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Chicago Sound: California the only coasting for persistent Cavashawn

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Jesse Feister was calling from picturesque Santa Monica, Calif., speaking on the telephone while taking a break from recording an album that has been too long in coming.

The Cavashawn drummer was taking in the West Coast scenery as the Chicago pop-punk band was taking its time and doing it right. His California dreaming is becoming a reality.

"We've never been out here as a band," Feister said. "I've come out a couple times to see family and always thought about how great it'd be to come out here as a band."

A few months back, this didn't seem to be anything but wishful thinking. Cavashawn was halfway through recording an EP in Chicago, but things weren't going as smoothly as Feister and bandmates Scott Salmon (vocals), Chris Hellman (guitar) and Benton Kubicki (bass) had hoped.

So, they decided to drop everything and start over.

"We sat down and made a list of dream producers, guys who we wanted to work with the most," Feister said.

The band members hit the streets, contacting their top picks, and, to their slight surprise, heard back from every one of them. Atop that list was Jim Wirt, who produced some early Incubus tracks and has worked with genre superpower Jack's Mannequin. A few short weeks after speaking with Wirt, Cavashawn was in a Santa Monica studio, making the album on the group's own terms -- something that hasn't always been easy for the foursome.

"I think we had our act together, so to speak, earlier than most, but we'd work with people who wanted us to be something we aren't," Feister said. "Being in our genre -- a pop-based band -- lots of people wanted to package us to fit their ideals."

Whether in the form of meddling in the song-writing process or in the overall sound, Cavashawn believed there were too many other voices -- and not enough of their own.

"At some points, it just wasn't authentic," Feister said. "We passed on a lot of opportunities when we were 19, 20, 21 years old. We thought, '[Forget] that, we have time. Let's stick it out and make it our own way.'"

It hasn't been easy. The band lived on collegiate staples such as ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese, moved from Oxford, Ohio, to Chicago and rented a place together in Koreatown. With their communal back up against the wall, the band got a large dose of real-world motivation.

"It's literally like a marriage," Feister said. "I wouldn't be in a band with anyone else after everything we've been through. There's a certain energy when it is make or break, a certain level of angst and emotion creeps in and fuels some of the creativity."

That's not to say Cavashawn is music to shuffle your shoes and lament to. It's high-octane, melody-based pop with a punk edge that is best embodied in a frenetic live show, which can be seen tonight at Beat Kitchen. The band attacks its promotions with the same ferocity as a concert, peppering the town with flyers before every show and capitalizing on the newest telephone pole to poster -- the Internet. Band members are Twittering, Facebooking, MySpacing and doing everything they can to get the word out. They do this, as Feister points out, because the local music scene isn't a one-way street.

"I've always been quick to jump on trends and discover new ways to interact with fans," Feister said. "When you're on your own without a label, you've got to take every medium by storm. If you're not giving 100 percent and putting all you have into it, then why do it?"

It's that philosophy that's helped Feister and Cavashawn stick to their guns, do it their way and grow. That perseverance has them recording with the guy they wanted most.

Their new album is slated to be released in early spring, and Feister & Co. have big plans for 2009.

"We'd like to see more of the country, to become more of a force in the Chicago music scene and, above all, roll with the punches," he said.

For a group that's seen its share of setbacks -- and has overcome them -- these California dreams are a very real possibility.

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This page contains a single entry by Kyle Koster published on January 16, 2009 4:00 AM.

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