Dalton Clayton behind Ricky Brewer (left) and Jenn Tatro behind Kelton Kragor. (photo by Jenn Granda)

Is Card Catalog ready for a close-up and to start getting the wider recognition its members have earned?

By Dave Kirby

“When I was younger, my mom used to take me to the library a lot,” remembered Card Catalog singer and songwriter Jenn Tatro. “I used to kind of run around, mess with the books and mess with the card catalog.”

As she got a little older, she and her friends used to climb a tree to get on the library roof to joke around, tell stories and look at the stars in her hometown of Augusta, Kan., just east of Wichita. Naming her band after a warmly recalled artifact of that institution and her own childhood was a fond gesture to her past.

Tatro is still telling stories:

She rode high/she consumed the souls of men
Started out clean then she turned on them
Ran the show when she didn’t have a plan
Blamed others when things slipped through her hands
(from “Madame Crash”)

An unabashed Fleetwood Mac fan from her early years, Tatro combines that influence with darker, more angular influences from the early 1990s: Dolores O’Riordan and Rage Against the Machine. With her longtime songwriting partner, guitarist Dalton Clayton, Tatro and her band have crafted a compelling and provocative identity: a four-piece blues/folk/alternative rock collective. They focus more on songs than jamming in an area steeped in jam-based and electric music, where that ethic may represent an upstream swim for an aspiring rock outfit. Part bluesy swagger, part folkie murmur, part full-on rock rage, Card Catalog serves up a spiky alternative.

Card Catalog members left to right: Dalton Clayton, Jenn Tatro, Ricky Brewer and Kelton Kragor. (photo by Karen A Dombrowski-Sobel)

For most bands making the transition from cover band to originals and graduating from playing parties and small private functions to club dates and regional festivals, this is the time of both greatest freedom and greatest discipline. Free to define your art and let it mature without undue expectations from fans or club owners, you still need to craft it, nurture it, improve it and hear it as others may hear it, since most of them will be hearing it for the first time.

And you have to do that a lot.

“Up to this point, we’ve said ‘yes’ to pretty much every show we’ve been offered,” noted guitarist Dalton Clayton, a native Alabaman and avowed child of the school of Southern rock. “We’ve played kids’ birthday parties that were awkward as hell, we’ve played auctions for old folks’ communities, we’ve done cancer benefits for friends who were diagnosed. We’ve been offered shows at venues that maybe weren’t really our style, but we’ve done them anyway because we want to build as much stage experience as we can.

“I think our main focus right now is getting venues that we think will benefit us the most.”
Card Catalog won a Boulder Battle of the Bands competition in 2017, and their award included two recording days at eTown, where the band cut five of the songs that appear on their upcoming debut album, due to be released in January. Many musicians spend their whole lives preparing for a first album. Once that day arrives, things often happen quickly. The turn of the new year will see Card Catalog in action, playing a set at the Boulder International Film Festival and the manic community weirdness of Nederland’s Frozen Dead Guy Days festival, both in March.

But as the year rolls on and word gets out, there could well be more out-of-state club gig offers, festival invitations, more regular gigging and bigger venues in and around Boulder or Denver. Their online presence up to this point, a stanchion in any band’s development in the Internet age, has been limited due to copyright delays. (Drummer Ricky Brewer has past experience in bands and around the wider music industry, and has helped navigate management issues and outright copyright larceny. Yes, that happens.)

With a new record comes the campaign—social media, streaming services, press profiles and all the rest. But as the band members are still managing full-time jobs and/or school, are they ready to reach for the brass ring when their time comes around?

“I’m really ready,” Tatro said. “I have the flexibility to jump when the time comes.”

“I think the best thing [that came from my day job] was finding these two guys (Clayton and bassist Kelton Kragor),” she continued. “They are just amazing people in general, and I love having them on my team and in my life. I feel like we’re a family, and I don’t say that lightly.”