Chris Rehm and Sean Hart gave up on succinctly explaining the sound of Caddywhompus a while ago. “I know we used to call ourselves ‘noise pop,’ and then we were going with ‘avant pop’ for a while,” Rehm says in a phone interview with SPIN. He throws out a whole list of possible tags: Experimental noise rock. Math rock. Psych. Post-rock. Post-punk. None are entirely incorrect, but none quite fit, either.
Rehm, 26, and Hart, 27, are lifelong friends who grew up together in Houston, and now reside in New Orleans. Since 2008, they’ve played together as Caddywhompus, making bright, knotty guitar-and-drums music that zig-zags in every direction at once. It’s noisy—listening to a Caddywhompus song can feel like furiously shaking a can of something carbonated—but no matter how dissonant the build-up, the payoff is clean, aggression-free energy.
The duo’s latest album, Odd Hours, is their fourth full-length, and their third to be conceived as such. Longtime fans will pick up a new level of clarity and refinement in the production. For that, Rehm and Hart credit their friend Ross Farbe, who helped them record. “I recorded and mixed all our previous records, and I have kind of like a self-taught wall-of-noise, super smashed-out, weird recording technique,” Rehm says. “Ross is a little bit more traditional.”
“We brought in Ross ’cause he’s got more of a, in my opinion, Steve Albini kind of feel,” Hart explains. “We really stripped down, and instead of recording, you know, a slew of guitar amps and overdubs, we just did one guitar amp, and one drum set in the room, live, and just spent a lot more time doing a traditional, minimal mic placement. We actually got a bigger sound out of that.”
That bigger, dimensional sound allows Caddywhompus’ psych-pop side to shine through, and Rehm’s vocals surface with newfound clarity. “Repetition takes its toll / It’s on to something new / But if you want / I’ll… wait… for… you,” he sings over a clattering crescendo on “Appetite.” It’s classic Caddywhompus: a sharp, scattershot, tension-filled build-up, followed by a pause and a breath of air. On “Choir,” Rehm and Hart pack an album’s worth of melodic and rhythmic ideas into six minutes, but the structure enforced by a dozen unexpected left turns prevent their squiggly riffs from spiraling out into scribbles.
Another friend of the band, artist Max Seckel, created Odd Hours’ enigmatic cover: A collection of junk and debris—cinderblocks, a bicycle pump—surrounded by skinny trees and hanging Spanish moss, against an alligator warning sign on a chain-link fence and a gradient sunset. Seckel’s vision of beauty and decay, of a hundred pieces of Louisiana swamp flotsam come to rest, felt like the perfect visual accompaniment. “I had, personally, some direction that I was thinking for the album [art], and he just got to a blank canvas and started painting, and came up with that,” Rehm says. “I was like, ‘Yep, I couldn’t have explained this to you.'”
Odd Hours is out April 14 from Inflated Records. It’s streaming in full on SPIN for the week ahead of its release. Listen below.