Ask Brian Perez-Canto Caffrey what exactly Novelty Foxtrot is and it’s hard to get a definite explanation. What started out as an intermittent solo project has metamorphosed here and there into a full band, but no lineup has ever stuck. Instead Caffrey has used the moniker as means to explore experimental song cycles or to record and release music that does’t naturally fit the abrasive hardcore rumblings of his more established band Fishmonger.
In April of last year, Novelty Foxtrot released a six-song concept EP called Construct. Based on a short story, the content was mostly fictional but there were some parallels to real life experiences Caffrey had undergone. Each of the songs was written from the point of view a different character, so in order to facilitate a diversity of voices, Caffrey reached out to his friends and cohorts within the DIY scene and brought in a number of vocalists to fill out the various roles, including Microwave frontman Nathan Hardy, Yancey Ballard (Man Up, Yancey; Pretty Boy), and Hunter Whitehead of WF Addams. The result was a sprawling effort that sometimes felt disjointed as it attempted to balance a variety of voices, personalities, and moods.
For his project’s latest release, however, Caffrey decided to get personal by penning the record’s introspective lyrics and singing the majority of the vocals himself. It was a decision borne more from circumstance than any desire to spread his wings. “Me singing on the record and writing the lyrics was more out of necessity,” he confesses. “When I first wrote the music it wasn’t my intention to do vocals but I had a hard time putting a band together. I’ve never felt very comfortable with my singing or lyrics but I appreciated the challenge and getting out of my comfort zone.”
The central conceit surrounding emo has always been its unabashed earnestness, its cathartic heart-on-sleeve fervor. But while Repose bristles with tension and drama, tackling themes of death and passing relationships, Caffery notes there is a distance here that allows for sobering reflection. “The lyrical content is kind of odd to discuss because I wrote most of them about two years ago and a lot has changed since,” he explains. “I feel pretty detached from them emotionally now since most of it isn’t really relevant in my life anymore… It’s not really supposed to be sad or negative, more of a feeling of reaching peace.” That sense of emotional dispassion even works its way into the naming convention Caffrey used to title the tracks on the EP. Although each date corresponds to a specific event in his life, Caffrey insists he employed this particular system because he doesn’t enjoy coming up with titles, as well as the fact that the system allowed him to place the songs in the “best order musically and not chronologically.”
Still, citing an absence of passion on Repose would be nothing less than a farce. Perhaps it’s due to the anxiety surrounding singing for the first time, but there is a quiet vulnerability within Caffrey’s vocals that brings added depth and nuance to the EP’s otherwise turbulent songwriting. Featuring Andy Torrey on guitar, Trent Largin on bass, and Noah Linn on drums, Repose is the first Novelty Foxtrot effort to feature something approaching a stable lineup, and the group’s collaborative energy helps provide a sense of unity as the band barrels through five stormy tracks built on resonant guitars and muscular rhythms. Whatever feelings the mastermind may hold for his latest creations, there is no doubt regarding the propulsive energy on display here. So while emotional urgency may not be in the cards (at least from Caffery’s perspective) there are still plenty of fireworks to be had.
Given Novelty Foxtrot has finally achieved a kind of firm footing in terms of its personnel, you might hope the band would follow up tomorrow night’s release show with a string of performances, and begin working its way into the standard rotation of DIY house shows, local club dates, and weekend tours. Unfortunately, that likely won’t happen, not in the short term anyway, so catch them while you can. “We really don’t have any plans,” Caffrey says with a laugh. “We might try to play a show or two in Athens? Maybe we’ll start writing a full length.”
Novelty Foxtrot will celebrate the release of Repose on Fri., July 14 at the Chum Bucket. Supporting them will be Old Sport (Colorado), Drowning Lessons, and Ben Jordan. Doors open at 8 p.m.