Bands to Watch 2009

This Is My Suitcase

  • Will Shilling photo
By Columbus Alive
From the This Is My Suitcase edition

"We think our album's sweet," says Joe Camerlengo, the 23-year-old singer-songwriter behind This Is My Suitcase.

Camerlengo sits on bandmate Joe Fitzgerald's couch, petting a feline named Chairman Meow, playing me rough mixes of The Keys to Cat Heaven and rhapsodizing about his band's upcoming LP.

This Is My Suitcase devoted most of the past two years to crafting the sort of record they would adore - a little Ben Folds piano, some Andrew W.K. guitar, a smattering of Freddie Mercury falsetto - and boy, do they adore it.

Their enthusiasm is not misplaced. Even in its unfinished state, Cat Heaven is an ideal introduction to one of the city's strangest, most exciting young bands. Atop Camerlengo's whimsical tales of love, death and animals, This Is My Suitcase built a dense sonic wonderland where guitars and keyboards mingle with French horns and string quartets.

"There's things that you can get from it that you're not going to get from a first, second or third listen," Camerlengo said.

Plenty of other folks are wound up about This Is My Suitcase, too. The group's spastic live show wins fans everywhere from the corporate confines of The Basement to the actual basement of DIY haven Monster House.

They've also raised some well-connected eyebrows outside Columbus. Members of Fall Out Boy, Motion City Soundtrack and Less Than Jake are fans. L.A.-based producer Mike Green (Paramore, Yellowcard) let Suitcase invade his studio last summer to record the bulk of Cat Heaven.

"We got to do it exactly how we wanted to do it," Fitzgerald said. "I don't think any label would have allowed us to be as crazy about recording this album as we have been."

nly after completing their concoction did the band sign a record deal with a label to be revealed soon. They plan to unleash Cat Heaven in March then tour for most of the year. Then they'll begin recording their next magnum opus, a set of songs that already has Camerlengo wearing one of his exuberant grins.