When I graced Bell’s Eccentric Café with my presence at 9:30pm last July 13th, I counted around 30 people or so, not including the employees or the merch guys. Then, it was like someone turned on a slow, yet steady faucet of humans that was draining into the venue. I stopped keeping track at about 100, which was somewhere in between the time I soaked my elbow in beer, watched somebody try to order four Budweisers, and heard the first chords strummed by Combat Corduroy for their self-titled album release show.
These guys have been a staple in the Kalamazoo scene for some time, and as we’ve pointed out before, are typically up to some pretty cool stuff. And they still are, as is apparent in their newest album, which was released in spite of the inherent obstacles life throws at a group of individuals trying to create art together.
“Jon and I have been dragged through the dirt and somehow found the right people to keep Combat Corduroy alive,” said Logan Castle, lead vocalist and guitarist for the group. “When half of your band quits, your van blows up in New York, and you spend your last dime on the U-Haul to get you home, life seems like it’s trying to tell you something.”
But they have endured, and through their commitment to the music have established a solid reputation in the West Michigan music scene, and as was apparent in the attendance at their album release show, are commanding a loyal following of fans.
The show itself started as many do, with everyone located everywhere except directly in front of the stage. But eventually the band got everyone warmed up, probably with a little help from the gallons of Oberon I witnessed being ordered, and it was full on “let’s enjoy some music and have a good time.” And so it was.
I received my copy of the new album while I was there, and noticed what I actually was holding was a limited edition, personally numbered, autographed copy that was specifically and exclusively released to those in attendance. Mine is numbered 33 out of 400, so statistically speaking, if you even have a copy, I have a lower number than you do. And whenever they become collectors items, I think that will be relevant. Probably. I didn’t bother to look it up.
The original intent with the new album was for it to be another self-produced endeavor, but they eventually decided to enlist some outside help, and did so with producer and engineer Eric Garcia.
“We quickly realized the beauty and advantages that come along with having a legitimate, professional sound engineer and producer working with us,” said Jon Petro, the band’s drummer. “Once we really stepped back and trusted Eric and allowed him to fully take the reins on the project and have as much creative input as he needed, I think the first thing we all realized is the amount of stress and weight that was removed from our shoulders with him in control. Because before, the recording process had always forced us to be heavily involved in so much of the technical aspects of everything that it often got in the way of the creative process.”
“It is really hard recording an album without an outside mediator there to handle the tedious craft of working the boards,” Castle explained. “Having an amazingly talented guy like Eric Garcia behind the wheel we were finally able to concentrate solely on the music.”
And it shows in the end product.
“Eric really grasped our concept,” Castle continued. “He actually came out to some shows to experience our live show, to hone in on what the album should really sound like,” he said. “When I first heard the completed album I was completely overwhelmed. This was the sound that I have always hoped for.”
In short, it’s a rock album. Sometimes with more of a folky feel, like with the opening track “Sunshine,” and others that feel more heavy or driven, like “Backwoods” and “Dream.” And the stories behind the songs run the gamut from family troubles to…well, girls.
“‘Sunshine’ is the encapsulation of my ideal day,” Castle said. “Waking to a beautiful woman, feeling the day warm as you open your eyes to the sun shining through your window glowing off of her body, hoping for the best and living in the free world. I also really like ‘Luck.’ It is a story of my trip to a Bassnectar concert and finding some passion along the way.”
But it’s not all lady-related. Sometimes the tone is a bit more somber.
“’13 Hours’ holds a dear place in my heart,” said Castle. “It’s about my family having to leave me in Kalamazoo because of unforeseen layoffs. I went to Western Michigan University and my family went to North Carolina.”
But through everything, it’s all brought them to this point, and this album, which really captures Combat Corduroy.
“Writing this album was a real treat,” said Castle. “Working with this caliber of musicians is every songwriter’s dream.”