How The Callous Daoboys went from blowing stimulus checks on guitars to being the new face of mathcore
Guitarist Maddie Caffrey explains how the Atlanta-based band went from Christian karaoke nights to supporting their idols, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and why she’s glad that they don’t have “weird” fans.
The Callous Daoboys. Image: Nick Karp
Maddie Caffrey is one seventh of the world’s most exciting mathcore outfit since The Dillinger Escape Plan. The Callous Daoboys have existed as a collective since 2016, but it’s only since the release of their 2022 album, Celebrity Therapist, that international excitement has really begun to peak around their unique sound.
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From chaos to cutesy, from breakdown to melodic singalong, The Daoboys’ success continues to reach new heights with the ceiling seemingly non-existent for the Atlanta, Georgia-based friends. What most people don’t know is just how close this band are with one another, or how deep-rooted their history runs.
“Carson [Pace], our vocalist, and I, we have been playing music together basically since we became friends,” Caffrey informs us. “We were introduced at a Christian youth DJ, karaoke night, thing,” she laughs, “We just had a mutual friend that was like, ‘The two of y’all have the same music taste, be friends.’”
Pace would go on to teach Caffrey all she knows about music, including how to play guitar. “I knew a chord or two, but I really did not know what I was doing,” she laughs, “But we were on the same page about everything. He’s been teaching me how to play guitar this whole entire time.”
Caffrey and Pace’s emo project would go on to release a couple of EPs, but the two didn’t see much success or trajectory. That was when Pace decided to become a vocalist, born of a desire to just be in a band and scream, and make heavier music.
“We just wanted it to be like no pressure, all fun, just whatever. We were just going to try our best,” Caffrey explains, “I know we sounded terrible, I was trying to sound bad on purpose in the early days, but we just got this huge, energetic response to our shows. We just kept sticking it out until we got a little bit better at being musicians.”
Anyone who has witnessed The Callous Daoboys live can bear witness to the chaos, and the feel-good vibes that emanate from one of their shows. Caffrey is a force to be reckoned with, kicking her fishnet-clad leg high above her head, spinning her black, sparkly (of course) Balaguer guitar like a dysfunctional fairground ride. She’s mesmerising, and a perfect complement to the exuberance that the Daoboys present.
In the summer of 2023, The Callous Daoboys took over the math-rock-adjacent ArcTanGent festival in the UK, and the infectious joy that spread among the crowd was shared by every member on the stage. “ArcTanGent was so special,” Caffrey smiles, “That’s one of those festivals I’ve seen the poster for years and always been like, ‘Oh my god, I just want to go to it’. As a fan, I would love to go to it. Then getting the offer to play it this past year was just kind of a dream come true,” she elaborates. “Being in that giant tent and like, we don’t have a crew or anything so we’re setting up all of our own stuff and people just saw us and they knew who we were already. It was the craziest feeling,” she recalls.
That feeling would only go on to skyrocket as The Callous Daoboys were announced to join The Dillinger Escape Plan for two of their three unique, intimate reunion shows in New York, celebrating the 25th anniversary of their album, Calculating Infinity.
“The music industry is so crazy,” Caffrey laughs, “Sometimes people plan stuff six months to a year in advance and everybody has to keep quiet on it, but with the Dillinger shows, their team might have been planning on it for a while, but a week or two before that announces they hit our agent up just to see if we were interested. We were like ‘Yeah, we’d pay to do it!’ Like we will. That’s been the one goal of this band, to open for Dillinger.” Caffrey’s enthusiasm is evident, and rightly so. There was a time, though, where the Daoboys thought they’d been passed by for the opportunity.
“So, they announced the first show and we weren’t on it and we were like, ‘Oh, okay,’” she recalls, “Then literally a couple of hours after they announced it, they hit us back up like, ‘We’re gonna do another show if you want that one,’ so yeah, they send us assets and then that one sells out, and they’re like, ‘There’s a third one and we want all the bands on it,’ so yeah, we’re just going to go and hang out in New York all weekend and get to watch Dillinger do their thing which is really, really special.”
