I just can’t be happier,” enthused Caleb Kronen when we caught up to him last week by phone, “I finally got the album submitted to CD Baby. Everything is secured and ready to go now.” Caleb Kronen may be a bit more prone to second-guessing the final mix than most guitarists. A hearing science major at the University of Colorado, he is leading an honors thesis research project this summer at the CU Hearing Research Laboratory and freely admits that thinking about sound, how it gets created and captured, how people hear it, is a vital component to the band’s craft.
Fans of the outfit may hear the results on the band’s new self-titled EP. Drummer Kato Kronen’s shuffling, cat-like percussion figure yields to swelling and colliding guitar tones on “Have It All,” sounding a bit like a retro-pop song slowed to two-thirds and laced with distant, half-heard voices and reverb soaked shrouds of grey noise. “Leaves Will Fall” skitters on a stick figure mid-tempo pony ride beneath vaguely menacing harmonized lead vocals shared between the siblings, and the chill instrumental “Sapience” drifts along like a murmur on the wind, lush and diffident. Drifting amidst dark confection or shoegazer ambience, Kronen evokes as effectively as it narrates.
In some ways, this EP may reveal a band who has grown into their material sufficiently that they need be less parochial in how it gets assembled in the studio.
“The catalyst in that change was that I took music theory and music composition classes at CU the last few semesters before this album,” explains Caleb Kronen. “And what helped me gain the musical confidence with a lot of my scoring, and more practical side of things. I learned a lot of different techniques that helped me with harmonic progressions that were a little more unique than the last two albums we did.
“I really felt like the songs had a strong sense of harmony. There was a lot to work with for my lead guitarist [Eddie Nerney] and the piano player song, and just thinking about instru- [Dan Herman] I brought in on one mentation in a classical sense. We were working on our bass player’s SSL, and there’s so many channels we could use, we decided ‘Let’s have 25 tracks channels on each song.’” It doesn’t take long to realize that Caleb Kronen is evolving into a recording studio mad scientist — knob-twiddling a rocket-science mixing board like an SSL will do that — and the guitarist can wax on studio esoterica like compression levels with diabolical zeal.
“At one point, we ended up redoing all the vocal tracks, because we didn’t like the sound of the [Neumann] U47 mic that we were using, and even though it’s a $20,000 mic, it’s known for male vocals. So we actually went online and grabbed an ELA-M 251 vintage tube mic [we went in on it with a couple of other studios here in town] that’s meant for female vocals. About a $14,000 or $15,000 mic, but it really brings out the female vocals. It just does miracles.”
Kronen returns to the friendly stage of the Fox this Friday night (the band will be giving 299 free copies of the EP away at the Fox as well as at a pre-party CD signing from 7-9 p.m. at the Vapor House before the show) but we wondered about the band’s longer term goal. Band member logistics, including Caleb’s last semester at CU, present challenges for the outfit to devote extended time on the road, but he says the band is making some moves into soundtrack work: TV placement, film, etc. A logical move, we thought, for a band whose music is so visual.
“Yes, I’m glad you mentioned that,” said Caleb Kronen. “I recently had a meeting with the manager of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He lives in Hollywood, and he has gotten their songs in a lot of films. … Once [our] EP is released on June 20th, he’s going to try to get it placed in film, TV ads or shows, and try to get us some exposure in that realm of media.”
Kronen and his sister, native Boulderites, represent a kind of left brain/right brain creative enterprise, with guitarist Caleb working the mechanics and minutiae of the band’s recorded output, and Kato creating the visuals and overseeing the band’s fashion line (yes, Kronen is a band and a clothing logo).
“We’ve been playing music together our entire lives. The fact that my sister has a degree from CU in art, and I’ve been taking all the music classes I can [as a non-major] and my work in the hearing sciences, it’s a really unique approach to he whole band thing. She really focuses on our fashion line and our album covers and our music videos, and I can really focus on the recordings and that side of things. It’s really been quite fun.”