For Their Sophomore Album, Cayucas Lost a Producer But Found Their Confidence
Ben and Zach Yudin
A few weeks before their sophomore album, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, is set to be unleashed to the masses, Zach and Ben Yudin appear to be disinterested. Hiding behind thick sunglasses on a late June afternoon, the twins nurse an espresso and coffee at Silver Lake’s Casbah Cafe. A few minutes later, they perk up — Zach in particular, who admits he just woke up from a long nap in preparation for the promotional blitz in the coming days.
The 2013 release of their debut album, Bigfoot, saw the duo tour extensively behind the bittersweet indie anthem “High School Lover.” Known for its lo-fi drums, grunts and a catchy hook that would be at home on the beach in Malibu, the song helped turn what initially was a project operating out of Zach's bedroom into a touring act, Cayucas, with the brothers and their backing band spending over a year on the road.
Following the Bigfoot tour, the Davis-bred brothers spent the better part of the past 18 months conceptualizing and putting together ideas that eventually would be Dancing at the Blue Lagoon's ten tracks. Before they went into the studio, though, their label's cofounder, Chris Swanson of Secretly Canadian, offered the duo advice they didn’t take lightly. He warned them of the rigors and pressure that come with a follow-up.
As with the first album, Zach drew upon fictionalized versions of real events to craft stories that suited the group’s breezy indie pop. The group prefers to compose the melodies before tackling the lyrics, which can prove difficult.
“We’re not the type of band that can write 25 or 50 songs,” Zach explains. “‘Big Winter Jacket’ and ‘Hella’ came together quickly and naturally. But every song takes so much energy, and it’s usually the lyrics that take so much time. For ‘Moony Eyed Walrus,’ I changed the lyrics I think 10 times — even the day we recorded it. ”
“Some bands can pop them out quicker, but two years seems like a good amount of time for us,” Ben adds.
Replicating the lo-fi instrumentation proved to be a different test. Richard Swift handled those duties on Bigfoot, including the tribal drums on “High School Lover.” When a call came from the Black Keys requesting his presence as a touring bassist, the producer suddenly was no longer an option. Instead, the brothers headed to the woods outside of Seattle to spend three weeks with producer Ryan Hadlock. They were a little worried that they wouldn’t sound as good since they were playing the instruments Swift handled previously.
“This album is less reverb-y and more about the songs,” Zach says. “Richard helped with a lot of the playing last time, so a big thing was getting the confidence to go in there and record on our own. There was a part of us that wanted bigger production, and in the end I’m glad that we got to record with Ryan.”
Cayucas owes their success in part to radio play — which was moderately boosted by SiriusXM — but primarily to the clever licensing of their songs. Music supervisors continuously relied on “Cayucos/Swimsuit” and “High School Lover." The group’s music was featured on a Verizon commercial that was part of an NFL mobile app campaign and a BMW commercial. The twins come from a family of soccer players, and those placements impressed their parents (who initially didn’t understand what their sons were doing with their music career).
“And I’m the most excited,” Zach says, “because those things actually pay. They’re one part random, one part lucky. It seems like music supervisors are hip to what’s going and I’m glad they liked what we were doing.”
Zach, now fiddling with his empty coffee cup, points to the Undefeated store across the street and quickly picks up his phone.
“I keep a lot of ideas in my phone just like that,” he says as he types a note. “Defeated could be a cool song title, but it’s too early to start thinking about that for now.”
Dancing at the Blue Lagoon is out today on Secretly Canadian.
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