When Boston’s Caspian hit Stuttgart in Germany as part of their European tour, they sat down to talk to QRO. In the conversation, Caspian’s guitarist/programmer Philip Jamieson, guitarist Jonny Ashburn and bassist Jon McMahan talked about their new album, Tertia (QRO review), why it is & isn’t a concept album, their tour of Europe (West and East), what it’s like to play the Continent for a second time, vinyl, breaking down the language barrier, and more…
QRO: You guys finished a new album, Tertia, recently.Are you playing off the new album, or mixing it up?
Philip Jamieson: We’re mixing it up, though most of the material is from the new record. We’ve been playing some of the old material for so long, it’s good to get some of the new shit in there. I think there are six songs from the new record – we’re not doing them all – maybe one from the first record and three from the second one [The Four Trees – QRO review].
QRO: So when I listened to Tertia (this is the first record I’ve heard of yours) the first thing I noticed were no vocals.
PJ: Tertia? Is the first?
QRO: Haven’t really done my homework! So whenever I hear a good album with no vocals, I always kind of think ‘concept album’, you know, where all the songs have to go in a row, they’re all interlinked in this certain way. So is Tertia kind of like a concept album, or no, not at all?
PJ: Well, a strict concept album by definition is something that has a very specific theme. Like Junius, for example, there most recent record is a concept album. It’s about a very specific thing, the lyrics are about it, the song order, the song titles are all based around the concept. With us, obviously, we don’t have lyrics. It’s not as rigorously conceptual as something that does have lyrics, but we do try to tell a story with each record and the songs are very intentionally placed to tell the story we want to tell.
QRO: So when you play it live, are you going to mix things up within that story line?
PJ: Yes, I mean each show there is a narrative arc, so to speak. The show starts very dark; it reaches a sort of emotional, happy, joyous high peak, and then goes back down; then, much like Tertia, it ends on this note of hope with “Sycamore”, we always end with the last song of Tertia.
It doesn’t have to be a specific thing. People can attribute whatever they want to it.
QRO: On that same note, since you been playing a lot of countries where, you know, they don’t speak English, have you found that [instrumental music] breaks down that barrier.
Jonny Ashburn: Absolutely.
QRO: So where have you guys been that have been the best shows?
JA: We played under a bridge on a closed-off street in France for a shit load of people at this amazing festival they have every year…
QRO: What was the festival called? Something in French…
Everyone: Noir…Nuit Blanches.
JA: It was fantastic. Unlike anything we’ve ever done…
QRO: Wait, it was under a bridge, an overpass? Were there cars constantly going by?
Everyone: Yeah, it was under an overpass… They had the whole street blocked off for the festival…
JA: They had a giant projector light above us showing art on it…it was really incredible playing an unfamiliar environment like that. And it was also nice to play outside because it wasn’t hot as fuck like the rest of our shows. We get pretty sweaty so it was nice to play outside.
There was a full moon at midnight, a ton of people, and there were a lot of things going on around us, so when we were done we were able to go around and enjoy the city.
QRO: What town was that?
JA: Messe… We talk about best shows a lot of times within the band, and we don’t even talk about that one because, it’s kind of like, of course…
QRO: Off the charts… So I’ve been following you guys on Twitter and I’ve seen some of your tweets were very ‘pro-Eastern Euro bloc’. Were they especially awesome?
PJ: The people there are very receptive to music. Very open, very warm and welcoming. I don’t know if it’s that a lot of bands don’t get over there or something, but whenever bands show up they just go apeshit. It’s amazing to play for those crowds.
JA: Poland was great. [everyone concurs] The audiences go crazy.
QRO: Where’d you play in Poland?
PJ: Polsze, Krakow, Warsaw, and a place called Gidnea, on the Baltic Sea. That was sweet. People over there and people down in Spain and Portugal are pretty psyched. And the German audiences are way more psyched this time than I remember from last time.
Joe McMahan: The German audiences have been awesome.
PJ: Yeah, last year I remember them being a bit more subdued. A little more laidback. This year some of the shows have been off the hook.
QRO: Have you noticed any carryover from last year, a fanbase that heard of you from the last tour?
JA: There has to have been, because at the beginning of some songs you hear people recognizing the songs, clapping, definitely…
JM: And we’ve definitely run into people at the shows who are like, “I was at the show last year, and it was great, and this show is great, and everything’s great and I told all my friends…”
QRO: So are you guys psyched to be finishing up the tour and heading back?
PJ: It’s an interesting question – I’m sure we all have different takes on it. I mean, we’ve all enjoyed the fuck out of this tour.
JM: It’s been incredible.
PJ: And like, I’m exhausted. We’re all exhausted, think we could all use some sleep…
QRO: You’re ready for two more months?
PJ: I don’t know, man. I get to this point where I could go home and sleep, sit around, do nothing for two weeks, and then come back out and do it again for two more months. But I would definitely need those two weeks; you know what I mean?
JM: We touched on this earlier when we were talking about how when one month was over, it was like, ‘Alright, we’ve got a whole ‘nother month…’ But then, like, the second wind definitely kicked in and in the last couple weeks we got on fire. We’re on a really good stride right now.
QRO: In the zone!
JM: In the zone, exactly.
QRO: So where are you guys finishing up? Where’s the finale show?
PJ: It’s in Bochum, Germany. We were going to play in Athens, but it didn’t work out. So we’re going to go back there in May. We got a last minute show booked in Bochum, Germany – even if there’s like five people there, it’s going to be a big deal for us…
QRO: The last show’s always big…
PJ: We’re going back to America and playing three shows when we get back, but the last show here will probably be pretty emotional. We’ve never done anything like this…
QRO: A real marathon. Now I know you guys have to run but let me ask a few questions about the new album Tertia. I’ve noticed there were a lot of different vinyl releases. Are you guys big vinyl buffs or was this a big, massive marketing ploy?
[laughter all around]
QRO: By the way the album looks gorgeous and sounds great.
PJ: Did you get a copy?
QRO: I didn’t order in time to get the super special edition, but I think I’ll be able to get the red edition.
PJ: Yeah, that one’s cool! Vinyl’s a new way, with all the digital stuff going on, for people who want something more than just a CD. It’s a good way to display the artwork and the concepts behind the music. And our record label in America is just all about vinyl. We put out our first two records on vinyl – they’re hardcore vinyl buffs.
QRO: Is this Dopamine Records?
JM: No, The Mylene Sheath.
PJ: They put out the CD, digital and vinyl. But for the first two records they did the vinyl. They’re super into it; dude, and they’ve got all of us into it more.
QRO: It rubs off! OK guys, thanks very much – have an awesome tour!