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Interview: Caspian

idobi editor Eleanor Grace sat down with Philip Jamieson and Erin Burke-Moran of Massachusetts post rock quintet Caspian at the Toronto stop of their winter tour last week. The band touched on important topics like pizza and the weather as well as the complexities of their writing process, the incredible response to their most recent album Waking Season, South By South West, and much more.

Welcome to Toronto, guys! You both just had some quintessential Toronto eating experiences, I’m told?

Phil: Indeed! I went to a place called Pizzeria Libretto that I can’t recommend enough. They have the Veraci seal of approval. It was the real deal. It blew my mind — I’m still kind of in shock. I’m a bit of a pizza snob, and I’m in New York and Boston a lot where the pizza’s perfect, so I try not to go outside of that area as much as I can just because I don’t trust it yet. And I went out on a whim and went to this place next door, and was just massively impressed.

Erin: I had my first real poutine experience. It was great. It was actually quite surprising.

You guys have been out on the road for about a month now. Winter’s obviously not the most ideal time of year to tour — what are some of the pluses and minuses to touring in the winter?

Phil: Well, we routed it so that we went down south and to the west coast early on in the tour, so being out in LA and being in 85 degree weather all of a sudden was a real nice surprise. That’s always a plus cause you’re not expecting it. You walk out every door, clench up your body, and expect to just get pummeled with cold air, so you’re always pleasantly surprised when it’s a warm day. The negatives: our van is re-nicknamed “The Fridge.” I mean, you’re loading out gear and you’ve just played a show and given everything you have to it, and the last thing you want to do is walk out and have it be 5 degrees. So it can be unpleasant sometimes, but sometimes the cold weather outside makes for a warmer, more collective vibe in the room. Everyone’s huddled in under one roof and getting warm together.

Obviously you’ve been on the road so you weren’t able to make it down, but the talk of the music world this past week has been South By South West. If you had been able to be there, which showcase do you wish you had been able to play?

Phil: We’re still waiting and hoping for Triple Crown to get out there and do something awesome. Honestly, as far as what was going on this year, I don’t really even know what showcases were happening.

You didn’t want to know what you were missing out on.

Phil: [laughs] Yeah, exactly. But, we’re really hoping that something like that could happen in the future, especially with the bands that they’ve been incorporating recently.

Erin: Yeah, I was sort of out of the loop when it came to who was playing this year, but I heard Prince played, so I would’ve liked to have seen that a lot.

Phil: First and second times [at SXSW] are always the best, and then it just sort of drops off after that into like, something close to the seventh circle of hell, I think. But the first couple times are awesome.

How many times have you guys played?

Phil: Four times.

What would you say your best South By memory has been?

Phil: Oh, definitely the first. We played to the smallest amount of people — we weren’t even on any legit showcases, just some DIY things that our friends put together. And we toured down there without any support of a label or anything and it was just a very new, fresh experience. Experiencing that for the first time is…I mean, it goes beyond words. Just the collective energy that’s in a place like that is wonderful. In terms of more formal things, every time you do a showcase with a record label, it’s always in the company of your friends and other artists on the label, and to share that experience together is always really special. Every time we’ve done a label showcase, like the Mylene Sheath at Valhalla in 2011, that was great. We met our producer Matt Bayles out there in 2011 as well, so there are lot of highlights. Too many to name, probably.

You mentioned Triple Crown, and you guys just did your first record with them. What are some of the other bands on that roster that you’re most excited about sharing a label with?

Phil: Moving Mountains and O’Brother, who we were actually just able to do a week-long tour with in December. That was awesome. That was the number one appeal, to be honest — Moving Mountains and O’Brother are two of our favourite bands and we’re lucky to call them friends, so when we saw that they were signed to Triple Crown and were enjoying the experience, it made it sort of a no-brainer for us.

How have you found working with them to be so far?

Phil: Wonderful!

Erin: Absolutely. I mean, the way that this whole thing has panned out, putting out the record and all the stuff we’ve gotten to do, it’s been the stuff dreams are made of for us.

