In a world rife with the epidemic of over consumption and commodification, CALICO-the band’s music provides a well needed retreat. To those suffering from feelings of emptiness in the urban metropolis of Los Angeles their discerning lyrics offer much hope. In what is their second album … CALICO-the band have deliberately moved away from conventional clichés and assembled a more progressive sound without letting their essence be abbreviated. The group was under no obligation to pick up where their debut, “Rancho California” left off; and probably best they hadn’t! Many changes have led to a brilliant second outingUnder Blue Skies”. The duet of Kirsten Proffit and Manda Mosher have expanded their style. As specific and well-defined as it twas’ they’ve created a firm uprooted American rock & roll album. Albeit all press referring to them as “Americana” is stagnating, as it tis’ for any rock band. To me, Americana means music that emanates from America. Needless to say the music may receive two hours of “block” airplay at Non-Commercial radio is like leaving money at the table in Las Vegas. It’s their ethos of rock and roll (there’s nothing more Americana than rock and roll) is what makes “Under Blue Skies” a great album.

The idea of a female rock group melding down-home sentiments with an upbeat empowered attitude is always compelling. The stories are engaging and their vocals sing in an edgier harmony distancing from many of the hallmarks of their past album. The opening track, “Fine Line” drives forward with a fever pitch a sonic thrust from producer Steve Berns.. It’s got the Byrds’/ Tom Petty “jangle” with a “Lee Hazelwood” attitude…a psychedelic folk-rock opus of likes… “Playing for a livin’ and livin” to play” are the lyrics that stick with you.…But it’s not until the song,“The 405” where Proffit finds herself devising a perfect metaphor of distant love separated on the world’s most dreaded freeway.. The lyrics are tremendous, commenting on the need for escape and independence simultaneously.Their band plays the song with supreme modesty; not because they feel the song is too straightforward – rather because they recognize the beauty in its purest form of American music.

We at Rock Bands of L.A.com had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Proffit and Ms. Mosher…

Rock Bands of L.A.com:

Lovers of Americana music look for something simple;and a home for singers who can sing, writers who can write, players who can play.. And this is what you do best.. The genre has been depicted through music a nation that was once founded on adaptation and expansion — into new territory, new markets, and new models for society. And “Under Blues Skies” has broken through and beyond the cliched’ nomenclature of “Americana” and has created a brilliant rock and roll album. Buffalo Springfield brought about Poco and Crosby Stills & Nash and sometimes with Young. The Byrds had “begotten” Gram Parsons and Tom Petty… I guess that makes Dylan the Grandpa? Your music is too good to have it relegated to a few hours a week on Non-Com radio stations.. There’s been a real morphing in your music…. It just sounds more determined and confident.. better lyrics… better songs.. actually, better everything.
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Ms. Proffit:
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 “Thank you for those comparisons Jeff, these are some of our heroes. When we were creating this record, we tried to allow the songs to become what they would organically. We didn’t want to put limitations on them and if it took the record in a direction, then so be it. We were really into the guitar sounds and wanted to focus on getting fantastic, solid rhythm tracks. We also thought it would be a better idea on this album to have one lead vocal on each track with harmony vocals backing them up, rather than trading verses like we did on Rancho. Going into this record, we determined to make it “better” in every way. We knew we had grown into our sound so we had more of a foundation from which to build this time. Having the record mixed by Jim Scott on his vintage “Neve” board put it over the top for us and gave it a congruency and fullness that we were hoping for”.
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 Ms. Mosher:
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“I love that it comes off as a rock and roll album and think the confidence on this record compared to our first record came along with having more experience and time together as a band. Dylan is the great master teacher.”
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Kirsten Proffit and Manda Mosher
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 Rock Bands of L.A.com:
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How much did Steve Berns help in this music maturation change? Is he a “task master? You always hear these horrible stories of what happens behind the studio glass? He did a magnificent job!
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 Ms. Proffit:
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 “Steve Berns’ patience and willingness to listen to us and actually hear what we were trying to create was paramount to the making of this record. He keeps up on current techniques in recording and sorts through what will work best for us. If anyone is a taskmaster, I am afraid we have probably over tasked him! We are all friends, he has done front of house sound for us on many theater shows and outdoor venues and he has helped us develop our sounds and balances between the instruments. So, making this record with him was a real group effort between Manda, myself and Steve and we were on the same page 90 percent of the time simply because of our comfort level with each other. Steve definitely had brilliant ideas and many of the string arrangements were his “baby” so to speak. He was focused on getting the pedal steel, violin, additional guitars to serve as part of a landscape that support the core of the band with the 3 part vocals at forefront.” 
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Ms. Mosher:
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“Steve and Kirsten are a true producers team; they’ve been working together for many years and have a way of being on the same page with production and how to achieve the sounds they’re envisioning. Steve & Kirsten produced our first record, “Rancho California”, and believe the maturation of the new album was a group effort of growth and experience combined with a new set of material to dress up. Steve gave us the space and time to experiment in the studio instead of being on a time clock type of studio situation which can happen out there. Steve cares deeply for what we are all creating with this band.” 
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Rock Bands of L.A.com:
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CALICO-the band is now a “duet” from a “trio”… Did the making of “Under Blue Skies” seem less challenging.. or was it more  bilateral decisions?
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Ms. Proffit:
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“We began the recordings when the band was still technically a trio. As we streamlined the group, we decided to take the last 8 songs and lock down some pre-production with just Manda and me along with our core rhythm section, Ted Russell Kamp and Matt Lucich. After some successful sessions, we went into the studio with the 4 of us and they were probably the most laid-back, fun and rewarding sessions we have ever had. Having laid the basic tracks down, we then sifted through what else we would put on each song, trying not to overload the productions. Manda and I have been together on this project now for over 4 years and our report is impeccable. We have come to realize that being direct and honest about how we feel regarding the sound of the band is just something we have to do so we really listen to each other. We talked A LOT about the record as it was happening, we wanted each other to be happy about the way it came out.”
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Ms. Mosher:
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“It is challenging when a band member dynamic changes within a band especially during the creation of an album. Kirsten and I have been the core songwriters and vocalists from the beginning so we just had to make sure our vision for the songs came to fruition in a way we were both happy with.” 
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Rock Bands of L.A.com:
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I’ll be honest… I love when you “cover” songs.. I think you can do an entire album of covers… Why “California Dreaming”

