The Small Town series focuses on artists, producers, and members of DIY communities in areas lacking a large metro and widely accessible music hub. The series hopes to focus on how life in a small town affects one’s style of music and communication within a DIY scene, hopefully providing insight to readers in similar circumstances.
I met Caden in 7th grade band where we were both members of the percussion section and eventually both members of the high school marching band’s drumline. Caden, an extremely talented percussionist, not only showcased his skills in school, but also performed in makeshift rock bands. Now living in Tallahassee, Caden musical experiences have shifted from our small, conservative town of Vero Beach (where the only venue was a broken down mini golf course) to a thriving DIY scene in Florida’s capital. - Xana
By Xana Pierone
RARE CANDY: When did you get your start playing music?
CADEN CLINTON: I really got into playing music in eighth grade when I got my first phone. I was playing drums for school band at the time. When I got my phone, there was a free ringtone website, and one night my brother went on that website and started sending my phone random ringtones, and he sent me some metalcore band called Attack Attack!. From the 30 second clip it sent me, I heard a drum solo and was like “damn, I want to start playing music like this.” So, I started marching band in high school and that summer I met two other kids who also played music, and that started my first band. I’ve done percussion my entire life, but playing DIY music started around 9th grade.
RC: What bands and projects are you currently affiliated with?
CC: Currently, I’m playing in a math emo, or emo with math influences, band called Pool Kids, as well as a punk band called Slug. Right now, I’m doing section work for a band out of Orlando called RV.
RC: Very cool! You’re playing drums for all of those?
RC: Would you say your time is split evenly between all those bands? How is it managing all those projects?
CC: Pool Kids is the main priority right now, because we are leaving for tour end of the next month and we’re recording an album. Slug is taking a break because we’re all moving in together, so we have to get ready for the move, and RV hits me up whenever they need me to play drums for them.
RC: You play lots of genres, but what is your favorite style of music to play?
CC: I enjoy playing emo because the drums have a little more voice in songs.
RC: Can you talk about the struggles of making music in Vero?
CC: Vero is a small town and very conservative for the most part. If you’re not fishing or on the beach, or if you don’t have a lot of money, you’re doing things out of the ordinary. People don’t necessarily frown upon it, but they won’t necessarily pick it up or accept it. Playing in a band is tight, but there are like ten kids that come to your shows. No one would really talk about it, but it was fun. The kids that would come to your shows would have a great time. Finding a place to play shows was the hard part because there wasn’t a venue in town or a house you could go to to play shows. The only place you could play was the putt-putt golf course, so we’d play shows in the arcade there. Later in 2014 when Wax Records came around, they would have shows inside the store, but they stopped doing shows.
RC: What was the shift from Vero to Tallahassee like? Can you talk more about Tallahassee’s DIY scene?
CC: Well, the punk community in Tallahassee is huge. There’s a lot of great bands, especially this band Protocol. They’re really important right now in the community. The emo scene in Tallahassee is a little smaller, but there are some cool bands in it. I moved to Tallahassee for the music scene and I really love it up here. You’re going from two bands total in all of Vero to seeing shows three or four days a week. You have options. There are different communities. You could miss a show, but that band will be playing again next week. You have several house venues that are iconic, like Shark Tank and TV Land. They’re not just a place to play a show, but places for people to come and feel safe and welcomed. You meet a lot of cool people.
RC: I was talking to a friend in CT and she mentioned how the safety of DIY houses and communities are being threatened/compromised. Have you experienced any of that in Tallahassee?
CC: Not really. A show hasn’t been shut down in forever, and as long as you keep it inside and before 12AM no one has a problem with anything.
RC: That’s awesome. How many houses have regular shows?
CC: There are currently five houses, I believe. There’s The Vineyard, Bad Girls Club, BFF House, The Wolfsden, and Franklin Manor. The Wolfsden is the main house venue. There’s also a place called The Wilbury, which is a new bar in town that’s starting to do shows, and Club Downunder, which is the venue at FSU.
RC: How would you describe the accessibility to these shows, in regards to fostering a safe community?
CC: It’s great! I love it. There’s a Facebook page called DIY Tallahassee that lists upcoming shows and bands. Everyone is welcome as long as you’re not an abusive person.
RC: Are the shows sliding scale payment or free?
CC: Usually at bigger, legitimate venues in town, it’s like five dollars to get in and money will go to the bands and venue. At the house shows, all the proceeds go to the touring bands, or if it’s a locals only show all the money will go to Planned Parenthood or the organization of choice.
RC: Vero is a conservative, mostly white town, depending on where you live. How diverse is Tallahassee?
CC: There’s representation in everything. We have a great LGBTQ+ community. There’s a foundation, the Queer Hoards, which is a foundation about queer people riding bikes. There’s a big zine community that has people put together zines about a topic, like body image, and then throws an event showcasing those zines.
RC: Would you say that your music style has changed much since your move to Tallahassee?
CC: In Vero, the only music bands played was pop punk. That was for when you’re an edgy kid you want to play fast happy music, but then you move away and grow up. Pop punk is a phase and you can’t really play that without being cringey, so you move on and see what your friends are playing and what’s big in the scene. You meet people who are super political and play punk and that’s their outlet, and there are also people who want to write soft acoustic music and that’s their outlet.
RC: You’ve moved away from pop punk, but what have you begun to move towards? A bit of everything?
CC: Basically, what my friends want to play. You’ve got to get out of that pop punk, hipster, emo, or whatever phase you’re in and grow up and find what music fits you and isn’t cringey and helps the community in a certain way. You don’t want to play in a band with super misogynistic lyrics or that is all dudes. You want to play in diverse bands.
RC: I feel that. It’s tough, because some people see it as some quota you have to fill, but it’s not. At some point, you realize that most of the media you consume, especially music, has been saturated by one type, mainly white men. You want to experience something different and hear another perspective, and once you do it’s really freeing.
CC: Right! Pool Kids is a two piece and it’s female fronted. RV has non-binary representation in it, and Slug is all non-binary.
RC: What music are you currently listening to?
CC: Man, a lot of SoundCloud rappers, which is funny. Also, a lot of math bands like Polyphia or CHON, and a lot of underground bands like Kississippi, Woolbright, or Insignificant Other.
RC: Do you have any advice for people who are producing music or getting involved in a DIY scene, specifically for people in small towns?
CC: Just do it. No one is stopping you. If you want to do it, go for it. Play out of your city and make friends from bigger towns and stay active on social media. Social media is your best friend, because you can be in a small town and still be connected. Florida has a phenomenal DIY scene, absolutely incredible. I’m sure other places have great DIY scenes, but being in Florida I’ve met so many inspirational people through the DIY community.