What are a few bands that you haven’t gotten a chance to tour with yet but that, in a perfect world, you would love to tour with in the future?

Erin: I mean, there are a lot of dream bands. [laughs]

Phil: Yeah, there’s a lot of bands that we’d probably never get the opportunity to play with. I mean, I’d love to tour with Radiohead or Sigur Ros or Tool. But those are sort of unattainable bands. I was talking about this with our drummer Joe today — it’d be cool to tour with M83. We really love that band a lot, and I think stylistically it would be a good fit for the audience. And they’re not at the point where it’s an inaccessible option, so I think that would be my number one pick.

Erin: There’s definitely a couple bands that we’ve come in contact with recently through other people, like Circa Survive, who we’d love to tour with.

You guys are out right now on the strength of the new record Waking Season that came out back in September. I think idobi actually had the first review of the record, and it ended up being the first of many incredibly positive reviews. I believe Spin called it “the post rock record of the year,” which is a pretty huge accolade, especially from a publication on that level. What was it like for you guys to have the album be so well-received critically?

Phil: It was a massive surprise. We were not expecting positive reviews for this record at all. We definitely write music for ourselves first and foremost, and when we knew that the record was successful in terms of the way we were listening to it and experiencing it, it sort of ended there. Like, we didn’t really need any further validation. And to get those reviews was really surprising. Legitimately, we weren’t expecting people to get it the way that we were getting it just because we felt like for us, it was a pretty unconventional Caspian record. But as always, it’s wonderful and humbling and very exciting to get positive feedback from anybody, whether it’s a publication or a listener or whoever. So, we’re just very grateful and surprised.

I know you said that you don’t really think about the critics when you’re writing, but do you feel like the bar has been raised after getting so much praise for this record?

Phil: Every album, it just goes up and up. For sure.

Erin: I think some of that’s from the outside, but also from the inside. We’re really excited about putting together our next record, and we want to push those boundaries even more and just try to — not just try to outdo ourselves, but to really make something great.

You took a lot of time off to write and perfect this last record. Is that something that is always a part of the creative process for you? Do you ever get the chance to hash out new ideas on the road at soundcheck or anything?

Phil: I mean, bands that write with acoustic guitars, you can pull it out wherever and sort of get an idea going, For us, we need to be in a loud space for an indefinite amount of time so we can throw ideas around and mess around with sounds. It’s either that, in a communal environment, or we need to be — I know personally speaking, I need to be by myself, just quarantined to a space for as long as I can be in it to sort of summon whatever energy is floating around that needs to be taken out and pulled inward. But yeah, we’ve never written anything on the road. I don’t think we ever will. I don’t know if we’re that kind of band, really.

Erin: I don’t know if we’re necessarily going to have to take off as much time as we did [for Waking Season] because I don’t think that we’re going to do the same sort of balls to the wall touring that we did for Tertia. The reason we ended up taking so much time was because even if we had a month or three months in between tours, we just couldn’t get anywhere creatively. So maybe with a little more spacing, we’ll be able to work a little bit easier.

What else do you have lined up for 2013 after this tour?

Phil: We don’t have anything definite lined up, but we want to do a support thing next somewhere in the States. We need to get back to Europe. Our priority number one is starting to develop ideas for a new record. Right now we’re sort of in the discussion phase, so we’re looking forward to just getting in the room and getting our toolbelts on and building something. That’s what we’re most looking forward to; that’s number one on the agenda. There’ll be a lot of touring between now and then, for sure.

Keeping out on the road as always. I know you guys have done some live recordings in the past — would you think about doing that again?

Phil: Oh, that’s dream talk. We’d love to get as many live recordings out there as possible. It’d be great to do some kind of bootleg series. Realistically, we would have to be in a space that’s not a club. The last one was in a church, and we would want to be in an equally as unconventional place to capture a different kind of moment. But yeah, that’d be awesome.

Well, looking forward to seeing what the rest of the year has in store for you guys! Thank you so much for talking with us.

Buy Caspian’s latest masterpiece Walking Season on iTunes here and don’t forget to keep up with the band on Facebook and Twitter!

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