CAAMP: TAYLOR MEIER
PHOTOS BY BEN MEIER, FRAENCESKA, CONOR STRATTON, TOMMY MOORE
INTERVIEW BY TOMMY MOORE
Started by boyhood friends Evan Westfall and Taylor Meier, CAAMP came to life in Athens, Ohio. Taylor began penning and playing original songs at coffee shops around Athens in 2013. Evan moved down a couple of years later and together in a hazy attic, enjoying light beers, they would find the heartfelt sound that became CAAMP. Since independently releasing their self-titled first record in 2016, they have climbed Spotify charts, headlined the US, purchased denim jackets and added a bass- playing buddy, Matt Vinson- who also enjoys light beers and denim. With the recent release of their third album “By and By,” the Ohioan trio has high hopes and no reservations.
Tommy Moore: I just recently ran across your new solo project. I had heard all your singles a few months back, I just came across the full album a couple weeks ago. It’s rock solid! I love to hear a different version of that “CAAMP” sound that me and my pals have loved for so long. Can you expand a bit about the making of that and your creative process?
Taylor Meier: Yeah, that’s easy to talk about really. My creative process is nothing profound. Most of the time I’m just strumming guitar. Guitar is what I write on, for the most part. Sometimes piano and sometimes the drums, but guitar is really where I sit. Usually it’s in the morning or at night, and I just strum chords that I know and find little progressions—grabbing things out of the air almost. Sometimes you hear something, and sometimes you don’t. From there, the process is essentially the same for CAAMP and Sumbuck. I get a couple of verses and a chorus, or a bridge or a hook, and then depending if it’s Sumbuck, I would bring it to my buddies, Matt, the bassist of CAAMP, and Brandon from Oranjudio, which is the studio used to record here in Columbus. I bring down the bones and then say, “These are my thoughts. I think I want this one to sound like...” With a lot of the references I was giving for Sumbuck, I wanted nostalgia and I wanted it to feel like—and feel like it sounds like are different—I wanted it to feel like Van Morrison and feel like Sam Cooke even though it doesn’t really sound like either of them. It was more about capturing the energies and then coming up with arrangements.
Right now, we’re starting to arrange and demo out CAAMP LP four. The process works the same way. I bring bones of the songs, usually it’s two verses and the chorus, or something like that. I’ll bring them to the boys, and that’s when Ev writes his banjo parts, or if it’s a drum one, we come up with the beat with help from Joe and Matt. Me, Joe, and Matt were working through a song I’ve had written forever, and just a couple minor changes to the chord progression and the timing of the chord changes blew my mind. That’s something I think has really enhanced our work lately. The collectivity and using my best friend’s as my bandmates to not only make awesome sounds, but have a really good time doing it. I think that’s almost as important.
Tommy Moore: It’s so important to have that mix—that openness with the people you’re working with. It’s also so freeing not working in a vacuum where everything just spins exactly the same way.
Taylor Meier: Right, and it’s easy to work in a vacuum for sure. I feel like I used to do that and used to be very to myself, but this feels way better. It usually ends up far beyond what someone could do as one person when you open up like that, too.
Tommy Moore: Now, Sumbuck and CAAMP are very different projects, but are both of those what you would have expected yourself to be making when you were growing up in the Midwest and with all the influences here? Or has that changed and morphed over time?
Taylor Meier: It’s hard to say. I guess it always could have been different, but it came out this way, so it feels like it was supposed to come out this way. Even if I could, I wouldn’t go back and change the way anything sounds. It’s where you are and who you are at that time. I guess I never really had a plan. I never saw myself being one type of musician or any type of person. You just end up being a culmination of all the things that you hear and do.
Tommy Moore: I think both sounds have that—and I don’t know how to describe it—that Midwest tone where the folk roots meets that little bit country that blends with a touch of indie. It’s really the Midwest in itself.
Taylor Meier: Absolutely dude. I feel the same way. I have friends from just outside Cincinnati that sing country, and then friends up in Cleveland that are that real indie, and then Columbus is kind of a mix of everything. We started making music in Athens, so that part of me is always going to have a little twang. My mom’s side of the family comes from West Virginia, too, so I’ve always had that affection for acoustic instruments.
Tommy Moore: What type of world do you envision your music living in?
Taylor Meier : I really don’t know. I was going fishing this summer with my cousin out in Idaho, and we were just drifting along the river. He was saying he was just with these two, crazy Dead Heads, and was playing CAAMP on his little Bluetooth. He played us for half an hour, and then one of the guys goes, “Yo, who the hell is this? I can’t pin it. It’s kind of country, kind of rock’n’roll, and kind of folky, but the licks don’t sound like anything, and the voice doesn’t sound like anything.” My cousin TJ says, “Yeah, man, it’s CAAMP. They’re just CAAMP,” and I kind of like that. We kind of live in our own world. We definitely don’t limit ourselves with what we write. If we write a rock’n’roll song, we’re going to make a rock’n’roll song. Of course I think we have style, and we all have tastes, but as long as what comes out is heating that call, I think we call it CAAMP.
Tommy Moore: Did all you guys come in with a the same influences? Or are there different pulls from everybody there?
Taylor Meier: A lot of the same and a lot of different. We listen to so much music. It’s hard to say. We all just like a lot of music, and that’s kind of what you hear in the solo projects, too. Ev has El Camino Acid—rock and roll. Marty has the Wonderfool—very indie folk. Then I have Sumbuck. But we all listen to a ton of the same shit and a ton of shit that the other people don’t like.
Tommy Moore: I guess that’s the beauty of solo projects. Fans, whenever they see a solo project from a band member, always get scared a little bit. It’s just how reactionary everybody is about certain things. Creatively though, it seems like the perfect escape when it comes to getting out whatever itches you have.
Taylor Meier: That’s exactly how we think about it. Everyone’s mind jumps to the worst and situation, and everyone always thinks you’re breaking up. It’s like, “No, we’re not breaking up. CAAMP is still very much a band and on tour all the time and making a new record.” We’re just trying to scratch other itches, like you put it.
Tommy Moore: I remember I was on a Twin Peaks kick and found El Camino Acid one day. I love finding those little connections like that and seeing the different routes that people can go. It’s good to see from my creative perspective, and makes me check myself that I’m not being that tight in everything I’m doing too.
Taylor Meier: That’s something we learned from people we look up to. You don’t have to have all your eggs in one basket and you shouldn’t. It’s so fun to work with other people and to experiment in different mediums and different sounds. That’s what it’s about, because we bring the best of what we learned back to CAAMP.
Tommy Moore: What kind of impact have the outdoors and camping, or hiking, or whatever kind of outdoor getaways you guys have, had over the years on your creativity and the band as a whole?
Taylor Meier: The outdoors have always been a really important part of my life. I think most people would say that too if they just took a moment to stand out in the woods. That’s just something I had an appreciation from early on. My grandpa taught me how to fish and is a big fly fisherman, hunter, and preservationist, and my uncle took that on and then taught it all to us. Aside from myself, we all enjoy getting out there. Matt lived in Denver for two years. He loves the mountains, and like I said, I go to Idaho a lot. My brothers live out in Montana. The mountains and nature are integral. It’s centering, and important more and more these days to take things like that to heart, especially when they’re disappearing before our eyes. So the fact that we sing about it in our songs, I don’t even really think about it. A song’s almost not a song—at least not a Taylor Meier song—unless it’s got some sort of pine tree in it.