By Joe Kovack
For the past decade, post-rock has been growing steadily and supplying the world with a new look on instrumental music. The genre takes its influences from an array of sources, dating back to the ’60s when bands began pushing the limits of conventional rock and roll. Generally lacking vocals and focusing on instrumentation as the means for composition, many post-rock bands use layered sounds, textured guitars with building crescendos and dynamic rhythms to create soundscapes unlike anything in the music world. It is music beyond the usual, leaving the rules and structures of traditional music theory behind. Post-rockers Caspian are a part of that movement and with their latest album Waking Season, not only continue the journey but emerge with a new sense of who they are and where they want to go.
Caspian formed in 2003 when Phil Jamieson and three friends — guitarist Calvin Joss, bassist Chris Friedrich and drummer Joe Vickers — began jamming in Beverly, Massachusetts. After the release of their first EP You Are the Conductor (2005) and their first full-length album The Four Trees (2007), the band grew to be a staple in the post-rock landscape. With the addition of classically trained guitarist Erin Burke-Moran in 2007, they became a five piece, set to embark on a journey of musical exploration.
“I was playing more alternative/prog stuff at the time. I had never really done the whole post-rock ambient thing before,” Burke-Moran said in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We were buddies and I was in a rival band. It ended up one of the guys couldn’t go on tour and they needed someone to fill in those shoes. I came out on tour with them and fell in love with the whole thing. We had been friends for a while and musically it made a lot of sense. So then we decided to become a five-piece and try to figure out how to write for three guitars.”
Burke-Moran made his presence clear immediately, as can be heard on 2009’s Tertia, adding deep chordal explorations, classically-influenced harmonies and a style that brought the band’s already ethereal sound to even larger, more expansive levels. But as with any band, after time, complacency can set in and threaten to derail the progression of creativity. “It can be really hard when you don’t have a singer sometimes, ’cause you only have the sounds that your instruments make collectively. It can be hard to find a new direction, and you never want to keep writing the same music,” Burke-Moran said.
In 2011 the band recognized this need for change and were hit with the dilemma of a desire to move forward but not knowing how to do so. Wanting to branch out, they began experimenting with new tools and technologies that would enhance their music and give them the freedom to pursue sounds and structures they never have before. “Phil got really into sampling and he does all the synth stuff for the band. I got a new reverb pedal and Phil got a couple crazy delay and reverb pedals, so we got some new tools in our arsenal. And the studio where we recorded this album had a bunch of great, obscure instruments. We had used a cellist on the last record but we sat down and wrote out parts on a couple tracks for a string quartet, so we have that going on as well,” Burke-Moran said.
The result is Waking Season. Released in the autumn of 2012, the title is analogous to the experiences they endured to emerge more connected as band members through the writing process. With the help of producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Russian Circles), Waking Season moves the group beyond its comfort zone and creates a new direction the band so desperately looked for in their musical development. “As far as this record goes, we are more ambient and minimalistic. This record we just tried to have melodies that keep your attention but also have everything just floating away at the same time,” Burke-Moran said.
In addition to the new toys and perspective, the band has experimented with using vocals in their music, which can be heard in the 10 minute song “Gone in Bloom and Bough.” Approaching it like an instrument, the vocals hover in the background ominously like an apparition, adding another layer to the textured painting that is their sound. “There was this moment, when we ‘woke up’ and finished the album, that this is either going to be more a part of our lives or slowly become the last. Even before anybody came out saying anything about it, I think we all just felt really proud of what we had worked on and how it all came together,” Burke-Moran said. “I don’t really know where we plan on going with the next record but we’re pretty excited to get back home after this tour to sit down and write again.”
:: Caspian ::
:: Larimer Lounge :: March 9 ::
Recommended if you Like:
• Explosions in the Sky
• Russian Circles
• Red Sparrows