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"Record companies want bands to make the same song 12 times and call it an album," sighs Cavil At Rest singer/guitarist Taylor Rice. "I think people listen to music now in iPod-shuffle mode. I mean, that's what Ido."
With three singer/songwriters, a penchant for quirky percussion breakdowns live (yes, they have a djembe, jam-band fans) and songs that can sound like three different ones woven together, Mission Viejo's all-over-the-place quintet turn youthful ADHD into an asset.
Cavil At Rest began in high school when singer/guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Hahn and Rice paired up to write songs under their optimistic moniker, which means "put aside your petty differences." The "Can't we all just get along?" aesthetic first meant one nation under a dance groove, but Cavil At Rest abandoned the indie-cum-beats soon after the Franz Ferdinand/Killers bands started proliferating. "We didn't want to sound like trend riders," Rice explains.
These days, the band has matured into a soaring but not sappy hybrid of Crosby, Stills & Nash and Incubus. Their songs are just as likely to have samples and thick, arching beats as three-part harmonies by the wildly varying trio of front men (Rice, the smiley normal guy; Hahn, the Marc Bolan-haired heartthrob; and Kelcey Ayer, the crazy bearded dude. Drummer Matthew Frazier and bassist Andy Action fill out the lineup).
Cavil At Rest have an album, Orion Way, but, explains Rice, it's just songs compiled from the band's first three EPs. "We've only ever recorded in garages with M-Boxes and computers," he laments, explaining that despite the band's tony upbringing, nobody's ponied up for real studio time yet. But the songwriting and range are already there, even if they come across better live. "Sun Hands" starts with tentative guitar and turns into tense harmonies in that neurotic Talking Heads way before heading into a freak-out that rocks as much as it resolves the track's tense setup.
Coming from a bunch of South County college kids, Cavil At Rest's music could be pegged as indie pop that gets weird for weirdness' sake, owing to self-hating insecurity (see Jeff Tweedy). But listen closer, and you can hear ideas evolving and shape-shifting before your very ears. With the tonal range vocal- and songwriting-wise that comes from having three singers, Cavil At Rest are more Gomez than the Beatles, but at least they're not boring. Live, they can win over the jam-band kids and the indie hipsters, even though the band themselves are neither: They've played with Jimmy Eat World, but prefer gigs at Chain Reaction with pals such as LA's the Outline.
Cavil At Rest's claim to fame so far is their MTV2 hit video for "Who's There." Film-school friends turned the band into Claymationed black-and-white portraits singing and playing cardboard instruments; eventually, caterpillars cocoon the guitars and turn them into butterflies. The video debuted last spring—"Right above Regina Spektor," Rice notes, "which is stupid"—and has since become a buzz track, putting them in the same oft-viewed company as the Annuals and Klaxons. The strength of the video let them tour as far east as Chicago this summer, and inspired the band to drop out of their colleges (UCLA and Pepperdine, among them) to focus on music full-time.
"Our parents offered words of caution, not heeded," Rice says with a laugh before adding, "We're not worried we're gonna be destitute when we're 45."
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