After the disintegration of Chicago’s blues-rock innovators Red Red Meat, the band’s four remaining members struck out on their own, initiating several varied endeavors but never straying too far from their home base, or each other. Ben Massarella and Tim Rutili revived their Perishable Records imprint, Brian Deck opened the Clava recording studios, adjacent to the Perishable offices, and Tim Hurley recorded and released his own Sin Ropas project on the resurrected label. While enduring the fluctuation between crisis and monotony inherent in the daily operation of a small, independent record label, Rutili began work on his next musical project, Califone.
Named after the pedant audio supply manufacturer, Califone was initially just Rutili banging out songs with a computer. Eventually, he began to enlist the help of some familiar cohorts and cycled through several transient contributors; ultimately, the revolving cast spawned 1998’s self-titled debut EP. A joint Flydaddy/Perishable release, the record was distinctly more focused and confident than Red Red Meat’s swan song, There’s a Star Above the Manger Tonight. While still incorporating the bizarre sounds and sequenced beats of that record, this time the band didn’t allow its in-studio experimentation to overwhelm the songs.
Interestingly, at the end of the nascent recording sessions for Califone, someone in Rutili’s new conglomerate noticed that the band was, in effect, a reincarnation of Red Red Meat; the principal members of the supposedly defunct quartet were the only remaining people in the studio. A second self-titled EP followed in 2000 on Portland’s Road Cone label, which soon after was paired with the first on the Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People compilation.
With Califone’s fundamental studio lineup at least temporarily solidified as Massarella, Rutili, and Deck, the band recorded its debut LP, Roomsound, with an open-door policy; members of Eleventh Dream Day, Tortoise, and Fruit Bats al