Queen Caveat is a perfect example of an in-your-face alternative rock band you just can’t help but love from the first time you witness them. Lauren Little, a gymnastic and graceful ball of hard-rocking energy, Ben Epand with his solid riffing and beautiful-sounding gravelly guitar, Will Weissman holding down the 5-string bass runs like a master, and rock-star skinsman Jesse Magnuson. Together, they bring you their new single, Mr. California.
I first came across Queen Caveat while channel surfing; on a weekday evening, suddenly there was an amazing sounding (and looking) band featured on ABC’s 20/20 special, Sunset Boulevard. My roots are very much in the rock scene, and I loved what I heard. Their music was punchy yet intelligent, well-written, and beautifully performed. Little wonder that they are highly acclaimed to continue to expand on their success into 2013 and beyond.
“Mr. California” is the lead out single from their upcoming 2013 album. Right from the guitar intro, you can tell something a bit special is coming; and after four bars, there it is: with a bang, everyone is all-in, committed to the song, and the pace is set for a driving and energy-fuelled 3 minutes and 19 seconds ahead.
Lauren’s voice is showcased so well in the verses (as is her amazing onstage performance in the video version, variously described as “maniacal” and “ferocious”; I’d maybe differ by describing her as “lively”, “unique”, and “honest”), with Ben’s beautifully-toned guitar ringing on, and Jesse’s drums pushing the vocal along, she spits the lyric;
“You said Miss Oklahoma, really love to know ya,
But only for tonight;
You’ve got my attention, and did I mention,
I am full of fight”
And she means it, too.
All this pushes us forward on the crest of a guitar-powered adrenaline wave toward an epic chorus, which in some ways takes me back to the heady days of Faith No More and “We Care A Lot”. Perhaps it’s the mood, the anger, and the massive open chords in the chorus that take me right back to the early days of couldn’t-care-less power funk-rock.
“I won’t listen to you,
I won’t listen to you,
nothing but blame, nothing but pain
in your heart”
Consistently they return to that intro, catchy as ever and providing a perfect tagline to introduce every verse.
It’s angry as hell, and they perform it like they’re just not going to take it anymore. With every verse and chorus succession, the tide builds; I can close my eyes and see a stadium full of people jumping along to it’s pace. The bridge is nicely designed to temporarily slow the song down, with huge vocal effect and well-used feedback from the guitar. Musically, it’s brilliantly constructed – I counted 16 beats over and over but it’s not in 4/4 time anymore – 32 half-beats of same-pace carefully planned emotional mayhem, with some memorable drum-riffing from Jesse, before slamming into a pre-last-chorus instrumental. By the last chorus, if you’re not either singing it with arms outstretched, air guitar-ing while posing like Slash, slapping an imaginary bass, or drumming along on the nearest available surface; frankly, what the bloody hell is wrong with you?
Much kudos to the quality bass-work, by the Berklee-educated Will Weissman, which underpins and drives the entire song as any self-respecting rock number should be. The bass in general is easy to overlook, generally because a really good bass player blends perfectly with the song; in this case listen out for it. His skill and musicianship is obvious, and frankly the song wouldn’t be the same without it. On top of that he absolutely rocks it, flinging that bass around like a madman.
Mr. California is a huge song. These guys have worked and continue to work hard at their craft, are musically well-educated, and it shows; the whole band is a joy to witness. Lauren of course pushes the bar even higher, by providing a magnificently unique take on dress-code and performance, which makes their music and their message the more believable because of its raw honesty.
A great band, really nice people, and with material like this, born winners. The king is dead. Long live Queen Caveat.
You can hear Mr California on their profile page here.
You can view the video for Mr California here or just watch it below.
By David Mark Smith, Global Musicians Fish Pond