NY grunge-punk trio Candy Ambulance discuss their new EP, their beginnings and goals as a band and what’s next for them

Photo credit- Al Robinson

NY grunge-punk trio Candy Ambulance discuss their new EP, their beginnings and goals as a band and what’s next for them
New York grunge-punk trio Candy Ambulance have been receiving critical praise from the music community since the release of their EP Spray this past spring.  Consisting of Caitlin Barker, Jesse Bolduc and Jon Cantiello, the trio formed in 2014 when lifelong friends Cantiello and Bolduc recruited Barker to form a band.  Although Barker had no real musical experience before joining the band, she had plenty of passion and a talent for songwriting, learning to play guitar shortly after joining.   Having grown by leaps and bounds as musicians and as a band over the years, their goal is to make the band their full-time job within 5 years.  If their passion, determination and focus is any indication, they seem well on their way to achieving their goal.  The band debuted the video for the EP’s title track “Spray” last month, a song that singer Caitlin Barker describes as exploring the fixation of mania and anxiety in a frenzied and wild ride.  The video, which is described as a “sexy, sweaty, smokey, stress-y, rubber dish glove wearing, vinyl spinning ode to great ’90s grunge punk” was designed, in the band’s words, to “make the viewer itch a little”.  With a blend of gritty grunge and punk rock hooks, the band continues to work towards perfecting their sound.  The band has opened for PVRIS and performed alongside Speedy Ortiz, Screaming Females, Daddy Issues and Dorothy and hope to continue to build their fanbase through their intense and energetic live shows.  Staff writer Emily May spoke recently to the band about their EP, their beginnings and goals as a band and what’s next for them.  You can stay up-to-date with the band and all upcoming tour dates, as well as where to stream and purchase their music via the following links.  Check out their video for “Spray” below.      

YouTube- https://www.youtube.com/user/Nashphone
Deezer- https://www.deezer.com/en/album/56379082



Jesse and John- You have both known each other since elementary school and played in bands as teens. You met Caitlin in 2014 and decided to form Candy Ambulance. What made you decide to recruit her to form the band?

Jesse: We were at a crossroads musically at the time and felt we needed a change. We had been hanging out with Caitlin and she brought this fun, new energy to the table. After playing soft alternative rock music for the last few years, I think we were both excited to jump back into something with a harder, more driving force. Starting a fresh project with Cait was easily one of the best impulse decisions we’ve ever made.

Caitlin- When you met Jesse and John in 2014, you had no musical pursuits in mind. You were in a relationship and wanted to do “the domestic thing”, but about two weeks later decided to join the band. What was it that changed your mind and appealed to you about being in a band?

Caitlin: I had always wanted to play music. I spent most of my early 20’s fumbling through different relationships, trying to give my life a meaning by mirroring another person. I was a festival-goer, movie critic, drug dealer, party girl, yogi, homemaker, home wrecker, etc. Through all these shifts in personality, one thing remained constant; a drive to write songs (using the only 4 chords I knew). Iʼd sit in my room, wishing I would be in a band. So when two serious musicians wanted to work with me, I leapt! Bye relationship, bye apartment, bye job and HELLO weird life!

Caitlin- I read that when you joined the band you had no real musical experience but brought passion to the music. Can you all talk a bit about the early days of the band and playing and writing music together?

Caitlin: I sucked. I was so scared too. I held my guitar like it was a poisonous snake and got stomachaches before every show. But Jesse and Jon supported me, taught me how to play to a click and set my amp levels. We played a ton of open mics. I hired Ian Reilly (of metal band Balor) to give me guitar lessons. My dear friend Maria of Belle-Skinner gave me vocal tips. I am a good songwriter, so it was easy for me to write the songs, but the boys made the songs complete and more complex. We still work like that, I assemble the bones and they pack on the meat.

Your early shows as a band were known for your partial nudity, which is something that you as a band rarely do these days. What led you do that early on and what made you decide to grow away from that?

Caitlin: Hehe. So remember how I sucked? We werenʼt tight for awhile and we thought, “tightʼs not punk, letʼs get wild”. The boys usually took off their shirts, so I joined them one night (in this nude coloured, worn out, stained bra) and it was FUN! So we kept doing it until we noticed people were expecting it. That sucked out the fun so we moved on. It was about autonomy and freedom, not about external expectations.

