Red Moses (Vocals/Guitar) and Sami Knowles (keys, percussion, vocals) are Callow, a singer-songwriter two-piece from the black depths of the ocean. Often with only one floor tom, Sami will keep a steady percussive pace through entire songs, reminding one of the implacable rise and fall of the tides. Red and his guitar croon over the deep-yet-simplistic music, seeming to explore humanity’s heartache, its soul-searching, and its sorrow. Rarely does Chico get to witness something so honest, simple, and rich as San Francisco’s Callow. It’s kind of like watching a time-lapse of clouds skate over a lonely mountain range, and it feels a little bit like Sigur Ros, if they were American and sang with a little bit of cowboy-twang in their voices. This Friday, they’re bringing their highly visual panorama of music to 1078 Gallery, so I had a conversation with them to help Chico get to know Callow.
Tell me about your relationship with each other. How did you two meet? How has the music and the writing process changed from when you first began playing?
We met in San Francisco at a party in 2006, but we didn’t start playing music together until the fall of 2009. Sami just sat in last minute at a show in Stockton, CA. She played only a floor tom and cymbal at the time. Since then she has added the rest of the kit and a full size keyboard [she sings too]. Red comes up with the initial song [structure]—lyrics, key, chord progression… but once we start working together, it evolves into something completely different. At this point, it’s a collaboration process that neither of us could pull off without the other.
“Strange” is a fantastic song, and holds a lot of the things I like most about Callow. What is it about? What is its music video about?
Thank you! There are two videos for Strange now—one is produced by our friends Arielle Kathleen & George Sarris. They wanted to make a video to the song, and they had complete creative freedom with it.
The other was produced by Matthew Brown. It’s a story of two friends—one is going crazy, while the other is trying to help him through and be supportive.
Both videos explore different visions of Strangeness.
The song is about making up for hard times… fixing issues that may have fallen short in the past.
Who do you both agree on, in terms of musical influence? Who do you disagree on—Are there any artists one of you loves, and the other despises?
We agree on many artists in this respect… Pavement, Pink Floyd, Nina Simone, and Black Heart Procession to name a few.
We disagree on plenty of musical things, but there is not a particular artist one of us dislikes and the other loves (not one that comes to mind). If one of us really likes an artist and the other feels differently, the one who likes them will usually help the other see the light on the matter.
How did you arrive at this unique, highly visual “Callow-tone,” and what is this music’s purpose in the grand scheme of the world’s music?
We kind of came across this style organically— or, it just happened over time.
We were looking to play more emotive, paced music, and we just experimented a lot. Red is constantly working on getting the rich, gritty tones, so that shaped the sound a lot. A sound-man in Reno last month told him he was a tone snob.
The two of you were into gardening before Callow. How did that experience inform the music you make now?
Well, the only time we like being indoors is when the weather sucks or we’re playing music. Gardening is a task that leaves you a lot of time to think about things. You also have moments with gardening where you’re slashing and destroying. It’s both meditative and intense… as is our sound, I think.
Callow comes into Chico this Friday, June 13th, on tour in support of their latest album Blue Spells. Also featuring Slow Motion Drive (Sacto), Fera, and His Dreaded Norman Forces. 1078 Gallery, $5, 8pm.