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The band Cayucas is so rooted in a Golden State aura that you can almost smell the sea breeze while listening to their debut album, Bigfoot. Its eight songs generally avoid darkness and minor chords in favor of a shimmery pop sound that pays tribute to girls, the summer and beaches “where the sunshine shines like wildfire and the waves just keep on crashing,” as frontman and chief songwriter Zach Yudin sings on “Deep Sea.”
It’s the perfect soundtrack for swimsuit-clad pleasure-seekers wielding umbrella drinks, and the band should serve as a carefree respite to some of the more tortured artists they share the bill with at the Life Is Beautiful festival Oct. 26.
Yudin, based in Santa Monica, Calif., didn’t set out to a write a song cycle soaked in the distinct atmosphere of sand, surf and sunshine.
“I didn’t really think of this as a beachy album,” he says. “I more thought of it as a nostalgic album, with a summery feel.”
Indeed, pop music from a half-century ago is Bigfoot’s most obvious touchstone. Yudin began the project by working with samples from Tornadoes and the Animals, and the retro production techniques of the finished product coat the album in a dusty film. The calypso beat of “A Summer Thing” wouldn’t sound out of place on Belafonte at Carnegie Hall and non-album B-side “Swimsuit” is driven by an organ recalling a ‘60s lounge exotica record.
Besides Yudin on vocals and guitar, the band also features his twin brother Ben on bass and Casey Wojtalewicz on drums. Ben Yudin wrote two of Bigfoot’s tracks, and Zach Yudin says there are other advantages to being in a band with his twin sibling.
“Every once in a while we’ll have a fight or something, just because we’re around each other so much,” Yudin says. “But for the most part, it’s a lot easier playing together because we have the same ideas and the same vibe. He just kind of gets it.”
Certainly not everyone gets Cayucas. The tastemaking indie music website Pitchfork dismissed Bigfoot in the spring as a lightweight Vampire Weekend pastiche. It was a somewhat unfair attack, especially considering how much of pop music is created under the inspiration of influences. After all, Vampire Weekend was savaged five years earlier for channeling Paul Simon, 20 years after Simon was criticized for appropriating Afrobeat on Graceland.
Regardless, Yudin doesn’t mind his influences being noted.
“I guess anytime you have these African beats that we use on a couple of songs that’s going to happen,” he says. “It’s a fair comparison. I was listening to a lot of Vampire Weekend at the time (of Bigfoot’s composition), and I love the way that they write songs.”
Looming larger as a musical influence for the Yudin twins was another band of brothers.
“My big inspiration for this has been the Beach Boys,” he says. “I keep going back to them just to get either song ideas or reference points, or thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, I need to keep writing harmonies.’”
Yudin began posting songs online a few years ago under the name Oregon Bike Trails. After landing a record deal, his label suggested the name change. Pronounced “ky-yook-us”, the moniker is a play on Cayucos, the picturesque resort town on Central California’s coast.
“Oregon Bike Trails was kind of a funny name I came up with before I wrote a song, and it didn’t really fit,” he says. “We’re a California band. I’m writing these songs about beach culture, and Cayucos is this nostalgic beach town where you can longboard, and it just has this really cool vibe. It’s the same vibe that I wanted the band to have.”
Mission accomplished. CL