How do you feel you have grown as a band since you started? How have you grown and evolved personally and as musicians?

Boy, howdy, have we. Independently we’ve taken steps to hone our instruments. Jesse taught himself how to record and engineer not only our records, but several other bands. Together we’ve learned how to play to a metronome, how to handle our band as a business, how to tour, make music videos. The list goes on. We feel infinitely lucky to have each other.

I read that your goal for the band is to have it be a full-time job within five years. You have signed with a PR company, Behind The Curtains Media, are gaining more airplay an interviews and have been playing more proper clubs, rather then house shows. How excited are you about the growth the band is experiencing? How do you stay focused as a band to keep reaching for that goal?

It’s an intense mix of elation and exhaustion. People present their best selves on social media and it’s so easy to slip into the mindset of “why are we not doing what this band is doing?”. Having realistic goals has helped us focus and leave behind bad attitudes. I’ve been trying to be more candid about how challenging it can be to try and make your life as a musician. You hinge your existence on this one thing, you sacrifice normalcy for total unknowns. Working with companies like Behind the Curtains and Chromoscope Pictures not only keeps us moving forward with expert guidance, but also supports the people who are grinding away like we are. It’s working; we’re making more money, we’re growing our audience and staying grateful for every bit of it.

You’ve opened for PVRIS and have played alongside Screaming Females, Speedy Ortiz, Daddy Issues and Dorothy in the past. Are there any bands going forward that you are hoping to tour with or play alongside?

We’d drop dead if we could play with Screaming Females again. We’ve also been huge fans of Bully for years. If we ever get the pleasure of touring with them, we hope they forgive the first song of set one where we faint from nerves and excitement.

Who would you count of your musical influences? Who are you listening to right now that you think people should know about?

We’ve been backtracking and getting deeply into classic rock for influence. Our entire catalogue doesn’t match the complexity and skill of a Blue Oyster Cult bridge. That being said, we’re digging on The War on Drugs, Courtney Barnett and Cass McCombs as of late.


You released your EP Spray in February of this year. What can you tell be about the inspiration behind the songs? What is your songwriting process as a band?

Caitlin: Spray, as a record, is about melancholy and mania. I’ve been in therapy for the past year and in hindsight, all the songs were written before I had a handle on what I like to think of as my anchor. That’s the place where I want to react to life from. Prior to that, I was subject to being tossed in any direction any person or event could toss me to. As far as songwriting process, we grow all the songs together at practice. It’s very collaborative.

You worked with Chromoscope Pictures on your videos for “Spray” and “People Are Deceitful”. How did you meet and come to work with them? Do you usually have ideas going into making your videos or is it more of a collaborative effort with others?

Chromoscope are a production company working in the Albany area and we found them through other area musicians videos. They have a very personal quality to their work, it’s a warmth of tone that’s super inviting. They are easy to work with. Both videos were conceptualized by us, but Chromoscope brought the ideas to life. When we got the first draft for the “Spray” video, we looked at each other like, “nope, no notes, send it”. They were able to focus a pretty frenzied narrative into something that made sense to a viewer. We adore them!

You recently played Wild Adriatic Presents The Summit in Glens Falls, NY. What was that experience like and were there any bands you were especially excited to see or cool bands you discovered?

The Summit was a show that reminded us why the heck we work so hard. It was the best of everything. The sound was stellar, the lighting was sick and the crowd was engaged. We were high for days off of it and couldn’t be more grateful to have been a part of the lineup. We got to play between our new local faves, Lucy and Dark Honey. Chestnut Grove, Tambourelli and Her Super Trips, Paradisa and of course Wild Adriatic killed it. Dead! So fun!

What’s next for you?

We are hibernating from live shows because we are recording this winter. We have several songs that need some details and we want to take the time to do them justice. This record will be our first cohesive batch of songs that were written in the same time frame about the same thing. We are going to bring outside musicians to play on it and we are going to work until we cry but also feel proud. Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to ask these thoughtful questions, you are a killer interviewer!


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