Pittsburgh Trio Calyx rejoice the discharge of an explosive and long-awaited full-length file
By Ethan Gordon
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
The first time Caitlin Bender, Jon Ahn, and Garett Cassidy met, it would be another five years before they started playing together in Calyx.
In 2008, Ahn and Cassidy were slated to be playing a series of shows with an old band, starting in Alabama when the opening act they bonded with suddenly broke up. “Instead of telling us that they broke up and couldn’t do the tour, some of them decided to start another band in two weeks and do the tour with us. Caitlin was part of that band, ”says Cassidy.
In 2013, Bender moved north to Pittsburgh and put Calyx together with her old tourmates. Since then, Calyx has been a mainstay at DIY venues across the country and has released a number of solid EPs and singles. Their first full-length album, Stay Gone, is the culmination of seven years of touring, songwriting and collaboration. “I always thought, ‘We just have to record three songs at a time, tape them and go. ‘ [Jon and Garett] said that we can’t go on with that, ”laughs Bender.
After listening to Cassidy’s tight drum work, Ahn’s anchoring bass lines, and Bender’s beautiful and elliptical lyrics, it is clear that the album is an early contender for the most explosive and gripping punk record of 2021.
After playing all over the world from Florida to California in 2019, the trio settled in Philadelphia’s Big Mama Studio in early February to work on Stay Gone with Evan Bernard of The Superweaks. The meetings quickly turned out to be both intense and exciting, with ten to sixteen hour days the order of the day.
“If you have the time and money and do the whole process, you want to be with someone who is excited to work with you and who is a fan of your band. So that was just because we knew Evan. Says Ahn. “Evan was just our damn stone.”
These dedicated studio sessions brought us the best possible version of Stay Gone as the album easily switches between infectious pop songs like “Pacific Light Wave” and more involved storytelling on tracks like “Leslie Plain and Strong” and “Money Blood”.
“Leslie” is one of the strongest songs on the album with its sharp running time of two minutes and revealing depiction of a lifetime. With lines like “Leslie was born where she’d like to die, gray skies just mean cooler weather, keep her food separate on her plate, Spain was fine, but Mississippi’s finer,” Bender captures a piece of life that small communities in all parts of the land is common.
“It happens all over the country, so I’ve always found it fascinating that it has so much to do with the south, but there is the atmosphere of a small town, of being happy with everything you were born with,” says Bender. “Leslie is a real person and she was so super pleasant. She just wanted different things in life and was really happy with who she was. “
When Cassidy and Ahn aren’t playing with Calyx, they spend time in the hardcore band Edhoculi. “Garett and I have been playing together since 2007, so we know each other pretty well musically,” says Ahn. “Bender comes with a skeleton of a song and she presents it to Garett and [me] and then we say, ‘Okay, cool. Now let’s break it and make it damn crazy. ‘”
Like many live bands, COVID-19 put a heavy strain on the group. While Calyx is hoping to play shows in support of the album, the trio hasn’t even been able to practice for now. Given the importance of performance to the group, it’s no wonder the Stay Gone title came from touring.
“We played in this warehouse [someone] had turned into this DIY space, ”says Bender. “After that it was hot and I went for a walk to get some air. I was standing on the edge of a construction viewing zone, this no man’s land. I just looked at the twinkling lights and thought about how many people would think so many parts of touring life would be Hell and how much I like it.
“I’ll start crying because I miss it. I remember thinking I just wanna stay away “