Gathered in a garage off of South Dunbar Street, the members of Fort Collins-based Candy Claws fumbled with their self-described low-quality equipment, trying to find just the right settings. All the while the three shared a bag of popcorn and the day’s anecdotes.
A soft-spoken group, Ryan Hover, Wesley Alonzo and Kay Bertholf hardly ever raise their voices louder than what’s deemed appropriate at a library.
Though reminiscent of the group’s inside voice mentality, their music, however, can be heard for miles outside of Fort Collins, as their debut album “In the Dream of the Sea Life” is starting to make waves around the country.
Fame, the digital age and the blogosphere
A project two years in the making, “In the Dream of the Sea Life” has started getting exposure well beyond the limits of Larimer County. Copies have reached as far as Australia, Poland, Ireland, England, France and Norway.
And many in the underground blogosphere have taken enthusiastically to the album, especially independent music giant Pitchfork.com, which featured the band’s song “Catamaran” on its “Forkcast” earlier this fall.
“It’s weird,” said Bertholf, guitarist and vocalist for the band. “Our friends and family keep congratulating us, but it’s not like our lives have changed. Our MySpace gets 50 more plays every day, but that’s it.”
The band originally self-released the album in early 2009, which quickly sold out. But the trio re-released the album in October after being signed to Irish indie record label Indiecater.
The second coming of “In the Dream of the Sea Life” caused buzz around Candy Claws, and the album gained popularity among blogs and college radio stations.
The band, which has been spun as part of the local rotation at the student-run KCSU-FM, ranked 18th on the station’s Top 30 chart created by music magazine CMJ on Nov. 5. Other prominent bands featured on the Top 30 list include Matisyahu, Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand.
However, Hover, who also sings and plays guitar, said the band has not really felt or seen the affects of their newfound popularity.
“People keep saying we’re getting a lot of attention, but it hasn’t really affected our daily lives,” Hover said. “(Alonzo and Bertholf) still go to school. I still go to work. Maybe it’s just a symptom of the download age where people aren’t buying music like they used to.”
A tricky balancing act
As a 13-year-old experimenting with a tape deck in this parent’s basement, the responsibilities that come with a successful band never crossed Hover’s mind. Now, 12 years later, a 25-year-old Hover has had to juggle his priorities, a task he said he’s found so far more confusing than expected.
“It just seems very apparent that if we want to make this a career, we will have to tour a lot,” Hover said. “I don’t know how bands do it. How many bands are there that also have day jobs, you know? I don’t know how this works.”
Hover, Bertholf and drummer Alonzo first connected six years ago as a part of a 20-piece project dubbed Boom Bom Deem Bom, which consisted of 10 musicians and 10 dancers.
Though the group lasted only eight months, the three, who lived their adolescence together throughout the last half-decade, continued to play music, eventually forming what is currently the line-up of Candy Claws.
Now that the band has started to ripple though the music underground, Alonzo, a senior at Rocky Mountain High School, and Bertholf, a sophomore art major, and Hover are having a hard time balancing the band with real life.
“I personally want to do other things than Candy Claws,” Bertholf said. “I really like Candy Claws. I don’t want it to go away. But I still want to do stuff like be a counselor at a camp over the summer.”
However, the band is making do with being tied down to Fort Collins. Instead of touring around the country to gain exposure for their new album, as suggested by the record labels, Candy Claws is promoting the re-release via an online tour.
The members have arranged video posts of acoustic performances from their album on several blog Web sites, including Cause=Time out of Denver, with plans to make appearances on blogs as far away as the Philippines, Venezuela and Norway.
“We were thinking of a way to emulate a real tour since (Alonzo and Bertholf) are in school,” Hover said. “So the best thing I could think of was an online tour.”
Grasping the ocean
While all of the exposure and popularity seems odd to the members of Candy Claws, “In the Dream of the Sea Life” emulates the group’s geographical predicament. The album replicates the sounds and feelings of the dividing force between the continents.
Recorded in Italy, the Philippines and Fort Collins, “In the Dream of the Sea Life” is meant as a musical companion to Rachel Carson’s 1951 book, “The Sea Around Us.”
Track names like “Lantern Fish,” “Catamaran” and “Snowflake Eel Wish,” associate the album with the deep blue. Each song is meant to evoke the ocean itself within the listener.
“It’s the music of the ocean,” Hover said. “â€¦ I try to stay away from messages in music because I think that music can be something higher than that. It can be more than just a tool for getting your point across, so I guess we’re trying to get across the feelings that we have about the ocean: the hugeness, the mystery, the electricity.”
Visit the band’s Web site, http://www.myspace.com/candyclaws, for information about tour dates, videos and music.
Staff writer Nic Turiciano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.