and discussed what they're up to, their first musical obsessions, and how they feel about the (still) dreaded word, emo.
Courtesy of Katherine Love Photography
Who was the first band that you loved? Like, obsessed over.
Stephen O'Sicky (drums): Obsessed with? First band?
Don't be ashamed if it's Dashboard Confessional.
O'Sicky: I want to say Sunny Day Real Estate, but first band had to be Fugazi.
Any record in particular?
O'Sicky: End Hits.
O'Sicky: Don't judge me!
No! A lot of people say End Hits was when the band was falling out. Nope: the band was still pretty awesome.
O'Sicky: I love End Hits. My favorite song, "No Surprise," is on there. I think this was the first band in this genre that I fell in love with.
Christopher Robinson (vocals, guitar): The Offspring was the first band that I heard and got into, but there were two bands that got me into indie rock: The Appleseed Cast and Minus The Bear. I got their first record and it opened new doors.
Drew Black (guitar): For me, I was a big fan of Third Eye Blind. Followed them from the beginning. They've changed their sound a lot now, but I think their first CD could be called a greatest hits album because every song is like a hit.
They released like five singles off of it.
Black: Yeah! It's ridiculous. It's a very well-written album. It's raw, but it's a good album. Got me interested in playing guitar.
Ben Love (bass): When I was little, there were two bands. My parents listened to oldies and I always gravitated towards The Beatles and this really cheesy Christian rap . . .
Love: Yeah! I used to listen to them for a long time.
Love: That's right! But, in high school at the same time, Appleseed Cast and Further Seems Forever made me want to write good music.
Any certain singer with Further Seems Forever?
Love: I like Chris Carrabba. The Moon is Down is one of my top records of all time. I still listen to that every once in a while.
Do you remember the first time you heard the word, "emo"?
O'Sicky: Rites of Spring wrote an e-mail about how they were the first emo band and how they hated that term and whoever used that term was a stupid idiot, that kind of thing. That was the first time that I heard it and that got me intrigued. I found all these other bands, like Still Life, Jawbreaker. That's kind of how I found Sunny Day Real Estate. I love old school emo. That's who I am.
It holds up better than say, Matchbook Romance.
O'Sicky: Oh God. I understand what you're saying when it comes to emo, but I think [Sunny Day Real Estate's] Dan Hoerner said it best. He doesn't care about the name of the genre; people are going to call it what they call it, so they can't control it. But if it was anything, I guess emo was a good word for Sunny Day Real Estate because they did emotion and passion unlike anyone else. So if they call it emo, I don't care at all.
Robinson: The first time I came across it was, oddly enough, The Emo Diaries that Deep Elm put out. I love those albums. Those really got me into a lot of different kinds of music. That branched out into Christie Front Drive, old school Jimmy Eat World. Deep Elm became my favorite label and I still love them.
Drew, what about you?
Black: That's a tough answer. I kinda came to emo when I was in high school. I got into the whole Drive-Thru Records movement and that's not emo.
Definitely a good bridge for it.
Black: I had some friends who introduced me to that kind of stuff. Then I started thinking about what was before that. I started digging around and I was lucky I had friends who had good taste in music and they introduced me. I'm not really a big fan of one word to describe a whole genre of music, so when you say emo, it's too encapsulating.
It's a little too vague.
Black: Yeah, it's very vague. People have different opinions about what that word is so it's very hard to describe that style of music. When people ask us, "What do you sound like?" Best answer is, "Just hear us."
And what about you, Ben?
Love: I worked at a club in high school. I was kind of a ticket guy. I prefer to call myself a bouncer, but I wasn't any sort of bouncer. It started off kinda small, then a bunch of bands came through. At the time, I was really into bands like Project 86 and Chevelle. This one band came through called Jack's Broken Heart, out of California. They came and played a Sunday night show and there were, like, five people there. I was like, "Holy crap, these guys are amazing." I ended up meeting some other guys that next week and joined their band. The whole joke was, if we were recording and something sucked, it was, "That's alright. It's emo." It's alright if that snare's not on time, it's emo.
Aside from the bands we've talked about, what are some of the bands you think don't get enough attention or praise?
O'Sicky: Sunny Day Real Estate! Because everyone is like, "Ohhh, The Rising Tide or Diary." But you don't ever talk about their two best albums: LP2 or How It Feels to Be Something On. I think they're underappreciated. Jeremy Enigk, the singer, is a genius when it comes to writing music, but nobody I talk to knows who he is. If it weren't for them, other artists like Paramore wouldn't be around. Another band that's underappreciated is Roadside Monument. That band didn't start math rock, but I think that band pioneered what the style is now.
Robinson: The only band that came to mind was No Knife.
Hell yes. Saw those guys open for Sunny Day Real Estate on the Rising Tide tour in Austin.
Robinson: Fire in the City of Automations is a great album. Even Riot for Romance. I thought they were pretty underappreciated. No one really knows who they are.
Black: I'd say Owen. Mike Kinsella is a killer performer.
Love: I'd go with The Appleseed Cast. They influenced me so much.
What about the first time this lineup played together?
Robinson: Gosh, it was really recent. January, was it?
Black: The weird thing for me, the first show I played with them was a headliner show. OK. No pressure.
Robinson: Analog Rebellion opened for us. I was like, this is kind of weird for us because they usually do pretty well around Dallas. It was a kick-ass show. We had like 50 people come out and see us.
Black: It was cold as balls that night. Texas weather.
O'Sicky: I've been in the band since October. I played a show at The Door.
Robinson: Just as a three-piece. Opened for States.
Love: My first practice with these guys was pretty interesting. I had just finished playing with my old band and our last show went really well down in College Station. I had been looking on Craigslist for probably two months, seeing if there's anyone out there to play with. And between metal bands or classic rock cover bands, I wasn't finding anything. So I happened to get on and did a search for Sunny Day and they put had it in their description. I thought, "Whatever, I'll send these guys an e-mail." Stephen called me ten minutes later.
O'Sicky: I get the e-mail on my phone and I'm like, "Oh shit!"
Love: We set up a practice that next week and Stephen called me and said, "Hey, do you think you can pick me up in Grapevine instead?" The best part is, we get to his house to pick up the drums and he left his keys with his girlfriend. So I had to help him take out this window AC unit, crawled in through the window and help get his drums out. I was thinking, "Maybe I should just back out now." We had one practice and asked me if wanted to play and I was like, "Yup." They sent me the EP and I was like, "Holy crap, this is really good."