A white 1990 Ford Econoline van with red and blue trim pulls into the parking lot. The driver readjusts his parking position, which is made all the more obvious by a loud beep that occurs while the van is backing up. Written on the side of the van is “Chris Catalena and the Native Americans.” Chris steps out of the van wearing a straw cowboy hat, overalls, cowboy boots and iridescent teal-framed sunglasses.
“Yeah, I had the van towed to the garage. I couldn’t get it started. They called me up after a while and told me that it started immediately,” Chris explains with a slight smile. “They thought that was so funny.”
Vehicle mechanics may not be Chris’ specialty, but collaboration and artistry certainly is, as demonstrated on his new album, Here Comes The Time, out on Pau Wau Records.
“This is my first full-length album,” Chris says. “I put out a seven-inch with a band called The Tunnels. No one in the band took it very seriously – not everyone in the band was a musician, yet everyone’s girlfriend was in the band. It was a bit of a mess, a multiple monarchy system of some sort. No one in the band seemed too broken up when I left for Los Angeles, so I just let it ride.”
Shortly after moving to California, Chris was introduced to record producer Rob Campanella (Brian Jonestown Massacre, Beachwood Sparks). The new surroundings, along with a new love interest, inspired Chris to start writing new material. He recorded these new songs at Rob’s studio in Silver Lake. The album crosses multiple genres, with guest performances from Brian Wilson’s percussionist (Nelson Bragg) and the lead singer of Austin psych band The Black Angels (Alex Maas). The album even has a surprise appearance from Glee star Stephanie Hunt.
Moving across contemporary styles, Here Comes The Time pulls from a variety of musical genres. Despite a diversity of influences represented, Chris’ unique voice and his jangled piano riffs are the common threads that run throughout the recordings. His sense of humor and positivity shine throughout the album as well.
Now in Texas, splitting time between Austin and Bryan (a small town about two hours east of Austin), Chris has finally got the right band together. “I refer to the band as the Native Americans, because they’re like a nomadic tribe,” he explains. “Casey started out on bass, but he’s a drummer. Jon was playing drums, but he really plays bass. We’ve finally got the right equation, but we’re still always drifting around.”
Chris has been known to play shows from the top of his van and could probably make a career in prank calling. His quirky antics and stylishly distinctive outfits are just a reflection of the lens through which he sees the world. And now, through Here Comes The Time, we can also catch a glimpse of his beautifully unique perspective.