Calliope Musicals bring color to Austin music —
August 9, 2020

Calliope Musicals bring color to Austin music

By Cat Cardenas

Showering their audience in confetti, surrounded by smiley faces and kaleidoscopic decorations, the members of Austin psych-folk band Calliope Musicals live their lives colorfully.

Founding members Carrie Fussell (lead vocals) and Matt Roth (guitar) met when Roth booked Fussell for her first gig at Pipes Plus on the Drag in 2008. Fast forward to 2016 and Craig Finkelstein (vibraphone), Josh Bickley (drums), Chris Webb (lead guitar) and Andrew Vizzone (bass) have joined the group, together receiving the honor of “Best New Band” at the Austin Music Awards this month.

The musical chemistry between Fussell and Roth was immediate, but once the other members joined the band, Roth said they evolved from their formerly folk-oriented sound to include psychedelic rock vibes.

“I think [their joining the band] had a lot to do with how our sound changed,” Roth said. “When we all came together, we were borrowing from so many bands and genres that it just kind of combined to give us our own sound.”

On stage, Fussell and her band members are a wild force. Their happiness is contagious, making it nearly impossible for audiences to leave without a smile on their faces. For the band, the happiness of their listeners is a priority — something they consider with each performance.

“A big part of Calliope that I always loved is the way that Carrie is involved the audience with the band,” Bickley said. “She makes it so that every single person feels like they’re a part of the experience — a part of the show.”

In their eight-year run, the band has released three EPs and is debuting their first full-length album, “Time Owes You Nothing” on April 15. On the album, Fussell said they didn’t want to try and capture the energy of their performances and instead wanted to let listeners focus solely on the songs themselves.

“This wasn’t about our live shows and the sweaty group of maniacs that dance around on stage with us,” Fussell said. “We didn’t necessarily go for [emulating the shows]. I think we really abandoned that notion. We wanted to take the songs we wrote and have them stand alone by themselves.”

While the album has been in the works for about five years, the songs are a mix of new and old material, some of them written before the band was fully formed.

Originally, Fussell and Roth were the primary songwriters, but Fussell said the band grew to include everyone’s distinct styles and sounds. Webb, who first came to the band to temporarily fill in on guitar, said he was surprised by how much they welcomed his creative input.

“(The collaboration) was one of the most exciting parts of Calliope Musicals,” Webb said. “At first, I tried to fit into their sound, but then we just started having fun and they let me do my own thing. There’s not an idea this band doesn’t try at least once.”

Much of the album’s songs are influenced by the past few years the group spent on tour, with Fussell’s lyrics acting as a sonic yearbook of their time together.

“Carrie’s always had a real talent of painting a road map of whatever event she’s talking about,” Roth said. “People who are involved in that story can just hear that song and then immediately be taken right back there.”

In shifting the focus of their sound in the studio, Roth said some stylistic choices have bled into their live shows, leading the band to experiment more with six-part harmonies in their songs.

“I think we grew a lot in the studio and I’m not sure how our fans will take it, but I think it’s going to be a different experience,” Roth said. “It was an adventurous take, but it took some kind of risk.”