A first performance at a real concert venue would inspire a bundle of nerves for anyone. That was certainly true for the younger members of Callplay as they took the Grand Stafford Theater stage last October. But they had plenty of family support onstage and off.
Callplay is a family band, a Coldplay cover act led by father Matt Call with four of his sons. The Calls moved to the area in 2016. Matt, 40, is an assistant professor in the Mays Business School management department at Texas A&M. He played in various bands since his teenage years, and recorded his own music after graduating from BYU in 2003.
Matt plays guitar and sings. Clive, 15, plays keyboard, synth bass and drums. Van, 13, focuses on drums. Dean, 11, plays a synthesizer, and 8-year-old Zane handles the lighting and chips in on harmonies. All of the sons contribute to the vocals.
On a recent rainy afternoon in Downtown Bryan, Matt eagerly described each child’s skill set, punctuated by anecdotes, like someone comparing Van’s drumming style to that of Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame.
“I just like being able to rock out on the drums,” Van says.
Music is big in the Call home — they practice and record in a home studio — and learning an instrument is more or less mandatory, Matt says.
“At the same time, we try to make it fun,” he says, “so that it’s something they want to do.”
The Calls naturally have a strong appreciation for Chris Martin and Coldplay. Matt says they’re not over-the-top super fans, but enjoy the band’s sound, which first caught his attention with the 2000 hit Yellow. The Calls tried to see Coldplay in Houston in 2017, but the NRG Stadium show was canceled in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
The family teamed up to play a Coldplay song — the big ballad Fix You — for a church function last year, and that experience led to a handful of shows, headlined by the Grand Stafford Theater event.
“It was really fun,” Clive says of the Grand Stafford show. “I feel like the venue is a really cool place to play. The atmosphere in there, I could definitely see why a lot of famous bands would want to play there.”
Dean acknowledged having preshow jitters, but it didn’t last long that night: “When I got onstage, it was really fun. Just a good place to have a fun time.”
Zane shared that sentiment, noting that he made an appearance onstage to dance at one point in the show.
“I was like, ‘This is gonna be hard,’” he recalls. “But it was super fun.”
Matt estimates that he sings lead on about 60 percent of the songs, and he anticipates that number reversing as the band evolves.
“It’s a matter of, it’s not in their range yet, or it’s a matter of some songs are more challenging,” he says. “Eventually, I’m OK with them taking over. It’s really more about them getting experience and getting comfortable.”
There are opportunities for Callplay to expand. Beyond the four sons now in the lineup, there are three more Call kids at home: sons Jones (3), Jay (1) and 4-month-old daughter Marlie. Matt says his wife Leslie even sent Coldplay a message to try to let the band members know about Callplay.
“To me, this is more fun than I’ve ever had,” Matt says. “… This is more of a special thing, because I feel like it’s bringing them together. To see them perform makes it a more special experience.”