INTERVIEW: What Now? With Candy Ambulance
Photo: Danny DeRusso
What do you do when the path you’ve been on for so long suddenly has an immovable block in front of it? If you told bands, and music fans, in America a year ago that they’d soon be faced with the reality of touring and live shows coming to an almost complete stop, few would believe you. Bands have been crisscrossing the country playing for crowds for as long as there have been automobiles and bands, but in 2020, they didn’t. For the entirety of the live music community, this has been unprecedented times and the future is still uncertain. While not the same as getting thousands together for a festival, or being surrounded my familiar faces in your favorite local venue, there was still a need for many that were able, to keep the creativity flowing and to stay connected. In this series of interviews we’re reaching out to artists from the region to hear about how they’ve kept the music going while we wait for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Troy, NY rock/grunge trio Candy Ambulance have been together since 2014 and quickly became a staple in the local music community through a stream of solid releases and high energy performances. Their raucous rock ‘n’ roll spirit is contagious live and it seemed like they were always popping up on a fun lineup at bars and venues throughout the region. Over the course of the last several years they’ve been out on a few national tours, and their most recent release 2019’s full length Traumantic, produced by Tommy Stinson (The Replacements) showed the band at its tightest, with the emotions behind it coming from a very real and vulnerable place. For a band that has been so active since its inception, 2020 may have forced a change of plans, but definitely not a halt on growing and pushing themselves as a group. They’ve been an exciting band to follow up until now, and if you’re not familiar with them yet, we think you should keep your eye on them into 2021 and beyond.
MF: Usually, you’re out playing a lot, so when you realized back last March that live shows wouldn’t be an option for awhile, as a band how did you respond? Did the extra time give you an opportunity to be more creative and work on songs more together, or was it tougher to find the inspiration and drive with everything that was going on?
CA: We were on tour when states began shutting down. It was this odd and surreal experience, as if the shut downs were following us. Loved ones in NY calling and saying they can’t find toilet paper while everything around us is still functioning as we’d always known. We miss touring and playing out, but despite the hellish year, we’ve experienced something we haven’t since our teens; playing music for playing music’s sake. We had never been in a position to lean back and catch up at practice. Suddenly, we didn’t have to rush a song to get it ready for the next set. We wrote an EP, filmed a live set with our friend Jimi Woodul (of Dark Honey) on lead guitar, and have also all started various music lessons and projects. Our greatest strength as a band has always been our friendship. We lifted each other up (heck, I (Cait) tear up every time I think about that!). We’re humbled and grateful and holding space for all our peers who had a different experience with the shutdowns.
MF: For many in the local music community, always being at shows is what helps us feel connected to other music fans, and other artists. Did you feel like you were able to maintain that sense of being connected as a community?
CA (Caitlin): – I had an ache in my heart for music fans all year. I was sad not to tour but even more sad thinking about the avid live music fans out there. I’m introverted and anxious when it comes to shows so I don’t go to them often. The people who do are the fucking best people. Especially people who support smaller, DIY bands. I hope we were still able to connect however we could. I know I had lots of long Instagram conversations with people following the CA account and it kept me sane. As far as other musicians, we did some cool collabs with Ellen Kempner (Palehound), Nick Kinsey, Jimi Woodul (Dark Honey) and Mike Merced (MikoCorp).
Photo: Danny DeRusso
CA: Woo! Heck yea, we did! Most of the songs had bones by 2020, but the end result is always collaborative. Usually, Caitlin will come up with the lyrics and basic song outline, but then we all work to finish them. This batch of 6 songs was truly something we got to grow together because of quarantine. We are very attached to them.
The Palehound and Nick Kinsey producing collaboration feels like dumb luck, but thinking that might be imposter syndrome on our part. We are huge Palehound fans, and Nick had recently produced the new Waxahatchee album and they posted that they were looking for bands to produce as a team. We thought, ‘they are not going to answer our email, but lets shoot our shot’, and they got back to us within a night. (Cait might’ve been sleeping and woke up like “why tf is Palehound messaging me?!?!”)
Nick and Ellen were incredible. The studio is on a farm near Hudson, NY and provided incredible atmosphere. You can hear crickets chirping on all the vocal takes. We’ve never laid tracks down so fast. We had worked with rock n’ roll legend Tommy Stinson (The Replacements, Guns N’ Roses) as producer on our last release, Traumantic. That was a wild experience with maybe a little more drinking and not as much smoking, if that puts it into perspective. Both fun, but very different. Prior to that, Jesse recorded us from home which sounds great but was a bitch to produce. Its just really hard to produce yourselves.
MF: The day you had last month at Leesta Vall down in Brooklyn seems both awesome and intense, recording 30 songs in a row, each to be pressed to a one of a kind vinyl record. With only a handful of songs that fans could choose from, how did you approach each take, did each play of a track end up similar or did you switch things up take by take? Did anyone almost pass out from exhaustion?
CA: That was a WILD experience. We prepped hard for it. Super tight practice schedule (to a metronome because each vinyl only had 5 mins of space on it!) and multiple practices per week. It was so humbling to know 30 people were willing to spend 25$ for one song. The cool thing was that each take was personal. We could say, “Hey Dave, we can’t wait to come back to Nebraska.”, or be creepy weirdos and breathe heavy for our friend Luc. 30 takes of 6 songs all in a row for a MAX 3 hour session is absolute insanity. But we were so excited. We brought cashews and kombucha. We danced and shook it out between each take (except for Jon, slacker). We took it seriously to the point that we really cared to give good takes but not so much that it was robotic. We wanted to provide a unique experience. Then we drove home from NYC in a blizzard and slept for 3 days.
MF: What were some great releases you enjoyed from the past year? Anything too many people slept on that we should check out?
CA: YOU GUYS!!! Obviously you already know or else we are actively ready to fight you but the 518 KILLED this year!
Next up we’ll be talking to Pink Nois about the new album and what comes next. Check out SILVER SABRE at the link above to get familiar with a beautiful record featuring a slew of collaborations from other local artists.