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Camp Howard Serves Up Refreshing EP Juice

Full disclosure; I’m a musician. Big surprise to see someone who plays music doing album reviews right? I’ve been in multiple (insignificant) bands for the past 10 years or so, and a fair number of those have played what some might label as “prog rock.” Yes, I am a geek. Yes, I know this.

Through the years, I’ve realized that technicality is FAR from the deciding factor in whether or not I find some new piece of music exciting or awesome. After listening to a lot more music with an open mind, I came to an epiphany a number of years ago that it’s not really in any way easy to write a memorable and catchy pop song.

Despite my immense enjoyment of pop, I still have a pretty big soft spot for technical music. Sometimes I just need some weird time signatures! So when I find a band that can adeptly mesh complex instrumentation into solid pop songs, I’m usually hooked. Camp Howard successfully knocks this combo out of the park on their new EP Juice out May 11th on Egghunt Records.

The EP opens with “Haircut,” a bossa-borrowing groove and a guitar riff that puts me a little in mind of Field Music or some of the poppier sections of early 70’s Yes songs before moving onto lush vocal harmonies underlaid with some seriously funky syncopation.

In the next track, “Juice,” the EP’s single and namesake, Camp Howard taps into some technical pop elements I’ve heard recently explored by acts like Everything Everything from the UK and Kiev out of Orange County, but in their own ridiculously fun way. An addictive and punchy interweaving bass and guitar line stops and starts, carving paths between verses and teasing at a chorus that is finally delivered in place of a bridge. Its two and a half minutes fly by and leave me wanting to immediately hit repeat, until what might be my favorite track on this record kicks in.

In “Fucked Up”, an immediate key change flows into a slippery bass line that lasts just long enough to let you lock into its groove before the band slows you down and drops you off into a riff the size of a house that sounds a little like what I imagine would happen if Church Mouth era Portugal. The Man took some heavy riff cues from Cloakroom. Right after pushing the tempo back up and giving you another taste of that killer bass line, the track slows back into that house sized riff before pulling out a seriously epic and driving bridge that evokes the massive guitar riffs of Josh Homme from Queen of The Stone Age. This song really shows off Camp Howard’s ability to easily hop through different tempos and keys while maintaining coherence. With as many different sections as this song has it still really feels like a complete and naturally flowing piece of music.

“Mismo” opens up on with Spanish-language lyrics over an infectiously danceable beat. The words lead you into a twinkly jazzy riff before taking you somewhere a little darker, progressively adding a subtly unnerving, effects-laden guitar (or keyboard??) line while the drums play with accenting different beats on the repeats.

Before you can recover from the ending of the last song, we get thrown into “Country”, a great track with an unpredictable post-punky drive that dresses up its verses with some awesome and eerie theremin-sounding keyboard. This one is a real treat; the next sections shift between jerky time signatures and fuzzed out riffs that I can absolutely picture a crowd of eager fans going wild to.

The closer is “I Will” – one of the EP’s slower but stronger jams – a song that allows you to focus in on those silky-sweet and longing vocal melodies. One of the most addictive melodic hooks of the whole EP comes in the chorus of this song, backed by giant fuzzy chords that would make The Pixies proud.

Camp Howard have really served up a refreshing cup of catchy tunes with Juice. From those of you who gulp down pop songs every morning for breakfast, to those who like to regularly sip on some more rhythmically and harmonically complex stuff, “Juice” has something tasty for every last one of you.

Camp Howard performs at Strange Matter on Saturday, May 13th, with Lance Bangs, Hill Walkers and Recluse Raccoon to celebrate the release of Juice. The show starts at 8:00 pm and tickets are $8 pre-sale // $10 at the door. For more information visit the event page here.

Micah Barry teaches guitar and bass in Richmond and is one of the singers and guitarists of Private Cry.