On their earthy, jubilant new album, the Columbus, Ohio band Caamp examine those in-between days that make up a life—not the best or most eventful days, certainly not the worst or most tragic, but those full of small pleasures and forgotten disappointments. Taylor Meier, the group’s singer and primary songwriter, came up with the phrase Lavender Days to describe them—a phrase that struck him out of the blue, “like a coconut out of the sky,” he says with a laugh. Why lavender? “It’s nostalgic. It can remind you of your grandmother’s perfume or maybe the air freshener in your mom’s car. It can summon up all of these incredible memories and transport you to those in-between days, which I think everybody remembers with more clarity than the big events.”
Caamp’s music can provoke a similar reaction in listeners: Its unique mix of West Coast folk, Midwestern Americana, and cathartic indie rock sounds warmly familiar, like a favorite comforter, and yet still fresh enough that listeners can make their own associations and find their own meanings. As Meier sings on the album’s achingly quiet closer, “Sure Of,” “I hope when you’re looking back, you look back with love.”
Caamp have been writing and singing about those lavender days—in tender love songs tinged with melancholy and determination—ever since Meier played his first notes with bandmate Evan Westfall more than a decade ago. They formed the band at Ohio University in Athens, playing local coffeehouses and growing more committed to this extracurricular project.With the addition of Matt Vinson on bass and Joseph Kavalec on keyboards, they built up a grassroots following well beyond the Buckeye State based on the inventiveness of Meier’s songwriting, the exuberance of their live performances, and their tireless dedication to touring as much as possible.
In 2020, however, they were taken off the road by the pandemic—a fate they shared with all artists—and were forced to slow down and take stock. “The past two years have been a big learning curve for us, especially since Caamp is centered on travel and human interaction. That all got stripped away very suddenly. I lost my livelihood, then I lost a very deep love of mine. I lost my beloved dog. Then we all got Covid. You start to lose your sanity.” Even as it presented so many tragedies, those lavender days afforded Meier the space to reflect on them. “I learned a lot and I humbled myself. I think I became more patient, and I know I became more vulnerable around my bandmates, my friends, and my family. Getting these songs to tape was a huge part of that process of learning and healing.”
As soon as they could, they were back on the road, writing songs during soundchecks—including “Believe,” a rousing declaration of devotion whose harmonies sparkle like sunlight on water. In February 2021, they took a batch of new songs down to North Carolina, where they recorded at Sylvan Esso’s studio outside Durham. There they worked with producer Brad Cook (Waxahatchee, Snail Mail) to figure these songs out, emphasizing the brotherly chemistry and unbreakable trust among the four members. “The boys”—that’s what Meier affectionately calls his bandmates—“recognized what this record meant to me. They saw where I was coming from. So we had this mission to make it sound as real and as true and as human as possible. I had this epiphany one day and realized that I couldn’t have made it here on my own. These songs wouldn’t have the little intricacies and intimacies and the depth that Evan, Matt, and Joe brought out of them. We’re stronger as a band than we would be by ourselves. I’m just papier-mâché without the boys.”
Finishing the album back in Columbus, Caamp thought of Lavender Days as a journey, as a story they were telling to themselves and to their fans. “I like my records to read like books. I want there to be motifs and themes and character arcs and all those wonderful elements from our favorite novels.” Opener “Come With Me Now” is the preface: an invocation to an ancient muse, an invitation to follow them on their journey. It started humbly, as a 15-second voice memo Meier recorded on his phone—barely a kernel of a song. But the boys heard something in it and turned it into a cathartic introduction with a steady, exuberant crescendo into a full gospel chorus. From there Caamp take you on a walk deep into the woods and through the lavender days of a long, loving relationship. It’s nothing so bitter as a break-up album, but a rumination on the work it takes to keep two people together. As Meier sings on the plaintive “All My Lonesome,” “If you’re looking for a good time, this is not your love.”
As a songwriter and storyteller, Meier mixes gravity and whimsy in equal measure, which lends the album a magical realist quality. Not every songwriter would risk comparing himself with an otter, using that humble creature to convey such astonishment at the world. That’s what he does on “The Otter,” whose melody sounds like it’s been passed down for generations in the Appalachian foothills. The song startled him when he wrote it. “I’m enthralled by the way it came out of me. I was sitting in the tour van with my guitar, enjoying the nice weather and just singing to myself, and the song just came out of me. Otters are playful little creatures, but they’re pretty tough. They can crack open an oyster with their bare hands.”
Lavender Days reaches its conclusion with the late-night epiphany of “Sure Of,” which features just Meier’s voice and guitar. ‘That recording is actually a voice memo! I was in my loft in Columbus when I wrote it. It was a significant date for me—a past love in a past world—and I was having a hard time that night. That song came to me and made things a little better. It’s not perfectly in key or in tempo, but that just made it sound more alive to me. So we just used that version instead of trying to make it perfect in the studio.” It’s quiet yet big-hearted, as Meier ponders the nature of love and how it changes us. It’s a sad but generous farewell.
“Sure Of” isn’t just an intimate moment or an insightful song. It’s a testament to how music can get us through our toughest times and how it might help us make sense of our best times. “Songs can put moments into a chrysalis. They’re like time capsules, and they let you look at those moments from the outside. I’ve always written songs based on real-life experiences, but this record is especially vulnerable. I think it’s a record that reassures you, whatever stage you’re at in your life, that it will all be okay. Eventually you’ll look back on these lavender days and take something valuable away from them.”
Publicity Contact: Dana Erickson & Meghan Helsel