Cal in Red is the musical project of Michigan-based brothers Kendall and Connor Wright. We at Indie Top 39 recently came across (and reviewed) their latest single ‘Act Like’ and simply fell in love with the track. Drawing on influences from heavyweights like Tame Impala, Beach House, and MGMT, Cal in Red were recently snatched up by B3SCI Records, who will be putting out their debut EP soon. We were thrilled when the guys agreed to be interviewed, and talk to us about their thoughts on the music industry, their love for disc golf, and who they’d want to collaborate with in the future. Introducing… Cal in Red.
Hello and welcome guys! So I know that you started writing and playing music together sometime around 2018, but can you tell our audience a bit more about the origins of the band and about your musical journey up until this point?
Kendall: Connor definitely has a more vast musical background than me. He was in the marching band all through high school and started doing competitive drum core stuff as well. I got a banjo when I was 18 and my first guitar when I was 19. The first few years I spent learning to play a lot of The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and Bob Dylan stuff. The first time we actually performed together was back in 2015 or 2016 I think? We used to play a bunch of open mics which kind of turned into cover shows at bars and cafes. We were always having to try to talk the door guy into letting Connor into the bars, him being like 17 at that time. Those shows consisted of a lot of Beatles and Radiohead songs. At that time we were playing a lot of music with our cousin Max which eventually turned into some shows and touring with his band Mertle. Eventually, it got to a point where the two of us were writing a significant amount on our own, making demo after demo and one day we just kind of happened to sit down and work on one of Connor’s ideas together. I think that was what turned into our first single ‘Dang.’
I have to tell you that I still listen to ‘Act Like’ on a daily basis – it’s just such a dreamy and blissful tune! How did the song come into existence? Do you remember its “birth” so to speak?
Connor: I had actually just watched the movie Drive for the first time and loved the heavy synth-based soundtrack. After that, I immediately found a cool patch on my Juno and started playing this bouncy riff that eventually morphed into ‘Act Like’.
Sticking with ‘Act Like,’ the music video is pretty special as well! A day of beer, disc golf, and being surrounded by nature seems absolutely ideal. For those that don’t know, what exactly is disc golf and what made you fall in love with the sport?
Kendall: Disc golf is something that we discovered last summer during quarantine. I thought I’d give it a try one day and immediately knew it was going to be something we could really get into. It’s similar to regular golf except you’re essentially throwing a frisbee at a basket. I think it’s a sport that’s easy to fall in love with because of its accessibility to everyone. Pretty much everyone can get out there and throw a frisbee. It’s really inclusive that way. I think what Con and I like the most though is the competitive nature of it. We’re constantly practising. It’s a sport that ultimately boils down to technique and consistency, and rewards those who are willing to put the most time in. I could talk about it for pages but I’ll just stop there and suggest that everyone who reads this gives it a try!
I’ve recently been listening to quite a few of your other tracks – ‘Zebra,’ ‘Cape,’ and ‘Pool’ specifically. Yes, you’re fast becoming one of my favourite acts! There – I said it! I imagine this is like asking you to pick a favourite child, but which tune are you most proud of to date?
Each single is special to us… but personally ‘Zebra’ was the biggest release for us in many ways.cal in red
It was the first song of ours I got to mix (which had been a huge goal for me). We also did our first music video for it, and the song got put on some Spotify playlists like Indie Fresh Finds and Today’s Indie Rock which was super cool to see!
Oh, on the topic of ‘Zebra,’ the track is nearing 60,000 plays on Spotify. How does it feel to see one of your songs doing so well and know it’s being heard by so many people?
Connor: It’s incredible. When Kendall and I write music, we’re always looking for something that we would listen to/be proud of. To see anyone getting that same enjoyment out of something we could create is awesome.
Tell us about Cal 🙂
Cal is, in some ways, an enigma. He’s a real-life cowboy, a writer, a world traveller, our biggest critic, and our biggest fan probably. He’s also our youngest brother.
With everyone’s lockdown/pandemic experience being very different, what sort of effects did the world shutting down have on you? Musically, mentally, physically?