Those Dillinger influences run deep throughout The Callous Daoboys’ lore, with Caffrey and Pace subconsciously implementing riffs or rhythms from old albums into new Daoboys material. Pace is the band’s primary songwriter, but Caffrey has felt increasingly throughout the years like she can add her own style or taste to what he comes up with.
“Carson and I were sitting around pulling up samples of, like, breakbeat samples and we weren’t even totally focused on whether it was gonna be a band thing or just wanting to make like Euro trash dance, then we pulled up a phaser pad and made nonsense guitar noises over it,” she explains. “It’s always different things, whatever will inspire different riffs or we’ll have parts of a song structured and it’s like, okay, I really want a Fall Out Boy chorus to come next,” she says of their writing process.
Caffrey takes a moment to chat to us about her new, pink guitar. “It’s from a company called Balaguer and they endorsed me at some point last year, but I’ve always thought their guitars are so cool. Andy Williams, who used to play with Every Time I Die, was endorsed by them and had signature models through them and used to play a big pink one just like this.”
“With all his guitars he likes doing the humbucker and then putting a Tele-like lipstick pickup in the neck and I was always like, that’s really cool!” she enthuses, “I’m always doing like a chug riff and then I have to quickly switch into something, like, maybe I’m fingerpicking a really soft reverb, and I just like the clean tone of a Telecaster pickup. When we met [Williams] recently he said he liked the way it blends and I’m like, that’s the one thing that I don’t really care for, blending the two pickups,” she explains. “It makes me want to go back and listen to some Every Time I Die riffs and figure out what you’re using that blend part for.”
Caffrey also owns another guitar from Balaguer, the aforementioned black, sparkly USA model. “I’d never touched one of their guitars in person which I think is kind of risky, a little bit,” she tells us, “For the first couple months of Covid, we got this crazy stimulus money and I was getting paid more than I’d ever been given in my life. I bought a handful of guitars and this was one of them.”
Caffrey’s gamble paid off, because she explains that she ended up falling in love with the guitar, and customising it to her preferences. “I’ve roughed it up because I am not nice to my guitars!” she laughs, “But the strap button is usually in the horn and I switched it to the back because I kept ripping it out after essentially beating the fuck out of it, and then I switched a pickup, it was a stock – what are they? It’s like, whatever the heaviest humbucker is. I feel so bad!” she giggles, forgetting the name, “I don’t remember all of their humbuckers but we switched it out for the DiMarzio PAF!”
The Callous Daoboys have a Discord server where their dedicated fans congregate and converse daily, with band members offering fans guestlist spots to any shows they may not be able to physically afford tickets for, where they are able. “We are incredibly lucky for the people that support us,” Caffrey explains. We discuss monthly statistics, and the way they are unreliable at demonstrating the scope of a band’s fanbase or their dedication. “You only have this many monthly listeners and it’s like, okay, but for the amount of monthly listeners, it’s kind of crazy how all of those people will follow us on every single thing,” she says.
Caffrey recognises that, as a woman in the industry, she’s at higher risk of being objectified, or disrespected thanks to the misogyny that is so blatantly present throughout, but believes that the composition of The Callous Daoboys, and the interactivity between them and their fans decreases that risk substantially.
“I think I’m super lucky that our fans are not weird to us,” she explains, “We have some girls and some guys and a couple of them are non-binary, and I don’t want to feel like our identities are why we’re here. Our fans are very cool and treat us normally, and I don’t even have to think about that.” Caffrey recognises and has seen first-hand that this isn’t always the case, though.
“Bands can’t be responsible for their fans being gross or creepy or weird, but there have definitely been times where we’re the opening band and these people are not here to see us. They will cross boundaries and do weird things and it’s like, okay, if you’re gonna be on our time you don’t get to do this.”
Caffrey explains that her and her bandmates look out for one another, and she knows she can rely on them to have her back if a situation arises.
“Anytime I feel fishy about the situation, I just have my band to back me up about things. I’m like, if they’re not going to respect a woman saying something, I’m gonna stick them on you,” she explains. “I can probably tell you only 10 other women guitarists, it’s a significantly shorter list that grows everyday,” Caffrey says, “I’m not at liberty to speak about all of that really, but to me more women need to start pushing our way in there, be friends with each other, look out for each other.” Here, here.