January 22, 2009

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On tour with Calico
Gravehaven’s new album digs into new sounds
By Dana Unger dunger@hippopress.com

Gravehaven is a Boston band that has not forgotten its New Hampshire pedigree. The five members of this progressive rock and punk outfit continue to cultivate fans in the Granite State as they tour New England in support of their new album, Calico.

“Four of us are from Nashua, and one is from Milford,” said guitarist Evan Crisman in a Jan. 8 interview from Boston. “We all kind of went to college down here and have been playing Boston for a while, but we always like to play New Hampshire.”

The band is out in full force to support their new release. They will appear on the Scorch show on MCAM TV-23 on Monday, Feb. 2, and will follow that up with a performance at Milly’s Tavern in Manchester on Saturday, Feb. 7, along with Kid:Nap:Kin, The Cambiata, The Vital Might and The States.

Gravehaven got their start playing around New Hampshire and Boston venues like T.T. the Bear’s and The Middle East and, perhaps not so surprisingly, they found the two scenes quite different.

“There’s a lot more clubs down here,” Crisman said. “It’s more of a 21-plus crowd. In New Hampshire, there’s a lot more kids that seem to be interested in us. I grew up playing at places like Cafe Eclipse and Lions Club shows and legion halls.”

The band has put out two self-released albums, including 2006’s Perceptions for the Colorblind, which garnered national and local press. The band’s new album, Calico, seeks to bring Gravehaven’s sound to a new level. The 2008 studio release was produced by Kris Smith, who has worked with bands like the Dropkick Murphys and Olympia, and mixed by Matthew Ellard, who has mixed for Morphine and Converge.

“We released one CD that was more of a post-punk sound – heavier and faster and a lot less song-oriented,” Crisman said. “This new one is pretty much all about the songs — the production was better, and just in all the work we put into it. We try to stay true.”

Though the band tries to keep to its hard-rocking, punk sound, Calico sees Gravehaven experimenting with new sounds and instruments, including mandolin, mellotron, banjo, Wurlitzer and some acoustic instruments.

“It’s helped the overall sound,” Crisman said. “There was something that was missing from our first [album] and we all knew it.

So we said, let’s go for it. We had a mellotron that we wanted to use badly and were able to. We went down and played Dewy Beach and got compared to The Pogues, so our spectrum has really broadened.”

The band keeps fans updated with an ongoing photo and video blog, where they documented the recording of their new album as well as their current tour.

“With this CD we did a lot more video documenting,” Crisman said. “We had a guy named Cody doing a documentary from day one and put up a blog for the CD. We figured it worked with Barack Obama.”

Documenting the recording process for the album also became an important tool for the band itself.

“We got videos all along the way,” Crisman said. “We could self-edit what we wanted to use, so we could see what was working and what wasn’t. It helped us to understand what we like, what we don’t, and what we want to do next time.”

The band’s influences and the comparisons they get cross the spectrum of musical genres.

“We have a big range of what we like,” Crisman said. “We get comparisons to Muse and even Mars Volta, but the bands that we like are more in the songwriting realm and that’s where we’d like to go. All the bands we play with now are great — there are so many in Boston that are overlooked.”

Crisman also says that bands like his try to help each other navigate the waters of Boston’s music scene.

“If there’s a mutual respect between two bands, they’ll help each other out,” Crisman said. “We’ll try and get them shows, and they’ll try and get us shows. There’s never any bad blood. It’s all about music. We really try and support each other.”

This year, the band’s focus has been primarily set on the new CD, getting the music out to as many audiences as possible, and continuing the momentum they’ve built for themselves.

“The last two years was a lot of recording,” Crisman said. “We were like ‘let’s get this CD out there and show people what we can do, and then go out and play as many shows as we could’ — which I think we accomplished. We just want to play as much as we can.”


Gravehaven
• Monday, Feb. 2, at 8:15 p.m., Scorch’s PFG-TV, MCAM TV-23
• Saturday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m., Milly’s Tavern, 500 Commercial St., Manchester.