Navigating life’s rough seas

Fairfax band Calm the Waters returns to Jammin Java.

Calm the Waters
Photo by Robert Merhaut

If Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182 and Jars of Clay formed a supergroup, not only would it be ridiculously amazing, but it would also sound something like Calm the Waters.

The Fairfax-based band, formed in 2014 after playing in their campus ministry group at George Mason University, released its third self-funded EP in late 2016 and is playing Jammin Java as part of the venue’s Local Scene series on July 10.

Though their lyrics speak to faith in a somewhat ambiguous way, band members Erik Matson (lead vocals/guitar), Nathaniel Darling (backing vocals/guitar) and Brian House (drums) don’t see their music as particularly religious.

“It’s personal music about things that you deal with, and faith is essential to that. It’s more the mode of personal reflection than outward worship or anything like that,” Matson says.

The band’s latest EP, a driving rock record with punk influences, is aptly titled Twenty-Something Years—the age of all three musicians. There’s a kind of gentle camaraderie among the men, who sport T-shirts and jeans as they playfully debate the proper classification of their particular subgenre of rock. (House and Darling overrule Matson’s claim that there is a pop element.)

A fitting intro to their sound is the EP’s title track, which features Darling’s steady rhythm guitar and capitalizes on House’s strength as a drummer, changing grooves and adding energetic fills to build interest and intensity.

Matson says that his lyric choices, which center on someone feeling depressed, unmotivated or at the very least kind of bummed, are the product of both “personal struggles” and his daily existence as a doctoral student. He studies 18th-century economics at Mason and says he often finds himself loafing around his home reading “a lot of philosophy and kind of gloomy stuff.”

Calm the Waters
Photo by Robert Merhaut

Calm the Waters has played prior shows at Jammin Java, DC9 and the Rock and Roll Hotel, as well as Richmond’s the National as part of a local artist showcase. They hope to release a full-length album within the next couple of years and eventually tour.

Perhaps the most striking piece on the EP is the one that sounds the least like the others. “I Need You (Reprise)” makes an almost hypnotic use of acoustic guitars played by Matson, lending optimism and some breathing room to the song that their harder tracks lack. “My head is a monster I just cannot tame, a wandering man who forgets his real name,” Matson sings. “But you can calm my storm.”

(July 2017)