Houston Whatever Fest Local Spotlight: Catch Fever

Note: all this week, we will be highlighting Houston acts performing at this weekend's Houston Whatever Fest.

The reality of being in a full-time band quickly demystifies the post-practice daydreams of superstardom during those glorified garage days. The day-to-day grind is rarely chronicled: the exhaustive process of securing rehearsal time, contacting venues, trying to fix a broken-down vehicle with only 30 minutes until sound check, unloading equipment, checking the sound, waiting around for each band to finish their set, playing for 45 or 50 minutes, reloading a van that will break down again, finding a place to crash in a city where everyone is a stranger before traveling to the next city, tired and worn-out. Repeat.

Catch Fever’s rapid rise toward success is a misleading portrayal of their achievements. Last year, the band released one of Houston’s greatest debut albums, Shiny Eyes. Each track its own story, every arrangement contains quiet dynamics that explode sometimes in rage, other times in joy. Anthems seize the quieter moments. By album’s end, the hard work to craft seven near-perfect songs is experienced vicariously by the listener.

Since the release of Shiny Eyes, Catch Fever has performed at CMJ, Free Press Summer Fest and last year's Houston Whatever Fest; toured the U.S. extensively; shared the stage with Andrew W.K. and Bad Suns, took part in a singularly entertaining music video for the song “Naysayer”; and had Emily Lazar (Vampire Weekend, Foo Fighters) master their debut album.

Countless bands influence Catch Fever's sound. “It’s really hard to narrow it down to a few bands,” vocalist and guitarist Taylor Huffman explains. “We are influenced by everything: rock, hip-hop, classical — everything. If I were to give you an answer, when we put the band together, we were big fans of the band Dredg. They played a big part in the inspiration for the first album.”

Each song carries with it an intensity. Edge-like guitar lines, heavy-laden bass lines, and pitch-perfect harmonies swell between anthemic choruses. There are no wasted moments on this record. From moment to moment, careful attention to detail is applied to each verse, each pre-chorus and each hook. 

For instance, “No End in Sight” opens with a piano intro intricately played by keyboardist/bassist Josh Wilson. Like Dredg, their song tells a story containing a dismal theme of hopelessness. Yet, Catch Fever’s minor-key melodies sound hopeful, a stark contrast to the song’s mood. Within this performance are harmonies that emphasize the rawer moments.

“When we initially wrote Shiny Eyes, we didn’t know if we were going to be a three-piece band," Huffman explains. "We wrote each song to bring them to their full potential. Once we had wrapped up the recording and decided to perform live as a three-piece, we definitely considered not having any dead space. The harmonies helped to fill that dead space.”

For many acts, the sophomore slump affects bands with significantly strong debuts. Recently Catch Fever announced the imminent departure of drummer Doug Andreano; this weekend’s performance will be his last with the band. But that hasn't slowed Catch Fever's progress. Hard at work on a followup to Shiny Eyes, Huffman and Wilson will work as a two-piece, merging electronic and live drums as each song requires.

“When we release our next album, it has to be done right,” Wilson says.

Lineup shift or not, the band will continue on. Excitement swells with the thought of what’s to come.

“We can’t wait to show the audience a more mature Catch Fever,” Huffman says. “The songs will show a side of us we haven’t revealed.”

Catch Fever performs Saturday, November 21. See houstonwhateverfest.com for more details.
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Stephan Wyatt