Calgary band aims to please all ears

By Amanda Hu

Calm Asa Coma has the potential to be the band for everyone. Playing a mix of pop, rock and indie, they’re working to play all different kinds of venues and crowds. In their quest to get their music out to everyone in Calgary, they didn’t let lack of funds stop them, opting for some do-it-yourself techniques.

“We used to buy white top [blank CDs] and go get stamps made and stamp them on,” singer Jeff Desmeules says. “It would look great on that first night when you do them, but then, a couple months later, when you left them in our car for too long, they would look awful and be all smudged.”

The band’s come a long way in just a short year and a half from those smudgy self-produced albums, setting up to release their first full-length record at a CD release event next week. The group started with Desmeules and drummer Jarrod Sterling as an acoustic duo. After enlisting the help of DJ McLelland on bass and Bret Smistad on guitar, their four-piece started formulating their sound, though the lyrics came about somewhat unconventionally.

“When we first started practicing, we didn’t have a PA so there were no vocals,” Desmeules says. “So then I’d just sing something at a show and start sticking to it. Out of 10 songs, I’d say there are three that are really a band effort, but for most of the lyrics, it’s just me alone in a room with a pen.”

This mix of collaboration and shut-in work shaped the album, its overall sound and what it represents to the band. Though they didn’t plan it, these things became clearer as recording went on.

“We didn’t go into it with a theme, but we started off as a Friday night band and gradually we started practicing three or four nights a week,” Sterling recalls. “I didn’t realize this while we were doing it, but after we finished recording, there was a sense of escaping. Everyone’s got issues, so it’s kind of like we were escaping our issues through these songs and this album and getting away from everything that’s getting us down and holding us back. The album is essentially us pushing ourselves.”

Though their self-titled LP doesn’t hit the streets until next week, the band has had a marked interaction within the Calgary music scene. They enlisted the help of Calgary funk-rock mainstay Michael Bernard Fitzgerald to work on the album, whose help they’re quite grateful for.

“He helped us during the whole recording process, just overseeing the whole project,” Desmeules says. “He’s a great friend and a mentor.”

In addition to Fitzgerald’s help, the band also spent a lot of time observing Calgary’s music scene and deciding how to fit in and carve their niche.

“[Calgary’s music scene] is getting a lot better,” Sterling says. “For a while there was an extreme indie side and an extreme commercial side. We all agreed in the band that to be extreme to any one direction is not what we want to do, so we went in to it knowing that we didn’t want to fit any particular mood and we’d just play the songs and who liked them could like them. So we wouldn’t play just shows at Broken City and other clubs and we don’t only play Cowboys or more popular places. We don’t play anywhere for anyone and the response has been really positive.”

Above all, they have one overarching wish that has seemed to guide them in a successful direction so far.

“I think our goal was to not play crappy shows at crappy venues,” Sterling says. “We like playing rock clubs, so as long as the club is good and there’s audience– even a little audience– that’s our goal.”

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