Kate Wakefield recalls playing a show in Baltimore recently, and getting a really strange response after her indie-punk band Lung got off the stage.
“The man said, ‘I expected you to sound like Zooey Deschanel,’ Wakefield remembers, explaining: “They were expecting it to be really poppy and indie.”
It’s understandable that he would see the duo—made up of Wakefield, who plays the cello and sings, and Daisy Caplan, who plays the drums—and not think “punk rock.”
But they do, in fact, rock hard. Wakefield’s electric cello is distorted, and she’s able to play some deep bassy riffs on it.
“You have a lot to work with. You have two lower registers of the cello. You have really screechy stuff that you can do on the top two strings. It’s almost like a weird primal scream,” Wakefield says.
Before starting Lung with Caplan two years ago, Wakefield had already been writing music on her cello. When she plays solo, she loops it, and the resulting music is grand and ethereal, almost fantastical.
But then one day, Wakefield noticed that she was starting to write harder, darker material that wasn’t quite fitting into the style of her solo material. She started to jam with Caplan’s old band Foxy Shazam, but that band just happened to break up right around the same time, so instead of feeling defeated, she started Lung with Caplan.
After just playing one show together, Wakefield and Caplan went to record a four-song demo. Everything clicked so well, they ended up recording a record’s worth of stuff. They released it in March 2017 as Bottom of the Barrel. The record, which has minimal extra flourishes, gives you a sense of the intensity the group can create with just two people.
There’s a clear interplay between the cello and drums, and Daisy rarely does anything flashy, instead opting for high dynamic shifts in the songs. He’ll even lightly tap on the side of the drums if the songs needs it. He attributes his approach to having played other instruments.
“I have a lifetime of yelling at drummers for doing things not the way I want them to do it,” Caplan says. “It gives me a better scope, now that I’m playing drums, of how I want to be playing drums.”
Wakefield says when she’s writing a song she can almost immediately tell if it’s for her solo project or for Lung. More often than not, most of Lung’s songs are written with Caplan, so they can bounce ideas off each other.
“Daisy will play a beat, and it’ll be strange and interesting. We were working on something yesterday where I wouldn’t have come up with the melodic line or the part,” Wakefield says. “I think the biggest difference between this one and the solo one is that I can really express feelings of anger and just really intense crazed feelings. Like you’re up in the middle of the night and you’re looking at humanity and you’re disgusted, and you look around you and what has been happening with the world that we’re living in and what’s happening with this country. Things like that are easier to express in this project probably just because it’s the nature of the setup. Also Daisy’s drumming.”
The band has toured pretty relentlessly, and has turned heads wherever they have landed, as folks anticipate something that sounds a bit more, er, classical. But as they prepare for the next album, they say it will be even heavier.
They also say that some of the clear lines that separated Wakefield’s solo songs and Lung might not be so clear in the future.
“There are definitely some gray areas. But I think that we were both overly conscious of gray areas at one point, and now it’s just more fun,” Caplan says. “I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t like her solo stuff. It’s fun to blend it and explore the gray areas and also have them be separate entities. It’s musical freedom.”
Lung plays at 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 18 at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8, 429-6994.