“You might feel strange like you’re coming apart at the seams, but it’s only natural you’ve been crushed by the weight of your dreams,” sings comedian-turned-frontman Craig Friedman on the album “Calf Life,” released July 28 on Love Sick Records by the Brooklyn-based psychedelic country blues duo Veal Estate.
And though this lyrical sentiment, from the track entitled “Sepulveda,” may seem a bit heavy, on “Calf Life,” Friedman and his drummer and producer Jesse Lent of The Monte Vista and CSC Funk Band (a 10-piece outfit featuring members of Gwar, The USA IS A Monster, talibam! and Bad Manners), have crafted a creatively sardonic take on the difficulties of finding success outside the mainstream in an increasingly money-driven city.
“Veal is a food with questionable origins,” said Lent in reference to the two-piece rock band’s provocative name.
“We force these young calves into boxes all for some imagined future payoff. It’s really not that far out as a metaphor for what us creative types do as we squeeze ourselves into tiny apartments for what we hope will work out down the road.”
The name Veal Estate also serves a practical purpose, according to Friedman, who plays guitar and is the lead singer of the group.
“It’s indicative of the music, lightly severe,” he said with a laugh.
But just as Veal Estate is more than just a pun about baby cows headed to the slaughterhouse, the songs on “Calf Life” also explore the world beyond just being another struggling artist in Brooklyn.
“It’s been eight years since Jesse and I started jamming together at his old rehearsal space on the same block as Trash Bar in Williamsburg, before that whole neighborhood changed” Friedman said when asked about the micro and macro nature of his songwriting. “It’s not that weird to cover a lot of ground over such a long period of time.”
The DC native is organic in his approach to songwriting.
“Songs happen when you need them,” Friedman said. “They’re mile markers, milestones in the journey, each from a specific time and place in my life. I can even remember what the room smelled like where each song was written.”
With nine tracks spanning a concise 25 minutes, “Calf Life” is a kaleidoscope of musical styles, a decision that Lent, who produced the album, says has to do with their own taste.
“Our favorite records, like “The White Album” or Dylan’s “Basement Tapes” go a million different places through the course of the album,” he said.
From an angst-ridden riff on breaking off an impending wedding engagement (“Whoa Woman”) to an Orwellian character study through the use of barnyard animals (“Chicken And The Pigs”), “Calf Life” is unmistakably a diverse offering of sounds.
Friedman seemed to acknowledge this fact last month, when Veal Estate was performing at Lent’s Psychic Rodeo residency at Hank’s Saloon, described as “performers of all disciplines at their most untethered and arresting” by the Village Voice.
“We’re Veal Estate and we’ve got a bunch of different kinds of stuff for you,” he said.
Veal Estate’s “Calf Life” is available on iTunes, Bandcamp, TIDAL and Spotify.