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New 'Scrape the Summer' EP captures band at their best

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Caterpillar Tracks

Caterpillar Tracks

"Didn't we just do this shit two years ago?" vocalist/guitarist Shane Johnson laughs incredulously when I jokingly start the interview with a question about the band's musical influences. Three years actually, and while the band is understandably anxious to discuss their new EP, we've got some history and evolution to cover first.

Debuting in 2004, Caterpillar Tracks immediately sewed themselves into the fabric of the local Rock and Punk scenes, becoming welcome fixtures at showcases and basement shows alike. This was owed in part to the experience and focus of the band members but even more to the rich vein of Post-Hardcore they tapped. Their self-titled debut conveyed the band's hard-hitting sound and captivating guitar interplay, but only at their live shows could you experience the urgency and concise frenzy of chaotic drumming, off-kilter guitar syncopations and gritty vocal testimonies that defined the band from the start.

Then, at what seemed to be their peak, guitarist Dave Cupp decided to take a sabbatical in Europe. Once again, the members' maturity and chemistry proved to be an asset, turning what could have been a devastating blow for a new band into an incredible opportunity. In the late summer of 2005, Cupp returned to play a string of stateside shows, and then the rest of Caterpillar Tracks followed him back to Germany and played a handful of dates there and in the Czech Republic.

"We were met with very enthusiastic people that had never heard of us," recalls Cupp. "It was really refreshing."

"The second time we played Berlin, we were definitely greeted as liberators," deadpans Johnson. "There were two people wearing our shirts from the first time we played there. The audience wanted an encore and when we told them we were out of songs, they were like, 'Play the same songs again!' They were literally pushing us back on stage."

Even after Cupp's return, other musical projects and priorities distracted the band. But fortunately, it didn't prevent them from building momentum. Through their relationship with Cincy-based label Phratry Records and the networking they had done with like-minded acts around the region, they were able to share local stages with extremely talented touring acts as well as organizing their own long-weekend tours of various Midwestern cities.

Another speed bump-turned-blessing was the addition of Matt Tomlinson on bass (also of Humans Bow Down and guitarist/vocalist for The Strongest Proof). His rhythmic agitations are the ideal reinforcement for CT's restless guitar riffs, and he had no trouble finding a lockstep with drummer Joe Suer.

Back at full strength and reinvigorated, this lineup set about documenting some of the songs that had been developing for almost two years. After several experiments with recording methods and locations, the band ended up back at Candyland Studios, but determined to make a different sounding album this time around.

"It's more of a document of us," explains Cupp, "whereas the first record was how you'd make a big Rock record sound, more of a template approach. This is more our color."

Scrape the Summer is an evolutionary step for Caterpillar Tracks. The self-titled LP was an exercise in layering, and while the parts worked well together, they maintained distinct characteristics. On this EP, the songs' maturity acts as a catalyst. Just like a pot of chili tastes better the day after it's made, the musical ingredients have had time to meld, creating new flavors.

The band has never lacked cohesion, but now their complexity is more subtle and organic. Sounds and textures that would have been boosted and in your face on the last album now lurk below the surface and give a new depth to every track.

"We're putting more effort into this than any of us has ever done in terms of promotion," says Cupp, whose own fledgling label, Bacteria Lounge, is sharing duplication costs and promotional efforts with Phratry.

"I'd like to put out good records, have good little tours, not stress ourselves out and not lose money," Tomlinson says.

There are quite a few regional and national acts out there following this formula. Caterpillar Tracks has plugged into this network and has everything it takes to make it work: experience, motivation and music that people want to hear.

CATERPILLAR TRACKS (caterpillartracks.com) hosts a CD release party Saturday at the Gypsy Hut with Mallory and Mala In Se.

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