There are no lifetime achievement awards in the underground, which might be why we venerate the “lifers” — those outsider musicians who commit to their wild-styles for the long haul. But how wild are the styles? And how long is the haul? Do Michael Kentoff, Matthew Byars and Dave Jones of the Caribbean qualify yet? The band got together around the end of the previous century, and these three say they intend to keep it together for as long as they’re all alive.
Down in the D.C. basement where the Caribbean rehearses, the floor is a bramble of wires connecting guitars to effects pedals, rhythm machines to amplifiers. Kentoff, the trio’s primary songwriter, says the gear comes and goes, but the band’s mission remains steady-ish: to write melody-minded rock songs that feel quite familiar, but also a bit strange.
“What interests me, and all three of us, is the idea of the everyday being really unusual, and taking a step back, and seeing how extraordinary the smallest little thing is,” he says.
Doing so requires submerging into life’s normalcy and parsing it for anomalous details. “I walk through my life looking at things — and not just art — filtered through the lens of the Caribbean,” Jones says. “Everything. Everything.” And once everyone’s everythings get unpacked in the basement, the building begins. “Making music in a band is like creating a world with its own rules,” Byars says. “Its own physics.”
Would it be helpful to mention that the Caribbean plays in such-and-such style, or that it sounds like so-and-so band? Probably not. Lifers make music that sounds like living.