w/ Computer Magic and Modern Merchant. $10. 7 p.m., Feb. 26. Cafe Nine, 250 State St., New Haven, cafenine.com
Koko B. Ware's 2009 arrival into the WWE Hall of Fame doubled as a source of celebration for Ware's career and an abundant fount of debate among die-hard wrestling fans. In the World Wrestling Federation in the late 1980s and early '90s, the man born James Ware built his rep as "The Birdman," a jovial lower-midcarder usually seen in garish gear and alongside his trusted parrot Frankie. Ware's entrance into the Hall of Fame years irked fans because Ware didn't really have much of a HOF-worthy career, even by sports entertainment's flexible parameters. What he did have, however, was oodles of charisma and a memorable character — likely both why WWE invited him in and why Caveman (who haven't hinted at an interest in wrestling otherwise) remembered him when coming up with a record name.
2011's CoCo Beware — the debut LP from the Brooklyn-stationed, slow-build-favoring, indie-folk five-piece — has the title it does for a handful of reasons. One, says drummer Stefan Marolachakis, is the "weird nostalgia" the connection provides. "In new music I like, there tend to be echoes of old things I like. If I revisit old music that I like, it reminds me of my childhood or my parents or that time I went to the beach or that time I went to the movies. I do like a lot of upbeat music, but I am also moved by a lot of music that's a little bit scary. Maybe not scary, maybe spooky is a good word. There's inherently something cinematic and narrative about stuff that's a little murky." This is where Koko B. Ware — not fellow wrestlers "Macho Man" Randy Savage or Big Boss Man or a similarly-timed pop culture property like the Ninja Turtles — comes in. "Well, honestly, [the name] wasn't strictly tried to that wrestler. That was just a springboard for it to have a phrase that evoked something more complicated," Marolachakis says. "None of those other phrases you're referencing had the word 'Beware' in there."
True to these roots, CoCo does champion pleasurable nostalgia and mysterious spookiness alike. There's a beachy keen vibe to "My Time" and "Old Friend" while "Decide" and "Thankful" house gloomy, reflective implications. This juxtaposition in tones stems from the band's well-publicized appreciation of Fleetwood Mac and the Byrds' Gene Clark. Like those names, a sheer, mysterious veil covers the contours of Caveman's music, too — a detail the band do nothing to combat with their preference for cagey and vague interview responses.
Caveman established themselves in late 2009 after all of its five members' past bands had recently gone kaput. Marolachakis' old group End of the World used to tour with the Subjects, which contained close teenage friends Matthew Iwanusa and Jimmy Carbonetti, and Marolachakis had been itching to do something with them for years. The drummer received a call from Caveman's future vocalist/guitarist (after Iwanusa and Carbonetti had begun discussions of personnel), recruiting Marolachakis quickly. Their first practice took place on December 28, 2009, which syncs with a title of a CoCo song. "Starting over was not a bummer," Marolachakis says. "Whenever a band [breaks up], it's a strange feeling, but starting a new one is really exciting." Iwanusa himself affirms this. "We were extremely excited, and none of the other bands ended in a bad way, so it wasn't like that fueled us being excited about this. It was just the opportunity to finally be like, 'We have a second chance to do exactly what we want to do.' Not even a second chance; everything built up to being able to do this exact thing."
"In The City," the first song revealed from their self-titled full-length out April 2, indicate Caveman's new/old predilection for sunset-colored new wave pop. Iwanusa continues to regard Fleetwood Mac as one of his favorite bands, but Tears for Fears and A Flock of Seagulls played sizable roles in shaping this record. "In The City," too, shows shades of nostalgia and spookiness coming through.
Though the group's story has only filled a few pages so far, Iwanusa remains certain about their purpose. "Still to this day, our goal is to be the biggest band ever. [This] was definitely not a hobby project — just 'cause we believe in it," he says. "I don't really want to do anything else with my life besides play music or, if I'm going to do other stuff, I'm gonna make sure that I can do it once I've done the groundwork with the stuff I really care about."