Taking a good, honest look into what purpose you're serving is a key process for any artist. And for an indie band filled with members who are busy with other artistic and real-life responsibilities, it's an essential one. For the members of local rock band Calhoun, recording their latest record, Football Night in America, meant first questioning what they had left in their collective tank.
"For me, it just became questions of 'does anybody need to hear this? Do I really have anything to say anymore? Are we just littering the highway of song?' Calhoun lead singer Tim Locke says. "We're a band that likes to change things up drastically, so I think we just wanted to figure out what that change would be."
Football Night in America is Calhoun's fourth full-length record and first release since 2013. Calhoun's excellent 2011 LP Heavy Sugar was rightfully praised here in D-FW and received a great deal of airplay on indie stations around the state. The guys in the group know what they're doing, even if it takes a lot of schedule wrangling to get it done.
The album has been more or less finished for about a year now, and that was only after months of planning that involved a group retreat to a shack in the woods of New Mexico last fall. For members Jordan Roberts, Danny Balis, Toby Pipes and Josh Hoover, who all stay busy here in Dallas, simply going out of state together was accomplishment enough. They each brought their own luggage, but none of them packed any full songs they were ready to bust out.
"Everyone in this band leads a very intense double-life, as sadly, most musicians are forced to do these days," Locke says. But getting away from your life to do this does really help. I think anyone in a band will tell you getting the hell out of town to focus will reap rewards. We usually just piece stuff together, but for this we wanted to just play together from note one and to see what we got."
What they got, after the shack jamming and subsequent studio recording sessions in Baton Rouge and Shreveport, is a great record. Showcasing a cohesive collection of powerfully melodic American rock songs, it's a clear representation of accomplished veterans knowing what to do when the time arrives. It's an awfully pretty-sounding record, but the feelings expressed in the lyrics are often not-so-pretty. Recorded before last November's Presidential election, Locke sees a connection between the themes he developed back then so much of what the country is going through now.
"Lyrically, the record is mostly about isolation and feeling completely and total rudderless," Locke says. "So by coincidence it lines up pretty well with where we find ourselves as a nation."
Locke has been an active voice in the D-FW music community for over three decades, now dating back to his time with beloved rock band Tabula Rasa and then the Grand Street Cryers. He's been in the middle of all sorts of different sets of band dynamics, but there is one galvanizing thread that ties it all together for him and makes it all worthwhile.
"I've done this process every which way," he says. "But still, there's nothing like a group of people locking eyes or spirits or whatever in a room and conjuring something together. At this point, it's why I think we all still do it."
Calhoun performs Saturday night at The Aardvark in Fort Worth and on Sunday at with The Fixx at the Granda Theater.