Cayucas came on the scene back in 2013 with the debut album Bigfoot, a sunny-sounding and infectiously melodic collection of songs that recall early Vampire Weekend, but with more of a chillin'-on-the-beach aesthetic.
And that's pretty much how twin brothers Zach and Ben Yudin have presented themselves as a musical duo — two super laid-back dudes who don't take stuff too seriously. But that isn't an accurate perception of how the Yudin brothers are with each other. Not when it comes to creating and performing music together.
"We take it pretty seriously behind the curtain," says Zach Yudin, the frontman and primary songwriter. "The bands we tour with, everyone is trying really hard and they're relatively competitive. We try to take things lightly, but behind the scenes we're overanalyzing pretty much everything — what instruments to play during the live show, what the setlist should be, what we should open with, how many people we should have onstage, where we should stay, how far we should drive. These decisions make up our daily lives just like any other job."
Zach and Ben have been agonizing over dozens of such decisions on a nightly basis as they tour to support Cayucas' latest record, Real Life. Now based in Santa Monica, California, the brothers grew up in the city of Davis, and living in suburbia for the first 18 years of their lives couldn't help influencing their perception of reality and musical output much later.
"When I think back on growing up in Davis, it was like a different world," Zach says. "Like any teenager, you live in a small world. I went to San Francisco, like, twice while we were growing up. You're in your own little bubble."
That idealistic version of California — the part that's all bike rides and sunshine and bikinis — comes through in Cayucas' music.
"It feels like California, it's fun," Zach says of their performances. "You don't even necessarily care about the songs. You don't really need to know the latest Dave Matthews record; you're still going to the show."
There are more serious influences at work, as well. In the past, Zach has attempted to draw lyrical inspiration from the surreal novels of Japanese author Haruki Murakami. Just as Murakami somehow cultivates a dreamlike atmosphere through hundreds of pages of plain prose, Zach seeks to combine simple instrumentation and lyrics to create certain feelings, and songs that are more than a sum of parts. Songs that set a tone.
"I was reading about how they've done The Great Gatsby a bunch of times as a movie, but they can't crack the code, you know? They can't recreate the mood from the novel," he says. "I think that's interesting. What is the mood? You can't describe it. I don't think there's a formula, but for me it's going to be diving more into lo-fi elements that create a mood in a recording — maybe some background noise, a lo-fi snare sound, or even a little bit of dialogue — rather than having this pristine recording where everything is recorded perfectly and expensively."
In that spirit, Zach made an effort to embrace imperfection and character-adding oddities while recording most of Real Life in the bedroom of his duplex apartment. Keeping those elements in the final recording, he says, lent the album a mood he believes wouldn't have been captured otherwise. He credits producer Dennis Herring (Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse) with strategically re-recording only what was necessary.
Zach envisions taking Cayucas further in that direction. So, if anything, the brothers will sound even more chill on future records. But don't be fooled: They'll be totally sweating the details.
"We get really technical when it comes to the macro stuff, like what we're doing for the next 5 or 10 years, what the next album will be like," he says. "We have a lot of ideas for our next album. We're always overanalyzing." ♦
Cayucas • Sun, June 30 at 8 pm • $13 advance, $17 day of • All ages • The Bartlett • 228 W. Sprague • thebartlettspokane.com • 747-2174