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We Are a Voicemail: Phone Tag with S. Carey & Califone
September 3, 2014 | 11:30AM

“I’m just a huge fan of your band California. You guys have been around since the ’90s!” Sean Carey tells Tim Rutli in a recently leaked voicemail. “And that was cool… when I was a kid… to listen.”

The S. Carey frontman is half right. Rutli has indeed been making music since the early 90s – first with beloved quasi-grunge, experimental rockers Red Red Meat, and then with slightly askew, slightly damaged folk outfit Califone. It’s with the second project that Rutli has made some of the best roots music of the past decade. (The band’s run of Quicksand / Cradlesnakes [2003], Heron King Blues [2004], and Roots & Crowns [2006] in a span of four years remains a remarkable achievement.) His latest, Stitches, is an intimate affair, built more on organic instrumentation, traditional structures, and leaner arrangements. But as always, it all feels a little off and is rooted in Rutli’s immaculately weathered voice.

Carey is comparatively a baby. He joined Justin Vernon’s Bon Iver fresh out of college in 2007 and put out his own first record, We All Grow, in 2010. Released earlier the year, the sweeping and lush Range of Light is the fullest realization of his panoramic sound landscapes yet. (Read about the making of the record in BYT’s April interview.)

Where age and genre may separate them, Carey and Rutli are connected by their respective homes: The former is signed to Jagjaguwar and the latter to Dead Oceans – two sister labels in the Secretly Group family. In a few days, they’ll be tourmates as well, traveling the East Coast and Midwest on a stacked co-headlining bill.

The Secretly Group provided BYT with the voicemails that the members of S. Carey (Carey, Jeremy Boettcher) and Califone (Rutli, Joe Westerlund) exchanged as they prepared for this trip. Have a listen below to how they deal with the realities of fat cats, eye contact, and the curdled milk diet.  “I just wanted to get us all on the same page,” Rutli says.

S. Carey and Califone play NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge this Sunday and DC’s Rock & Roll Hotel on Tuesday. 

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Stitches is out now on Dead Oceans. Range of Light is out now on Jagjaguwar.

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