Candy Claws' Ryan Hover on the new album, no plans to play live - Reverb

Candy Claws’ Ryan Hover on Harry Potter influences, no plans to perform live

Up until Tuesday, Fort Collins dream-pop act Candy Claws hadn’t done much to promote its new album, “Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time.” On Facebook and Twitter, Candy Claws busied itself with pictures of plants and nature, rather than building excitement among its fan base. The band has always shied away from the spotlight, despite the national and international love it gets from music blogs. This attitude is a good representation of the band’s music, too — lost in some ethereal world, without a care if anyone is along with them.

But, with Candy Claws’ latest release, “Ceres & Calypso in the Deep Time,” some of the dreaminess has been scaled back. It’s the band’s most accessible work yet, even though it’s an album made to be a “journey through the Mesozoic Era.” Hooks, choruses, verses and whispery vocals are all discernible among the waves of Animal Collective-like rhythms and soundscapes that morph from beachy guitar riffs to spaghetti westerns.

We reached out to Candy Claws frontman Ryan Hover via email (since he’s currently in Wales on a backpacking trip around Britain and Europe to see where the “Harry Potter” movies were filmed). Catching up with Hover, he told us about the band’s inspiration for the record and why Candy Claws doesn’t plan on playing live any time soon.

You have always had a fascination with the earth, nature, geography, etc. Can you tell me how you’ve worked this into the band’s sound and specifically into the concept of the new album?

You’re right when you say we’ve worked it into our sound. More than our lyrics or even our visuals, the sound of the records are shaped by their themes. For “In the Dream of the Sea Life” we compressed the mix like it was beneath miles of ocean water. On “Hidden Lands” we opened it up, slowed things down as it emerged onto land, into the open air. For “Ceres & Calypso” the mix got super compressed again as we sent it back through time and the music became mangled by time dilations, hidden dimensions, magma swell and magnetic thaw.

Musically, what influences were you drawing from on “Ceres & Calypso?” They are certainly varied from a listener’s perspective.

While recording, I listened to the entire Beatles discography for three months straight, driving to and from my job each day. It took about two weeks to finish the whole discography, then I’d start over. Besides them, you may detect hints of “Gold”-era Starflyer 59, “23”-era Blonde Redhead, Beach Boys / Phil Spector, ELO, Mancini, Bacharach, Sergio Leone, even James Bond / Harry Potter.

The music community has always associated Candy Claws with more of a free-form, atmospheric sound. Why the sudden adherence to more traditional song construction on the new album?

We’ve always had traditional pop song structures on our albums, but maybe they were hard to discern under the layers. But they’re there. I even wrote out the structures of every song on “Today!” by the Beach Boys and modeled “Hidden Lands” on it. Structurally, those two albums are identical. It’s just difficult to notice because the bridge of one of our songs might be so slow that it’s longer than the entire counterpart track on “Today!”

Now, with a more accessible sound in pop terms, is this an album that you want to be embraced by more mainstream audiences?

Pop music has always been my favorite thing to listen to, and making pop songs that also have artistic merit is my favorite musical challenge. Bacharach is a great example of this. You don’t have to know anything about music to enjoy “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “Blue on Blue,” or “Close to You,” but the more you do know about music, the more amazing his chord structures, time changes, passing notes, harmonies, etc. become. The Beatles are like this, too. Everyone likes them, or at least knows them, but musicians love them, because they pick up on how innovative their music was, yet how it all still worked as accessible pop. It’s easy, especially these days, to make weird sounds or huge beats, but it’s harder to write a really good song. The biggest complement, for me, would be that our music contains good songwriting.

So, would you say this is the first album you can be officially classified as a dream-pop band? Or, what label would you give Candy Claws?

We’re going exactly for dream-pop. On past albums, the dream has devoured the pop, but this time it’s symbiotic.

Is the label of dream-pop something overused or too interchangeable with other sounds?

I think it’s one of the more specific genres, actually. People familiar with the term pretty much know what you’re saying when you say it, and it’s easy to decode even if you’re unfamiliar with it. Pop music with a dreamy atmosphere.

Despite having played a number of festivals and shows in Colorado and the country, you have decided to stop playing live for the time being. Can you tell me what factors went into making this decision and what has the response from fans been like?

We’re just focusing on other things right now, like traveling, finishing school, working with kids and other creative projects. We’re not ruling out live shows in the future.

What would it take for Candy Claws to play live again, logistically?

A tabernacle choir, and Mastodon as our backing band.

Do you feel pressure from fans or management to play live, since its so ingrained into marketing a young band?

From fans it feels less like pressure, more like love. Our label, TwoSyllable, has been very, very generous to release this album knowing we won’t be able to tour behind it. It shows how much they believe in the music. But yes, touring is a big part of marketing a band, and that’s exactly the wrong reason to do it.

Without a live presence, what’s the strategy for the band to continue moving forward?

We’ve never really thought about the band that way. It’s always been more of a recording project, and as long as we’re able to keep making records on our own terms, we’ll be happy. We have a relatively small but enthusiastic audience, and that’s all any artist can ask for. Any more, and you’re just being greedy.

With so many ways to distribute music is it easier, or even more beneficial, for bands to focus on recording and selling and marketing music online?

It depends on what your goal is as a band. If you really want to “make it” you have to tour. But if you just want to make good records, you can do that from your bedroom.

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Reverb Managing Editor Matt Miller has a really common name so please use these links to find his Twitter account and Google + page. Or just send him an email to mrmiller@denverpost.com.

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  • Drew B

    Nice Job, Matt. Excited to hear this as I really like “Hidden Lands.” And for them to stop playing live makes sense- their live show wasn’t translating or doing their music any justice.