Interview: California Wives On ‘Art History’, Barry White and Roadside Attractions

California Wives

Chicago’s California Wives make music rooted in history: the history of relationships and experiences, the loss of youth, and trying to moving forward without spending too much time looking back. On the band’s 2012 debut album, Art History, these themes come to life through introspective songwriting and new wave strains. Their music has caught the attention Joy Division / New Order’s Peter Hook who asked the band to open for his set with The Light and they’ve made a splash with fans and critics alike. My Old Kentucky Blog declared, “This could be the next buzz band everyone is talking about..” and I second the motion.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Jayson Kramer took some time out of his schedule to answer some questions for Sound Dessert about the band, his love for the 90’s and Barry White, and roadside attractions. Check it out:

SD: What’s a typical California wife like?
CW: We’re all different in our own ways. We do share a lot in common, though. We like to listen to old records and talk politics. We also like video games and kung-fu movies. We try not to limit our interests…we’re open-minded gents.


SD: Have any of you almost been, temporarily been, or are at present, husbands?
CW: Not yet!


SD: Your debut LP is titled Art History, what inspired the name?
CW: When I see or hear the title, it makes me think of a time when I was really coming to grips with making music as a professional. I was learning to write my first record and I was learning the steps that go into making a record on a larger scale. When we landed on that name, it felt a little melancholy…the idea of writing about something, anything really, that was no longer there. For as happy as the songs were, there was bit of melancholy in the process of making record number one. So it fit. I also felt like much of Art History was put together with a lot of care..there’s a lot of fiddling with mic placements and dialing-in those guitar tones. Things felt very academic to me in the studio. Art History was the right title for that moment.


SD: If you could have your band’s portrait painted by any artist living or dead, who would it be?
CW: I have a lot of favorites but it would be neat to see a Chuck Close portrait of the band. I’m sure Joe’s (drums) hair would be the point of interest!


SD: “Blood Red Youth” is one of my absolute favorite songs off the LP, describe the scene in which it was written. 
CW: I remember writing the beginnings of that song in my apartment in Chicago. My roommate at the time was having people over and I remember them coming in and out of my room while I wrote that intro melody. The lyrics were written as I drove my car around with a notepad. But the song really came together in a very cramped practice space in Logan Square. I guess you could say it came together in shifts.

SD: Jayson, you essentially grew up in a record store in Chicago where your mom was a bookkeeper. Name some prize records/memorabilia you procured from the shop. Any that regretfully slipped away?
CW: I have so many! Where should I even start? I would get all the promotional CD’s that nobody else wanted. All the cool kids would grab the CD’s that were popular at the time. So I have a few mid-90s jams that some people may have forgotten. I had a pretty intense Barry White record that sadly got destroyed in my car during last year’s winter. Weird compilation discs for the holidays. I think those discs are a great snapshot of that strange side of the 90s.


SD: The band’s been touring all summer with My Gold Mask. What small comforts do you cherish most when on the road?
CW: I have a travel pillow I picked up at a duty-free shop on the Canadian border. I’m pretty attached to that. Books definitely over iPads. I also like a good nap and a nice shower from time to time…just to reset myself.


SD: Describe the most bizarre roadside attraction you’ve come across.

CW: We stopped in Marfa, Texas to check out the Marfa lights. They’re these really strange lights that appear off in the distance…they’ve built this observation deck and everything. We drove out there in complete darkness with the AM radio on. I guess you could say the experience was bizarre, but maybe my favorite of the trip. I love it out there.SD: What’s California Wives’ plans for the remainder of the year? Has the band kept up with its new year’s resolutions?

CW: We are currently writing a whole new batch of songs that we’ll be taking on the road with us and recording as we go. Whether they’ll come out as singles, as an EP, or the new record…is yet to be seen. We’ve been sketching a few ideas as we tour but it’ll be nice to be home for a bit. And I think my resolution was to have no resolution…and I did just that!


SD: Decision time: is Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” or Daft Punks “Get Lucky” the song of the summer? Pharrell wins either way, unless it’s neither, which is acceptable too. 

CW: Between the two, I’m going with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” My summer song? Anything off that new Foxygen record, good stuff there!

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