Ms. Proffit:

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“And we say, “Why not?” California Dreamin’ is the quintessential epic vocal arrangement from the 60’s. This is a song that everyone knows, we are Californians to the core. The 12 string Ric? The Greg Leisz pedal steel solo? It is a classic in every way and we wanted to pay homage to the original while still giving the tune a Calico spin. The lead was originally male vocal, we love replacing a male vocal with 2-part harmony female vocal. It automatically gives the song another dimension. We also were able to record this one at Jim Scott’s studio in Santa Clarita with a dream team of musicians that we are still grinning about.” 

 

Rock Bands of L.A.com:

The album goes back and forth but the song, “Into The Unknown” came as a real jolt. I couldn’t help but recall the myth behind the great Gram Parsons. He died in his motel room and when his body was being sent back to his family for burial his friend and producer, Phil Kaufman  literally stole the body  at the the airport in L.A.and returned it to Joshua Tree where he carried out the pact he had with Parsons to be cremated at Cap Rock..

The True Cosmic Cowboy.. Gram Parsons.

Ms. Mosher:

“Into The Unknown” feels a bit like an outlier on the record mostly because the story is heavier and hard to digest when you take in all the details. We were on tour and drove up to a scene on the road that you never want to see. A motorcyclist had fatally crashed and we pulled up before all the emergency vehicles had arrived…this man lost his life moments before and there was an eerie ghostly feeling of being caught in the transition of his spirit which brings up questions. The incident just stuck with us until it came out in a song…the story of the verses came out in one of those inspired sit downs where the lyrics lay themselves out in front of you almost faster than you can write them down. It really makes you think about where you go after you die…the unknown. We like to think that we’re honoring that man on the motorcycle when we sing that song.”

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Ms. Kirsten:
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“Regarding the production of “Into the Unknown” we thought it would be a great opportunity to do a cinematic style recording, lush with a little technology thrown in. We normally keep the music pretty organic as far as real instruments, we did play guitars, drums, bass a little banjo and keys but we though in some effects on this one. We were thinking Pink Floyd with an enveloping harmony vocal in the chorus, we want the song to just wash over
the listener with a bit of grandeur.”
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In an era when musical careers seem to rise and fall in mere months. It’s reassuring and inspiring to hear a much improved CALICO-the band“Under the Blue Skies” is both fresh and familiar. The band succeeds admirably on both fronts. And so, the legacy continues with CALICO-the band

I want to thank Kirsten and Manda for their time a effort… they are really the best!

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Here’s their site where you’ll find more information about the album release and tour…
https://www.calicotheband.com/
Their album will be released on Sept. 13th on Country California Records
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