Cains & Abels are David Sampson, Josh Ippel, and Jonathan Dawe. Their sound is a mix of buttery guitar melodies, elemental drumming, and harmonious voices. Songwriter David Sampson’s unique vocal styling stems from the religious folk style of his rural Ohio upbringing. Sampson recounts his earliest experiences with music as being in a room of adults singing at the top of their lungs in a fashion akin to shape note singing. His vocals, combined with the harmony of his bandmates, resound in an unsettling atmosphere that combines the eerie with the beautiful.
Originally, David and guitarist Josh Ippel were members of the band Lapel, heavily influenced by the K Records scene in 2002, particularly The Microphones. Lapel recorded an EP with Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me), toured the east coast, and later opened for and performed with Phil Elvrum (The Microphones) as his backing band during his first ever Michigan tour. Lapel's drummer moved home to Canada and Sampson set out to form a new project more centered on his own song writing.
Months later, in 2003, Cains & Abels were officially formed in Grand Rapids, MI. As Sampson recounts their name originated from material that he was writing at the time: “I was into talking about halves of things and opposing halves of the same whole in my lyrics, and that seemed to fit. I wanted it to be a 'story telling band', where all of the songs were parts of a long story.” Not realizing how autobiographical his writing had become, Sampson set out to write songs revolving around the life of a character he dubbed "the reluctant trucker". “I started writing these songs after I got married in 2002, and it's very obvious that I was feeling very pressured into growing up and taking responsibility for myself and her and things. I thought I was writing fictional songs, but they weren't at all.”
From 2003 to 2006 the band went through many transformations and many different collaborators including Adrian Orange (Thanksgiving) and Juan Garcia (Saturday Looks Good to Me, Ben and Bruno). Sampson had not set out to make "rock music", but something more stripped down and minimal. After playing a string of solo shows along the east coast and southeast, Sampson returned to Chicago to regroup and finish the songs that would later become their debut album, ‘Call Me Up’. In early 2007, Jonathan Dawe joined the band as drummer.
Sampson's deteriorated marriage culminated in divorce in 2006. The songs on ‘Call Me Up’ reflect his mood during this period and tell the story of a relationship unraveling--“Killed me another bird for everyday that you’re away / Cold grow the hands of me alone”--“I’d jump into the fire if it lit up the phone in my pocket”--The record reflects the darkness experienced through vivid imagery. His lyrics intone bleak depictions of the metaphorical significance of birds of prey, bones, lonely highway drives, and isolating landscapes--all the while yielding to an overriding sense of hope.