It’s All About the Music with Caleb Gomes
Sep 25, 2017 11:00AM
By Jordan Venema
A Truly Old Soul
Story by Jordan Venema
Photo courtesy of Caleb Gomes
Caleb Gomes, 17, is no stranger to Visalia’s music scene. His father, Aaron Gomes, founder of local nonprofit Sound N Vision, continues to bring Grammy-caliber bands to Visalia, many with national and even international reputations. For the younger Gomes, attending concerts was as common as a family dinner. So it’s fair to say the music scene shaped Gomes into the person he has become, but with college looming next year, he’s preparing to leave his own mark.
Gomes grew up in a house surrounded by instruments, and began taking lessons regularly around age 9 or 10 through Sound N Vision’s summer youth program.
“That was my intro to percussion,” says Gomes, who soon after began taking weekly lessons with Carlos Rodriguez of the band Mezcal. “I mostly focused on Latin stuff, like congas, which is an interesting place to start because most people begin with rock.”
But Gomes admits he has unique tastes, and even considers himself a musical old soul.
“Definitely, and I think that comes from what I was exposed to.” Gomes would sometimes come to his father with songs, who in turn would nod or cringe. “And that would be the judge,” he says with a laugh.
His first favorite song was by finger-style guitarist Jim Croce, “this crazy weird stuff,” but at the other spectrum was a song by My Chemical Romance. “That was my one jam that everybody in my house hated,” Gomes laughs.
At an early age Gomes was also introduced to different styles of music though shows put on by Sound N Vision at Visalia’s Howie and Son’s.
“I forget that’s uncommon,” Gomes says. “It definitely shaped me as a person a lot. I was at shows my whole life, and I think my first show was The Thermals. I was probably only 3 or 4.”
Gomes might even have played a role booking those early shows. Most bands looking to play Sound N Vision would mail samples of their music to Gomes’ father. “So he’d get these CDs and throw them in the car and ask us, ‘Hey, should I book these guys?’” recalls Gomes.
When he was a child, Gomes says there was no real rhyme or reason behind his response, but today he’s taking that role seriously. In January, Gomes promoted his first show at Odd Fellows on Court Street in Visalia. The experience, he says, has been exciting.
“My dad and I brought in the duo No Age from Los Angeles. I love being on the pulse of it. At the last show, there were kids that I’ve never seen, and the fact that they are here is super cool.”
As a drummer, Gomes is no stranger to performing with other musicians, but through promoting shows at Odd Fellows, he has found himself experimenting with other musicians on a different level.
“No Age requested a support band, but at the time we didn’t have a budget for that because we didn’t know who would show up for the show,” explains Gomes. “So I hit up Cody Tarbell of Slow Season and asked if he was down to do a duo for the No Age show.”
The two formed the band Gushers, which was later joined by Slow Season’s bassist Hayden. Gomes is their junior by more than a decade, but that doesn’t intimidate him.
“It’s about the music and the people. As long as I like being around those people, it doesn’t matter how old or young they are,” says Gomes. “It’s about finding somebody who’s compatible with me musically.”
While performing will always be a goal for Gomes, he’s also recognizing that the experience of music can create community.
“I’ve seen friends meet other friends because of shows,” he says.
In addition to promoting shows and starting a new band this year, Gomes also taught percussion at the Sound N Vision youth classes – the same classes that taught him.
“Teaching those kids is awesome,” says Gomes, who is helping them prepare for a performance at Tastemakers. As a student, Gomes had also performed at Tastemakers, but this is the first year he is helping organize a student performance.
“It’s kind of intimidating,” he admits. “It will be cool to see kids doing what I did, and how I started.”
And now Gomes has come full circle – from student to teacher, and that experience, he says, “was the beginning of the decision of where I want to go.”
He still hopes to make music and perhaps even records. “But the more I think about why I like music, I realize it’s the culture and how it affects people,” says Gomes, who plans to attend UC Santa Cruz to study psychology. “Music therapy is how I found I could do that most effectively.”
And if music therapy, or promoting shows, or teaching lessons, or making records doesn’t pan out for Gomes, he has another option: band manager.
“I had one student with autism,” explains Gomes, for whom it was “less about teaching him drums and more about using music to help his situation. What can drums do to help him?” For starters, Gomes saw him branch out with his own performances, playing shows in his neighborhood, “and his parting words for me this summer,” says Gomes: “‘You can be my manager.’”
See Caleb Gomes and the SNV Youth Band during the Tastemakers Festival happening October 14 from 5PM-10PM at the Rawhide Stadium in Visalia; 300 N. Giddings Street