How Caamp Became the Midwest’s Latest Folk-Rock Sensation

·4 min read

If Caamp ringleader Taylor Meier had to describe the past two years, he’d use two words to describe them: Lavender Days.

“It describes the time period that I had just gone through being melancholy, and a lot of things being taken away from us,” he says over the phone from his home in Columbus, Ohio. “But also a lot being given, like, parents who got to work from home and spend those years with their children. Or, maybe you’re in a profession like ours, where you’re on the road, and you don’t get to see your loved ones as much.”

That’s why it was a “lightbulb moment” when Caamp landed on Lavender Days as the title of their last month’s album — a riff on their song “Lavender Girl,” which surfaced before the album was made. Somehow it perfectly encompassed what the alt-folk quartet had endured — a transformation that they found themselves on the other side of, and hopefully better for it.

Lavender Days isn’t Caamp’s first rodeo, though it feels like they’re finally arriving. When the band first formed more than a decade ago at Ohio University in Athens, it was just Meier on guitar and vocals alongside banjo player Evan Westfall. Inspired by artists like Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Neil Young, they cut their teeth playing their breezy Americana tracks at open mic nights and coffee shops. Later, they’d expand their lineup with Matt Vinson (bass) and Joseph Kavalec (keyboards).

 

 

But their career really began taking off when they uploaded their self-released debut LP to Spotify. Over the course of two months, their song “Ohio” gained serious traction, and a grassroots following propelled them onto the Global Viral 50 chart. It wasn’t long until Caamp signed to Mom & Pop records and released their second album, By and By, in 2019, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Heatseeker Albums chart. They’ve since earned three No. 1 singles on the Billboard charts.

Now, the band has perhaps landed their biggest break yet in the form of an opening slot for The Lumineers.

“It’s cool to get a peek behind the curtain, how massive production is, the scale of their crew, and playing shows for 27,000 people is always fun,” Meier explains. He also admits that while “it was nice to get off the road, and take a couple of deep breaths,” during the pandemic, spending 22 dates with The Lumineers helped to reinvigorate them — especially leading up to the release of Lavender Days.

While the band initially began having weekly studio sessions for fun during the first part of the pandemic, they were later invited down to North Carolina by producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee) for a more pronounced session.

“We did that for 10 days and had a pretty rad session, met some cool people and really explored a lot of sounds and learned a lot,” recalls Meier. While the band decided they “didn’t want to go the full stretch with” Cook, the session did make the group refocus. “We went back to Ohio to finish it, redid some of the stuff we recorded with Brad and went back to putting our own spin on things.”

 

 

Meier ended up enlisting producer Beatriz Artola (Fleet Foxes, A$AP Rocky) to help him co-produce the record. The result is a blend of lush ‘70s folk-influenced Americana layered with tender vocals. From their dreamy, cinematic opener “Come With Me Now” — a buoyant epic full of shimmering keys — to their lullaby-like finale “Sure Of,” all of the songs on Caamp’s latest album are full of catharsis. It makes sense, since Meier himself was inspired to be an artist because of music like that.

“Hearing Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago for the first time, I was yearning for the possibility that I could maybe make people feel something like that with the things I had to say,” he recalls.

With Lavender Days, Caamp seems to reach a full spectrum of emotions: love, pain, hope and healing. While the devotional “Believe” feels like it’s meant for swaying at a jam band concert with your friends, the gospel-tinged, bluesy number “Fever” (which features Nathaniel Rateliff and Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield) is gunning to be a wedding song.

It all shows off just how fluid Caamp can be as a band. Because while Meier knows Caamp falls into the “indie-rock” or “folk-rock” genre, there’s always room to grow.

“I love this space that we have, but I like to think that [we’re] a lot more than that.”

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