Brooklyn quartet Cende isn’t satisfied playing run of the mill power pop. Singer-songwriters Cameron Wisch and Dave Medina both have classical training and have played in experimental and punk bands. Joined by drummer Greg Rutkin and bassist Bernard Casserly, the band comes from a varied experience.
Wisch, Rutkin and Medina met at the State University of New York at Purchase, which the three attended. After school they moved in together. Both Wisch and Rutkin have already experienced indie success, as members of Porches and LVL UP, respectively.
They started Cende in 2013, when Casserly joined. Their first shows were at David Blaine’s The Steakhouse, near where they also lived, and the band released a straight-forward rock EP in 2015. From there, the band veered to the left. Led by lead songwriters Wisch and Medina, they began to blend their punk roots with math-rock and classical elements, such as unorthodox time signatures.
Their debut LP, the ambitiously titled #1 Hit Single, took nearly 18 months for Wisch to write and demo, and for the band to record and produce. When it’s finally released on May 26, the band’s fans will no doubt see a course change, while new listeners will find a uniquely built, outside-the-box record blending punk, math rock and yes, power pop.
Cende opens for (Sandy) Alex G at the Chapel on June 18, so we chatted with Wisch, Medina and Rutkin about their new creation process and coming up in Brooklyn.
RIFF: Did the culture of Brooklyn influence the band and and the music?
Cameron Wisch: Yeah, I think there’s so many people here right now, friends of ours, who are making really amazing music. We are constantly surrounded by that. It’s super inspiring and I would say that’s the biggest influence on me.
Greg Rutkin: Being surrounded by talented musicians at all times is really inspiring.
You have said that ’60s music was a big influence for this album. Did you have specific bands in mind?
Wisch: Production-wise, right at the start of recording this album, was the first time delving into the Beach Boys. Learning about their recording techniques was a big influence of how the record was recorded. From the start, the band was formed with taking ’60s poppy little jams but doing them in an aggressive punk sort of way.
Rutkin: I think it naturally did. I shared a room with Cameron and I literally heard him work down the Beach Boys’ every single song on Pet Sounds. It’s a natural thing but it was a major departure.
Dave Medina: Going in to record the EP, we wanted it to sound the way that it sounds. It’s straight-up guitars playing straight through. It was very cut and dry. Going into the full-length, I had in mind that I didn’t want the recordings to sound the way that we play them live. I wanted to experiment bringing in keyboards and strings. Each recording process was geared toward recording a specific sound: The EP being more straightforward punk and this being expansive and diverse and interesting [with] interwoven parts.
Rutkin: [Wisch] and Dave had more experience with odd time signatures and more experimental music than I did. It was kind of weird.
Wisch: Me and Dave had come from playing more experimental music. For the EP, we were tearing it down … taking those influences but boiling them down.
Medina: We tried to do a more straightforward punk thing.
Did you have any reservations about making an album that was so sonically different?
Wisch: Not really. We were just trying to express ourselves, not make music for a particular audience.
Medina: We’re not going to worry about it. We’re going on tour with Alex G this summer and some of those new songs he just dropped are really weird.
Wisch: It comes naturally with people who write a lot of stuff and are obsessive in the way they do stuff. We didn’t have reservations. I can only make and record the music that I make. It’s gonna come out the way it comes out. I can’t control it.
What is the writing process like for Cende? Are all of you involved and if so how does that work thematically?
Rutkin: Cameron’s been taking over more and more in terms of songwriting. With new songs he’d bring us pretty complete demos and we work on it in a live setting. It’s raw [but] written out completely in a linear fashion, with a guitar part.
Medina: I’m way more about collaboration. I’ll have a guitar parts all done but I’m really open to seeing what Bernard wants to do or have Cameron ripping some sick riff or solo, and have Greg shredding right on top of it. But, yeah, for five songs that Cameron writes, I’ll have one song. [Others laugh].
Thematically, how does this album differs from your self-titled EP?
Wisch: I don’t know if there’s a specific theme I can pin down. I definitely feel like the songwriting had expanded or gotten better. We definitely didn’t go into it with a specific theme in mind. It was a long process, and we definitely don’t have the attention span to hold on to one theme throughout that amount of time.
What do you think differentiates you guys from other artists in a similar genre?
Rutkin: I don’t think there are very many power pop bands … that have the same sort of classical training that Cameron and Dave does. I think that adds an extra little flair.
Medina: The overall writing for the band is geared toward pop, but then these other influences like math rock or hardcore punk, or experimental classical creep in and tweak the songs and make them a little bit more interesting. Odd time signatures come in here and there.
Do you have any favorite punk bands from the Bay Area?
Wisch: Straight-up punk bands? I was really influenced by Loma Prieta. That’s one of my favorites. Bands in general, from the Bay Area, I would say Deerhoof is huge.
Wisch: I’m a huge fan of metal, mathcore stuff. I grew up listening to that.