15 Years After Disbanding, City of Caterpillar Release Studio Version of "Driving Spain Up a Wall"
We talk with the short-lived band about the lost track, which is out now.
In May of 2002, I walked into a DIY space in Orlando, Florida known as the Stone Soup Collective to see a show. I remember being really on the fence about the whole thing thinking the band names were laughably bad. Kite Flying Society and City of Caterpillar? The fuck? I'm pretty sure I only went because I knew the latter shared members with Sterling, Virginia's pageninetynine and I'd heard about the spectacle that they brought and figured it was worth my three dollars.
Now, 15 years have passed and I still think about that show. It was not only one of the best performances I had seen up until that point, but also smashed my preconceived notions of what punk could be. It was raw, unrefined, and dirty like I knew punk should be, but it was nuanced and expressive in ways I didn't expect. I was enveloped in a blanket of feedback, made to feel comfortable as a jangly melody was etched out in reverberated splendor before being smashed and violated by snarled vocals, pounding drums and angular guitar.
I don't think it would have surprised my 20-year-old self to learn that the self titled LP I bought from the band that night would go on to largely be considered one of the most influential records of a genre they unwittingly helped define.
"I've always thought of us as a punk band," says guitarist Jeff Kane when asked about City of Caterpillar's classification as screamo—a line of inquiry that's at once utterly punishing, yet also kind of relevant considering the longstanding sonic influence the band made in it's incredibly short lifespan.
Guitarist and vocalist Brandon Evans adds: "I don't know. I know for certain we half fit in the genre, surely. Though, we were always on the fence, due to experimenting and trying other styles of music in little pockets that we were actually listening to more at the time of being a band. We listened to that style of stuff more so before we wrote City of Caterpillar stuff. We were expanding our palettes and pulling in from various other genres once we began writing the full-length."
It's that expanded palette that enabled City of Caterpillar to play in sonic spaces that weren't often being ventured into by bands within the punk and hardcore scenes of the era. The urgency and intensity reminiscent of sister-band pageninetynine was given room to breathe, allowing the group to experiment with their post-rock sensibilities influenced by emerging artists of the time such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Sigur Rós, and Mogwai, creating something exciting that had a presence and atmosphere like nothing else in the space.
For a group that only existed between 2000 and 2003, City of Caterpillar made a remarkable impact—though most of it was post-mortem. The first string of reunion shows that occurred at the beginning of this year sold out in fast fashion, and the crowds were packed with nostalgic 30-somethings, but also with a lot of young faces that only found City of Caterpillar in recent years, a strange sight for a band used to playing shows that were "probably a room of 50 people; half in a living room, too" back when they were active.
"We never expected that level of interest in the slightest. We truly had no idea this interest was so strong and spanning," says Evans. "The internet was just coming about into the common life as we disbanded. We still had this mystery that carried charm from the world just prior; I feel maybe that was a factor attributing to the cult energy that built around us, perhaps."
That cult following that City of Caterpillar has retained is perhaps best exemplified by "Driving Spain Up a Wall," a track that was only recorded this February, but has been passed around the internet as live recordings traded on Soulseek, uploaded as grainy video on YouTube, and spoken about in hyperbolic fashion by social invalids on record trading message boards for more than a decade. The song was one in a handful written for an album that was never fully realized—about five or six tracks that had accumulated before the group disbanded. The track, clocking in at more than ten minutes, was rarely played live. "At the time, we were struggling feeling strong about it in the live performance, so we only pulled it out at random shows," Evans says. Those rare performances were more noteworthy than the band realized, and calls for a proper recording of the song remained persistent.
"I still find it über-surreal how cultish 'Driving Spain Up a Wall' apparently became; as well as the band as a whole," says Evans. "I still don't think we even fully comprehend it. After doing the reunion in January, and relearning the song thanks to the few YouTube videos in existence, we figured we should record the song properly and document it since people care."
"I don't feel like its any stronger of a song than anything that made it on the LP, but I get why it gained a reputation," says Kane. "It was only able to be seen live or on crummy video tape recordings that made their way online. That gave it some mystique. It was also quite long even by our standards, so if we played it at a show, it probably consumed half of our 30 minute set which is going to make it stick in the memory."
So now, nearly a decade and a half later, ten minutes and 35 seconds of screamo history has received the studio treatment and a much-anticipated digital and physical release. The track is appropriately accompanied by "As The Curtains Dim; (Little White Lie)," a song recorded in the same session as the self-titled LP back in 2001, purportedly destined for a split ten-inch with Yaphet Kotto that never came to be. Both tracks showcase the undeniable strength that City of Caterpillar possesses—the ability to wrap the listener in a sonic landscape that teeters on the edge of chaos—sweeping crescendos, fractured melody, and cinematic beauty that collapses into the harsh brutality of their punk roots.
Listen to the track above, and cop the real deal on vinyl from Repeater (US) or Adagio (EU) or digitally from The Archivist. The band is currently in Europe for the first time. US tour dates will occur in the fall, first as a string of much-anticipated west coast shows, plus a short run of east coast dates (including an appearance at The Fest in Gainesville) with longtime friends and tour-mates Majority Rule performing for the first time in over a decade:
07/14: Kopenhagen @ kraftværket (with Harasser) - Event - Tickets
07/15: Hamburg @ Goldener Salon (with Cetacea) - Event
10/16: Antwerp @ Kavka - Event - Tickets
07/17: Amsterdam @ Occii (with Skylark, Lawine, Zahrada) - Event - Tickets
07/18: Paris @ Point Éphémère - Event
07/19: Darmstadt @ Oettinger Villa (with Birds in Row, Mercy Ties) - Event
07/20: Vienna @ Bach (with Hauna) - Event - Tickets
21.07: Rokycany @ Fluff Fest - Event
10/19: San Diego, CA @ The Soda Bar w/ Thou $15 - Tickets
10/20: Santa Barbara, CA @ The Hard To Find w/ Dangers $10. Tickets
10/21: Santa Rosa, CA @ Arlene Francis Center w/ Litany for the Whale, Sabertooth Zombie, Holy Wood $15
10/28: Gainesville, FL @ The Fest w/ Hum, Majority Rule, Iron Reagan, etc - Tickets & Info
10/29: Atlanta, GA @ The Earl w/ Majority Rule, Deep State $15 - Tickets
10/30: New Orleans, LA @ Zeitgeist w/ Majority Rule, Thou - Info