Since their emergence on the California music scene in 2005, Catwalk has offered up blissed out, fuzzed up, garage pop rock, that yanks at the hem of the forefathers of white noise before them. Never shirking and always honest, front man Nick Hessler offers a gift wrapped blend of school boy/school girl love and longing that looms well beyond adolescent naivete. Nick and the rest of the gang have put out two EP’s on YAY! Records (“Shiny Girl” and “Past Afar”) and currently a full-length album is on the horizon.
Catwalk|One By Words
Ditte: What is the origin of the band name?
Nick Hessler: Always been kind of scared of this one. It was just a name we came up with in 2005 that didn’t sound completely ridiculous. It stuck and seemed to suit us, somehow. I guess I’m hoping the meaning will develop itself somewhere along the line.
D: Catwalk is based in Oxnard, California. What is the Oxnard music scene like? Do you think your sound is representative of where you’re from?
NH: There really isn’t a lot happening in the Oxnard area, or at least nothing we’re a part of. And typically when we play in the area, it’s usually put together by Eric from YAY! Records. I’d really like to start playing more out of the area. Now we’ll play in Oxnard rarely, if at all. The music isn’t significantly influenced by Oxnard, but the beaches and farmland areas have supplied plenty of space to daydream, which is where most ideas begin.
D: Has the lineup of Catwalk changed since you first assembled the band? Does a changing lineup of members influence your sound or your process?
NH: We’ve been through several line-up changes and still don’t have a permanent bassist. Thankfully my brother KC has been helping us out as much as he can, which has been more than any other bassist of ours! Fortunately, we’ve maintained a pretty solid idea for how we want to be. If it has played its role in how we sound, it’s not too significant. One thing’s for sure, constantly juggling members can really slow you down.
D: When did you first start writing music? Was Catwalk your first attempt at a band?
NH: I started recording in my garage sometime in 2004 just fooling around with some equipment I found. Then I got a four-track the following Christmas and that’s when I started taking it seriously. I put together a really short-lived half-baked version of Catwalk with my best friend at the time. I can’t tell you our band name because it’s far too embarrassing. We played one show at a Skate park and split. A few months later, I recorded some songs I felt were solid enough for a more serious band and started fleshing out a band with our drummer Rob. About 4-5 line-up changes later, it continues to expand in a positive way.
D: Despite your age, your music has depth and maturity that is multi-dimensional. Catwalk bears lyrics, chords and harmonies that extend beyond the traditional fuzz and cotton candy of traditional pop. Do you hear that often? That you’re beyond your years? Is it intentional, unconscious, something that happens along the way or just a fluke?
NH: It’s been said often, but I try to remain humble. Most of the time, everything’s subconscious and just comes together over time. I can’t help but write songs and I really enjoy recording at home. It comes very natural, in and out of itself, and usually unexpectedly. I take my time with songs and try to leave plenty of gaps between periods of writing so the songs can develop and work themselves out. It’s all about timing, really. Just like everything else.
D: The bulk of Catwalk songs carry the theme of love and longing. What inspires you when you write music? How do you go about crafting your songs?
NH: The three L-words: love, loss, and longing. I suppose it’s what some of the songs reflect. Inner-turbulence, things like that. I feel like in a sense I’ve been documenting my youth, now young adulthood because a lot of the songs are just about what I’m experiencing. The songs are generally pretty straight-forward and can be played with just three people. I usually start writing when I’m playing guitar, otherwise it could be a melody I’ve had in my head all day. I’ll be playing and naturally I’ll stumble across something that sticks. That’s when I’m able to tell if it’s worth expanding upon. I have this tendency to record every phase of a song before it’s actually complete. There will be 3-4 demo versions of a song before there’s a final recording. It can be a bit excessive, but it helps the songs flourish and I get a better sense of where the song is headed. Although I go through periods of writing and not writing, I remember what I first had in mind so the ideas are always there. Lyrics are usually written separately and brought to the table later once I’ve finished the music. It’s a different process entirely but it works for me. Then I show my demos to the band and we do the final touch-ups to adapt them in a live setting.
D: You’ve released “Shiny Girl’ and “Past Afar” on Yay Records, and currently you’re working on a full length album. Are there any plans to release the album on CD or do you prefer vinyl?
NH: I prefer vinyl but I’d like to have CD’s available to those who never hung on to their parents’ turntable. Vinyl’s big, but still not everyone has a record player. We’ll be doing a few cassette releases as well, so it’d be great to have our music available in every source.
D: . Catwalk has been playing a lot of shows lately– what are some of your most memorable shows?
NH: Eric puts together an annual Pajama Party in his garage, and I have early memories of those being fun. Also, there would be shows at this shack in Oxnard called the Kenji Shack. There was a point where the turn-outs were always good there. Our last show was at Spaceland with Woven Bones and the Meek and that was special for us, even though we couldn’t stick around for being underage!
D:. What are your greatest influences? What are some bands you’re enjoying right now?
NH: Recently, I’ve been kind of obsessed with just songs. I’ll be really into a song for about a month or so, and then I’ll find something new and listen to that for the next month. I really like Devon Williams’ “Sufferer” 7″ on Slumberland. Arthur Lee & Love, some Joe Meek stuff, Pete Drake, Alex Chilton…
D: What lies ahead for Catwalk?
NH: I don’t want to speak too soon or anything, but there are a few labels interested in putting out our album, as well as some short EP’s. It’s just a matter of getting it together to present in a live situation and start recording. So we’re just rehearsing the songs we want to record for the album, as well as some new songs that might be on something else. Hoping to play some more in LA and a show in San Francisco with the Never Never. We’ll begin recording our album very soon.