Many Columbus listeners got their first taste of The Salty Caramels via the Instagram-inspired video for “Jeni’s Ice Cream,” the folk-rock trio’s whistling ode to the brand that bequeathed them a band name. It was cutesy and saccharine, and it felt like a lark — as much a novelty as the frozen dairy treats it was celebrating.
Dig deeper than a single scoop. While you’d be right to conclude that The Salty Caramels have constructed an elaborate facade, you’d be dead wrong to think there’s no substance behind it — as dead as the guy who gets an arrow between the eyes in “Weasel.”
“We have a sweet overtone,” Bree Frick said, “but at the same time we have a lot of songs about sex and death.”
Besides, the facade is all the fun. Since forming over jam sessions and dips in the swimming hole during summer 2010, the trio of Frick, Molly Winters and Angela Perley has made a sport out of accentuating their music, be it by fashion sense — “There is definitely a fun girly aspect to it,” Winters said — or their increasingly unusual array of instruments.
Among the weapons in their arsenal: singing saw, slide whistle, ukulele, kazoo, frying pan. They’ve shot pop guns on stage. It’s all a bid to draw atypically quiet audiences into their world, and it’s working.
“It just kind of brings more of a theatrical element to our show,” Winters said. “People are charmed by that.”
As for the foundation under the facade, the standard guitar, bass and drums are in the mix too. In fact, the self-titled debut they’ll unveil Friday at Woodlands Tavern shows off a group far more rocking than that “Jeni’s Ice Cream” video reveals.
Everything orbits the vocals in The Salty Caramels; when you’ve got three lead singers, you make the most of it. Once meek in sonic demeanor, they’ve spent the past year and a half becoming rockers, learning to build a bluster around those airtight harmonies. Frick’s drum set started with a suitcase and a washboard and built from there into a “Franken-kit.” Relentless gigging in and out of town has fueled the evolution.
“There’s definitely a challenge when you only have three people in a band to try and make it sound full,” Frick said. “So I think our biggest challenge was figuring out a way to make the sound big while still focusing on the vocal element, because that’s a real strong part.”
The full scope of flavors will be on display Friday, and not just because Jeni’s will be on site to scoop ice cream. After an opening performance by the Caramels, a bevy of guest stars will join them for set No. 2. Come for the clamor; stay for the camaraderie — and the costume change.