The Endless Summer of Cayucas, Cali's Brothers of the 'Blue Lagoon'

Led by Zach Yudin, Cayucas is a solo project turned band named after a small, coastal town in California, which might explain why Yudin has been so successful at crafting a shimmering surf-pop sound that feels like the perfect soundtrack for a last minute drive to the beach. On his debut album, Bigfoot, Yudin embraced more of a lo-fi sound that drew positive comparisons to bands like Vampire Weekend. On Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, however, the group's sound is more polished and boasts stringed instrumentation that adds a baroque flair to keep spirits high and hips swaying. Coincidentally, Cayucas has a sound reminiscent of local-act, Deep Cuts, who will be performing their own set at Fitzgerald's on Friday.

The Press caught up with Yudin, who is currently on tour and performs at Fitzgerald's tonight, to talk a little about his new album, what it's like working with his brother, and whether or not he actually believes in Bigfoot. 

Houston Press: Tell me what you’re up to and how has tour been so far.
Tour has been fun; it feels a bit like we are trying to let people know we have a new album out, so this is helping. We've had some great shows along the way and been able to make a lil time to sightsee a little bit. In Utah we spent the day in the mountains at a place called Big Cottonwood, it was a really beautiful place to see.

How has it been getting to perform the new album in front of a live audience?
It's been great, the songs are really fun to play live. Most fans are really familiar with Bigfoot, so the new album is still fresh. I think it'll be awhile before they can latch onto new songs.

Though you still have the same beachy, easygoing vibe as your debut, your newer tracks seem to feature more depth with these gorgeous stringed instruments and piano parts. What would you say inspired these choices when writing the new album?
I wanted to expand on the beachy songs, and write some summer pop. Pop songs with the same underlying tones as the first album. It happened very naturally it was just a natural progression; I didn't think about it too much really.

How did the songwriting compare from Bigfoot, to the new album?
This time we wrote all the songs on guitar and piano which allowed us to be more creative. There were a couple songs that were sample based, but overall we spent more time writing songs that were pop songs in my head — pop songs that fit into the Cayucas world. I also was interested in string composition on this album, had a lot of fun writing out string parts. Lyrically, I just expanded on the first album and nostalgia but got more personal, but that happened naturally.

Your label, Secretly Canadian, describes your music as feeling like “the nostalgia about a place they’ve never been to, and maybe no one has.” I definitely understand the statement, but would you say you have a specific place in mind when you write, or do you prefer listeners to envision their own version of that mysterious place?

I'd say it's half and half. Half the time I'm thinking of a very specific place, the other half I'm expanding on the name or place and just fantasizing. I like to fantasize around a real place or idea.

What has been most inspirational to your sound, be it other musicians, film, a place or an idea?
I would say musically, the Beach Boys, but I'm not there yet. I want to find that sweet spot... but it's not there yet. Lyrically, I will always go back to the Beatles, and as far as an idea, it would be nostalgia. I like to write about things that are very nostalgic to me. I like to write about the past — not main events like prom, but the night before prom.

From what I understand, Cayucas began as your solo project, and grew to what is now a band that includes your brother. Do you still consider yourself a solo artist, and if not, what has it been like to go from working as a solo musician to now being in a band?
I have a lot of song ideas, and at the end the day I like to come up with stuff on the creative side. Ben helps fill in the gaps with song ideas, bass lines, [and] guitar stuff. But I do all the lyrics, song ideas and conceptual stuff. He helped on the first album too, just not as much.

I’ve heard that siblings in music can be either heaven or hell. How does working in a band with your twin affect you as a musician? Are there any positives/negatives you would say come of it?
A little of both. It feels like we are on the same page, connected onstage. But with family, you are more concerned and you get frustrated more easily. Kinda like Denzel Washington in that basketball movie, like he was too hard on his son.

What would you say your favorite accomplishment is that has come out of Dancing at the Blue Lagoon?
We wrote an album that Ben and I are very proud of. When we were finished we thought to ourselves, "Yes, we did it." We felt like we wrote a solid sophomore album and that was a relief, because two years ago I had no idea what the next album would look or sound like, and it's tricky.

I love the song "Bigfoot" for many reasons, but my dad has always been obsessed with Bigfoot and he kinda passed it down. So I have to ask, where did you get the inspiration for the song, what made you decide on that name for your first album, and what are your thoughts on the subject? (Real or fake?)
I was staying in a cabin on Lake Tahoe one summer. My sister's husband told me about a giant wave that came crashing in one day on an empty lake. At that age — I was maybe 11 or 12 — I remember thinking about that a lot, like, 'What could be out in the water?' And that's where the idea came from for the song. It was a very spooky place as a kid, and we stayed on the third floor with a tiny window. The imagery is still in my head. [Bigfoot is] probably fake, though. 

Cayucas will performs Friday, August 7 at Fitzgerald's (downstairs) with special guests Hibou. Doors open at 8 pm.
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Alyssa Dupree
Contact: Alyssa Dupree