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Interview with Caspian II

img  Tobias

You're on your second big European tour. From what I've gathered on your blog and elsewhere, this one seems to be even more of a roller-coaster ride, than the last one.
We've never embarked on anything this ambitious. We did a 6 week US tour in 2007 but nothing like this. We are really pushing ourselves to the limit physically and mentally but surprisingly we have energy to spare for the 70 minutes or so we play a night. I can't really put into the words all that has happened so far in just the first month of this tour. It's definitely been an adventure.

Are you meeting a lot of people from the previous tour on this one?
We are, yes. Its great to re-connect with familiar faces and see how people are doing. This tour we wanted to cover new territory as well so we're meeting some new faces as well.

There seem to have been some issue with not being able to play loud enough on some occasions. What was that about and in how much has it hampered the experience you were trying to get across?

We've had a few sound guys blow their tops during our soundchecks and that has a way of making you feel defeated and down before a show. Usually when that happens we play nice and turn down for them, then when we take the stage we crank the amps back up and play at our normal level. The last few weeks we've been lucky to work with some professional sound technicians who are open to what we are trying to accomplish sonically and it's worked out great. Next tour we plan on bringing our own sound guy to alleviate some of the stress and get the best, most consistent sound we can each night.

In our previous interview, you already mentioned that it was sometimes hard to judge the crowd's reaction from the stage. Still, how, do you feel, have the songs from the new album held up on tour?

They've gone over pretty well so far. We still thrive on audience energy but at the same time we are becoming more accepting of letting people react however they wish. We played a show in Belgium where two girls layed down and took a nap right in front of the stage and it was actually one of the coolest things we've seen. We hoped they were drifting away and enjoying the music in their own way and after the show they confirmed it, which made us happy.

Speaking about „Tertia“: You mentioned that there were some communication issues before the songwriting process began. In which way?

I think you might be referring to a part of the songwriting process itself rather then before we started. About mid way through the sessions after we had written Sycamore, La Cerva, Ghosts of the Garden City and pieces of Of Foam and Wave (in that order) we had to re-evaluate where we were going with the record and what we wanted to accomplish musically. We had something kind of like writers block but there were still lots of musical ideas so they weren't empty, just sessions filled with ideas that we thought sounded fine but didn't stick out as being forward thinking or different than your average "build for 10 minutes and then explode" post rock song. I think some people felt like they were shouldering too much of the songwriting burden as well. After we sort of took a breather and re-grouped we immediately started putting together and completing "The Raven" and "Malacoda" and it was an immensely satisfying experience to work on those tracks especially.

I thought it bemusing that some critics included Caspian in a movement they refer to as „crescendo core“ - as though Post Rock had invented the crescendo as a musical technique! Still, in how much are you consciously trying to avoid the expected?

Good question. In terms of being "conscious" of as opposed to naturally avoiding the expected, I think it's a little bit of both. Nobody likes being put in a box and we are no exception. At the same time we write music we enjoy and if people think it sounds like "crescendo-core" then so be it. Anyone who says they write music 100% naturally with no outside influence of what your audience expects or what your forward trajectory as an artist should be is probably lying. But also, people who write exclusively from an intellectual, critical perspective are usually playing without heart or passion. Being extreme on either side of the spectrum is something we want to avoid. Achieving a healthy balance is important for us.

In some ways, „Tertia“ felt like a transitory album to me: It was still very much consistent with your previous efforts, yet it also reached out to new horizons. How do you feel about the record now you've had a little more time to let it sink in?
This might sound awkward mentioning it here but your review of Tertia is pretty much exactly on point with how I think most of us feel about the record. I think someone pointed me to your review a few months ago and it immediately struck a chord. Just seemed like a very reasonable and even handed reaction to the album, exempt of the over emotional dribble it got in other places. I do see Tertia as a transitional record for us but that does not mean we treated it like some kind of gateway album to a new sound for us. We treated it -like we will whenever we record an album- as though it was our final statement.

The reactions to the album I caught on the web were actually all extremely different in nature. So, with regards to the idea of developing and evolving, that must feel as though you've achieved your goal, correct?
Absolutely! Our records always seem to cause some kind of discussion and we welcome that with open arms. Art should get people talking. That is one of it's primary functions. More specifically regarding your question, yes, we noticed a lot less of a "this is generic post-rock" angle to most negative perspectives of the record and quietly realized we had accomplished one of our goals which was satisfying.

„Tertia“ is not a concept album, yet I was nonetheless under the impression that you were trying to create a tension arch here ...
That is 100% correct. I always hesitate to elaborate on any narrative arch discussion with our records since we truly want people to have their own reaction to it be completely in tact and un-challenged by us in any way.

Would it be correct to say that „Tertia“ is about the great effects of little gestures? „Epochs in Dmaj“, „Vienna“ and „Sycamore“ could all go epic and explode at the end, but only one of them does ...
It is, yes. From the very beginning of the writing process to the recording all the way to the art design we wanted to make a more subtle record. I know "subtle" is not a word most people associate with gigantic, explosive instrumental music like the type we make, but to us that was one of the main objectives, and an objective we accomplished in our minds. Even the huge tracks we tried to infuse a sense of subtlety into, to give people something to enjoy after the immediate exposure was over.

Why was „Sycamore“ only recorded now, even though it's been part of your live set for years?
We wanted to record it for the split we did with Constants in 2007 but it was too long and didn't fit the more direct vibe we were both going for with the split, so we went with La Cerva instead. Sycamore was the first song for "Tertia" that we wrote, and I already knew it would be the closing track of the record so because of that a narrative arch was in place before anything was written. It was the foundational song on the record for us for which most everything else was built around. We couldn't stop playing it live but had to be patient and wait to record it.

You've sinled out „hope“ as your most important topic. So hopeful are you about the future and development of the band right now?
Very optimistic. We've already had some great discussions about where to take the next record and for the first time I am personally looking forward to coming up with new ideas more than at any point yet.

By Tobias Fischer

Image by Diana Levine


Caspian on MySpace

You are the Conductor (The Mylene Sheath) 2008
The Four Trees (The Mylene Sheath/ Make My Day) 2008
Tertia (The Mylene Sheath/ Make My Day) 2009

For current international Caspian Tour Dates, check their MySpace site.

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