There aren’t too many people who can go from standing in the crowd at a NOFX show in Santa Barbara to supporting the band at a sold-out show in Moscow. But, then again, there aren’t too many people like the Mad Caddies. In a career that has spanned more than 10 years and yielded half a dozen albums, the Solvang natives have taken their delectable offering of punk-infused roots music to the world. From playing cow-poke towns like Wagga Wagga in the Australian outback to Moscow, Russia, to paying tribute to their hometown’s cultural roots in Copenhagen, Denmark, life as a Mad Caddie is never short on adventure. Having spent most of the year on the road, the band recently returned home. And they plan to celebrate the best way they know how: with a couple of hometown shows at Velvet Jones and the Maverick Saloon. Here’s what singer Chuck Robertson has to say about it:
You guys have been leading quite a hectic life this year. I believe you’ve been on tour for most of 2007? Yeah. We hit the road on Valentine’s Day in February and didn’t stop until October. We did two months in the U.S. and spent a month traveling across Canada from coast to coast. We did two full European tours that included Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, and we also did a week down in South Africa-a headlining tour. Oh yeah, and we did Japan, as well, so it’s been a long year.
Wagga Wagga, Moscow, Capetown-these aren’t your typical ports of call for a touring rock band : I guess not. But we’re always poking around with our agents, looking for new and exotic places to go. South Africa is a place where bands are only just starting to play, so when the chance to go down there arose, we were like, “A trip to South Africa? Where do we sign up?” But they’re definitely not moneymaking things and are more for the experience. And there were people down there who have all of our records and have been waiting 10 years to see us, and they were so gracious and appreciative that we came, which made it a great experience.
Do you find it astounding that a band from Solvang can find an audience in South Africa? It is pretty trippy, man. When Sascha and I started the band, we were going to see all these national acts-like NOFX and Sublime-play here in Santa Barbara. And we told ourselves that, even though we might never be rich and famous, we could do that; we could pull together a band that could play clubs, and people will like our music. So we figured we should just give it a shot, and here we are, still doing it.
And playing in Russia must have been something quite special : We did a three-day run with NOFX where we played Helsinki, Finland, took an overnight train to St. Petersburg in Russia and played there, and then overnighted it again to Moscow. The Moscow show was just unbelievable. NOFX had it sold out and, after our set, we were up on the balcony looking down on this sea of people. The place was oversold by about a thousand, and people were starting to mosh even before NOFX had started. I thought things were going to get messy. As soon as NOFX kicked into the first song, people hit the floor, and I thought, “Here it comes; people are going to get trampled.” But no sooner had it happened than they all picked themselves up, and nobody was injured. It was really something.
How different is it mentally playing a big show like the one in Moscow versus playing somewhere like Velvet Jones or the Maverick? With a larger crowd there is a little bit more pressure. We have played in front of crowds as big as 20,000 or 30,000 people at some of those bigger festivals in Europe. But it’s all the same really; you just have to take yourself out of it. So there isn’t really much of a difference between playing in front of 30,000 or 300 people. You just try and play well and hope people like it. I think the worst thing is playing a hometown show in front of your friends and family. That’s really the most nerve-wracking!
The Maverick shows are always quite special, aren’t they? We’re the only band with distortion that they let play there! Normally, it is just a country and acoustic venue. And all the old friends from high school come out and support us, and the parents and aunts and uncles and cousins come along, too. It’s always very special.
Given your Solvang heritage, do the folks in Denmark feel a special affinity for the band? We have played Copenhagen twice and, funnily enough, most people that you speak to there know where Solvang is! A few of the kids we met across there have even been to Solvang. They wanted to do a foreign exchange and that bought them to the area, which is pretty funny.
Your live shows are a very vibrant affair. How do you approach capturing that kind of energy in a recording? In our earlier days it was dictated by how much time we had to record. We just went in and did it and what came out came out. With the last two albums, and especially this latest one, Keep It Going, we did a lot of preproduction. We worked on the record for a year between tours-demo-ing songs and trying them in different tempos. And I think it paid off, because we have been playing them live pretty much the same as they sound on the record. :
Given that your sound is quite eclectic in the genres it embraces, the production side of things must be an important thing to consider when recording. I have to give credit to Sascha, our guitar player, for that, because he did a lot of the production on this record. He has been mastering Pro Tools and recording for the past couple of years, so he was really hands-on in the production and really knew in his mind exactly how he wanted the songs to sound. He really did a great job and it came out just how we all wanted it to.
Given what you undertook this year, what’s it like to be home? The first couple of weeks after a tour are always tough because post-tour depression sets in, which is a little like culture shock. All of a sudden you don’t have somewhere to be everyday and you don’t have someone telling you what time you have to this or what time you have to that. That takes a while to get used to. But I’m now feeling much better and am really enjoying some of this wonderful surf we’re having at the moment and just enjoying Santa Barbara.
Will it be difficult to tear yourself away and get back to touring in the new year? No, not at all; I love touring and all of the guys do. As long as there is a goal to strive for or something new and exciting on the horizon, then that will keep us all inspired.
The Mad Caddies come home for the holidays and hit the stage at Velvet Jones on Friday, December 21, and the Maverick Saloon on Saturday, December 22. Details can be found at velvet-jones.com and mavericksaloon.org.