At first I didn’t notice the amount of inspiration Caring Less draws from Jeff Buckley, but once heard, it could not be unheard — and their music is all the more exciting for it.
The emerging Philly indie rock four-piece came on my radar earlier this year with a humble self-released six-song project, packed with gritty guitar rippers and catchy pop-adjacent hooks delivered by frontperson Sara Johnson. Her lyrics are often first-person and look at the ennui of life in the 2020s; feeling adrift in an anxiety-inducing world, the post-adulthood crash, the complications of love. It’s rich stuff, and their engaging live show brought me to Silk City earlier this summer, where I noticed — aside from what solid players they are — that their merch at the time was simply their band name with a huge photo of Buckley in the center.
I inquired about this, and guitarist Nate Garfield explained that Johnson is a huge, huge fan of the late and legendary singer-songwriter; I promptly found her standing outside the venue and excitedly asked if she’d seen the photos of Buckley taken inside Silk City in 1994, mere footsteps from where we were standing. Stoked to nerd about our about one of mutual favorites, she subsequently showed me a tattoo of Buckley on her arm. Maybe it was that moment of music fan bonding or the cosmic synchronicity of the place and the sound, but the next time I saw Caring Less live — a tremendous set at West Philly Porchfest — the influence was unmistakable: dramatic builds and releases, arcing guitar exchanges where lead and rhythm feel like one and the same, soaring vocal melodies. Caring Less takes the hallmarks of a beloved music icon, and uses it to make something uniquely their own.
In this propulsive set for The Key Studio Sessions, the band — which also features bassist Ryan Acito and drummer Nick Kreh — showcases thrilling new music from their next chapter: a project they’ve been recording with Kyle Pulley at Headroom Studios and hope to release in 2024. The show-stopping “I Think He Knows” is the song from Porchfest where I had the above-mentioned lightbulb moment, and this performance of it will send chills down your spine; the finale “All Over Me” is dense and distressed in pensive slowcore tones before exploding with a cathartic conclusion. Packaged with a jaunty performance of the punk-edged “Ripe” from their debut EP, it’s a perfect how-it-started / how-its-going snapshot of Caring Less, and you can watch the Key Studio Session in full below. For more, the band plays live this Thursday, November 16th, at Tin Can Bar in Port Richmond, and you can find details at their Instagram, @caringlessband.