Photo by Sarah Williams
When Taylor Meier and Evan Westfall take the stage, they get to do what they do every day – jam out. Taylor (lead vocals/guitar) and Evan (banjo/vocals/kickdrum) make up CAAMP, an indie-folk band originating from Columbus, Ohio. Taking after musical influences such as Ray LaMontange, Justin Vernon and Trampled by Turtles, CAAMP captures an old-school soulful sound while maintaining honest vocals. In fact, honesty is what the duo prides itself on.
“These are our songs, our words, our melodies,” Taylor says. “You can feel what I’m saying, and it’s not supposed to be an act; it’s just us living.”
Taylor and Evan’s friendship sparked during their freshman year of high school when they teamed with two other classmates for a music project. They began writing songs and later referred to themselves as a band called “Heard the Current.” Although the name was short-lived and the other two members ended up dropping the band, Taylor and Evan stuck together. The duo changed their name to CAMP; the word itself fit their simplistic demeanor. Another ‘A’ was later added to CAAMP so listeners could easily find their work through Google and YouTube searches.
Senior year of high school was when Taylor and Evan landed their first “little brunch gig” at The Woodlands in Columbus. Jesse Henry, a local musician and Taylor’s former guitar teacher, saw the performance and decided to take CAAMP under his wing.
“We were awful back then,” Taylor says. “But he’s still with us today. He’s producing our current album.”
After high school ended, CAAMP made its way to Athens and the music followed along with them. Evan came to OU as an education major and continues to take classes toward his degree. Taylor, on the other hand, recently withdrew from the university with the support of his family and friends.
On his withdrawal form he wrote, “gonna be a musician instead.”
Taylor and Evan began to take their music more seriously once they started opening up for people such as Trevor Hall and the lead singer of Rusted Root, Michael Glabicki. After these shows, they received a lot of attention from the audience and grew more confident in their performances and songwriting, so they began sitting down playing for hours a day.
“That’s when all these songs came,” Taylor says. “We were just pushing hours with no one but each other.”
The duo began building a reputation last year once they started attending open stage events and recording demos in Taylor’s bedroom. The songs 26, Send the Fisherman and Vagabond were recorded as a three-song demo on one mic. After sending it out, one thing led to another and CAAMP got some gigs. Since then, they have performed at various venues including Casa Nueva, Miami Valley Music Festival, Square Roots Records and Duck Creek.
“Duck Creek was definitely our favorite,” Taylor says. “Besides two people, no one knew us, so we got a lot of new fans. It was nice to play to a crowd that wasn’t just our friends.”
At these shows, an intimate connection can be felt between CAAMP and the audience, especially when they perform some of their better-known demo songs. When the crowd echoes the lyrics back, Taylor says he gets the chills.
“We always used to talk about that when we were younger,” he says. “We couldn’t wait for the day when we were singing our songs and could hear the crowd singing back.”
Taylor said the nervousness he used to feel when performing didn’t come from the audience because they started out only playing for family and friends. The aspect that scared him the most was what to do when he wasn’t singing.
“I was ‘McJaggering’ it out there. I didn’t know how to work a mic,” he says. “I didn’t know what to do about that or when people looked at me.”
But now that Taylor and Evan have been dedicating three to seven hours a day to practicing their songs, they’ve grown to develop a more comfortable stage presence. The key, as Taylor says, is to keep it personal. “Even when we are going a million miles an hour; those songs mean just as much to us,” he says.
With the help of Jesse Henry and Square Roots Records, a CAAMP album is in the works, and is said to include nine of their 22 original songs. The album will stay true to the duo for the most part with Evan on the bass a bit and Taylor playing some electric. “We have a lot to come, it’s just coming slow. Just because you write a song doesn’t mean it’s going to be good,” Taylor says.