Sometimes trends catch up to musicians, not the other way around. Triangle troupe Cantwell Gomez & Jordan have been bristling listeners’ hair for nearly a decade.
It’s no longer a rarity, sweet as that denial was once, to hear a free-wheeling rock band punch several buttons simultaneously: Beefheartian gut rhythms, schmaltzy in-jokes, rigid punk geometrical figures. It’s never been the norm in this land of indie pop, so Cantwell Gomez & Jordan’s rough diamonds shone even brighter. Now, a generation of regional bands weaned on a deluge of post-punk reissues and more access to influence than ever before are working on the abstracts of rock that CG&J started tweaking when Clinton was in office.
Dave Cantwell, Anne Gomez and David Jordan had plenty of lefty musical experience when they formed the band. After all, they are vets of legendary locals like Analogue, Blue Green Gods and BeatlesS. Drummer Shannon Morrow had played with Jordan and Gomez as Pizza Hutch. When she left for Chicago, Cantwell stepped in as timekeeper.
Sardonic humor has coursed through CG&J’s work ever since, allowing the band to disembowel a Billy Joel number like a just-caught catfish going under the knife. Their mode of playing hasn’t really changed, as evidenced by an upcoming new EP, We Are Not at the Opera, and an odds-and-sods collection, Self-Portrait. But what they call their rare reluctance to “take musical risks” has now been vanquished by way of skills-honing and the familiarity that comes with jamming with each other religiously every week.
“One of my favorite things that happens at practice when we are working on a song is one of us will say something like ‘I’ve got a really goofy, crazy, possibly stupid idea,’” says Gomez, the band’s saxophonist, bassist and vocalist. “And then we do whatever it is, and sometimes it doesn’t work. But a lot of times it does.”
While CG&J has clanged away, its audience has continued to grow. Maybe the pervading climate–greenhouse gases, bloated politicos,
a stifling air of repression–pushes the aspiring 20-something who might start a Strokes-y Hot Topic band to turn up his toy amp just to hear its feedback. Gomez confirms the consistent increase in younger patrons at shows in the last few years. The band has also joined a kinship of younger bands, including Asheville progressive punks Ahleuchatistas and the spasmodic Calabi Yau from Charlotte. Gomez thinks her band’s perseverance, though, comes from knowing that each member of the band wants to continue.
“We hardly miss any practices. We’ve had really no commercial success and maybe a slight amount of critical recognition,” she says. “So I guess we like making up our crazy stuff together and playing it. We all just keep showing up.”
Independent bands express themselves on political topics much more frequently these days. Now, the frequency has begun to adulterate the effect. In that way, Cantwell Gomez & Jordan fit a square peg into a round hole, doing it without doing it at all. Perhaps that’s why more and more people keep showing up, too.
“Some have argued that all outsider music/art is political just because it’s different than the mainstream, so it is naturally bucking the system in some way,” Gomez says. “Some might also argue that a woman playing crazy shit on a bass and bellowing really loud is political. So I don’t know. If anything, maybe we can disrupt people’s mental status quos a bit.”
Cantwell Gomez and Jordan play with Robo Sapien, Capillary Action and Calabi Yau at Local 506 on Saturday, July 15. The show starts at 10 p.m. and costs $6. Look for a video by local filmmaker Jason Middleton for the CG&J song “Shayna Wuz Here … Peeing Like a Cheetah” on the new EP.