Kendall: At first we didn’t really have much drive to work on things musically. We were supposed to be touring that March when the world first shut down. Cancelling that after months of preparation and planning really took the wind out of our sails. As bad as it sounds, I felt pretty peaceful during that first half a year in quarantine. Student loans being frozen for a bit was actually a massive relief for me. I started running again and found myself in better mental and physical shape than I’d been in for a while. For all those positives though, writing music was harder than ever. I think most musicians went through this a little.
I know that you’re heavily influenced by bands like Tame Impala, Beach House, and MGMT. The dream-pop, synth-pop heavyweights so to speak. Who else would you credit for shaping your overall soundscape and who did you grow up listening to?
Connor: When I was super young our cousin Max let us borrow his copy of Coldplay’s X&Y. Listening to the local alternative radio station as kids – this was probably the thing that started pushing us in this direction. I remember hearing bands like Cage the Elephant, Phoenix, and Silversun Pickups. Also, I woke up every day to the Shrek 2 soundtrack which had some slappers.
Kendall: Yeah the Shrek 2 soundtrack bangs for sure.
When you’re not creating music, and besides disc golf of course, what keeps you busy? Walk us through a day in the life of the Wright brothers.
Connor: We definitely keep busy with our part-time jobs! I work for a place called Acorn Health where I’m a behaviour technician and get to work with kids that have autism. I also work at the Michigan Athletic Club and as a High School percussion instructor. After that, you can usually catch me at a brewery or working on Cal in Red stuff.
Kendall: I usually wake up and watch some youtube before starting the day. After finally getting up I try to get a run in or sometimes my girlfriend and I go for a walk. I work at a brewery so I don’t start until the early afternoon and I’ll be there until around 8 or 9 pm usually. After getting home I’ll usually watch a few episodes of something with my roommate. We’ve watched a good amount of anime shows this year… just finished Castlevania.
I’m ashamed to say that I had no idea how many unbelievable musicians Michigan (your home base) has produced. Madonna, Eminem, Anthony Kiedis, Jack White, Stevie Wonder, Iggy Pop – the list is endless and remarkable. What do you think it is about the state of Michigan that produces such fine talent?
I think people from Michigan (and the Midwest in general) tend to have a little more grit.cal in red
I know I’m definitely biased. We don’t really have any massive cities or ones that the entertainment industry tends to pluck from. All of those artists you mentioned probably went into the industry with a bit of a chip on their shoulders. Extreme talent aside, they’re ambitious and driven.
What are your thoughts on the music industry as a whole? What changes would you make and what would success in the industry look like for Cal in Red?
Kendall: It’s an interesting time for the music industry. It’s always been pretty saturated but now with bedroom production on the rise, even more so than ever. It used to take years and years for producers and audio engineers to master their craft and now anyone can just get on YouTube and learn their tricks instantly. Tik Tok is kind of changing the trajectory of “success” and how it’s achieved. You could be steadily releasing good music and touring for a decade and instantly get “passed” by someone who covered 10 quality seconds of your song. On the flip side of that though, there are certain artists who’ve been at it for a long time that have found their saving grace in Tik Tok by going viral. I’m not sure what changes I’d make. It’s an ever-evolving industry.
At the end of the day you don’t really try to change it, just keep up.cal in red
Connor: If we can continue writing and releasing music that people can connect with, that’s pretty successful in our eyes.
You’re allowed to collaborate with one musician or band. Who do you choose and why?
Kendall: Well I know Connor would probably say Tame Impala. Kevin Parker is definitely one of our idols. I personally have always thought it would be cool to get to write or work with Sufjan Stevens. To me, he’s definitely one of the best songwriters of all time. Also, he’s mastered so many different sounds production-wise. I just think he’d be a wealth of knowledge and it’d be inspiring just to get to watch him create.
I’m eagerly awaiting the release of your debut EP. Do you have an official date in mind? And on a broader level, what does the future hold for you musically?
Connor: We don’t have a date picked out yet. We’re finishing up the final mixing touches and when it’s ready we’ll release it as quickly as possible.
Kendall: I think you can expect a steady stream of singles from us beginning early next year and hopefully a second EP. I think we’re picking up the tempo a bit on those. Production-wise, I think it’s going to be more refined or focused, and less dreamy/spacey sounding.