Caspian’s Drummer Joe Vickers Discusses Newest Album and Current State of Post-Rock

Post rock outfit Caspian recently stopped by Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco to close out the Noisepop 2013 Festival, and holy mother of god what a way to go out. Before the prodigious climax however, I was lucky enough to sit down with Caspian drummer Joe Vickers and converse about topics ranging from their newest album to his opinion on the present condition of post rock and where he believes the genre is headed. Read below for more! 

How do you feel towards the critical reception your newest album, Waking Season, has received?

I feel really good about it. It feels good to be validated on something we worked really hard on. It was a long time coming. We feel like our writing process is becoming more refined, and we’re just getting better at we do, so it’s nice to know that other people feel the same way as well. I mean, you always want people to dig what you’re doing.

Would you say it’s well deserved?

Yeah, I feel like we’ve been at this for almost 9 years now. So it just took us a while to figure out our way with an album that is exactly how we wanted it to sound, which was to bring the energy of a live performance to the album.

What did you set out to accomplish with the new record?

We just wanted as many people to hear it as possible, really. I think it’d be great to keep touring it. Obviously we’re going to write some more in the time coming up, but it’s been nice to tour in Europe and have people cheer for some of the songs for once. People are recognizing the songs before we actually play them. The ultimate goal is to just keep touring and keep playing to more and more people.

How long are you planning on touring for the new album?

I don’t really know to be honest. After this tour we have one show with Appleseed Cast and we’re playing the Boston Calling Festival in May, and after that there are literally no plans. Whatever comes up we just do until there’s a new album out there, and then we have to tour for that one too.

I’m going to get a bit more philosophical on you now. How do you feel about the “post rock” label that is often associated with bands such as Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Caspian?

Well, you have to call it something, right? To me, it was always just rock music. I had always played in bands that were instrumental because no one we knew could sing that well, so we would all get in my parents’ basement and just jam out all through high school. It sounded a lot like what we’re doing now. Back then, we were leaning more towards “jammy” stuff, but it evolved as we got more pedals and delay stuff and it started to sounds a lot more like “post rock” before I even knew what post rock was. I think the first post rock album that I heard was an Explosions in the Sky record in college. Cal, a guitarist that doesn’t tour with us, showed me the album and told me, “This is post rock!” I was skeptical at first, but now I don’t really see how you could label it as anything else other than something like…modern classical? Maybe? I think even that’s a stretch. I think people just don’t dig the label because it sounds pretentious, in the same vain as post modernism stuff. Honestly, unless you’re going to call it “crescendo-core” or “slambient”, you just got to take it as it comes. If people want to call it post rock, sure, but we’ll keep hammering away with the instrumental rock thing hoping that it will kind of catch. There’s always been instrumental rock, even back in the ’70s it was pretty big, so if anything it’s been around for a long time. I don’t remember when the term was coined, I think I read it on Wikipedia.

I think the first time I saw it was when someone was writing an article about either Tortoise or Mogwai.

That makes sense. Tortoise and Mogwai are totally post rock to me. They’re definitely staples of the genre. Especially Mogwai. When I think of post rock I think of Mogwai. They’re the one band that everyone in our band agrees on as a good model for what post rock should be. To answer the question though, you can call it whatever you want, the point is we’re still going to make music that sounds good to us.

So what’s your opinion on the current state of “post rock”?

I think everyone is starting to move away from the twinkly guitar thing and beginning to incorporate more electronics into their sound. At least, that’s what I would like to see. Maybe I’m keeping my ears open to only what I want to hear, but the whole “quiet loud” thing might not be quite as popular as doing some more “verse chorus” type of stuff in the future. Who knows? I think it’s certainly going to continue to be the thinking man’s type of rock and roll. I hope it gets bigger, for the sake of us and a lot of our friends who are still doing this thing, people in the trenches working really hard to make sure the music stays relevant and progresses.


Joe Vickers rockin’ it at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

Who would you consider some of your main influences?

When I was first learning, I would just put on Led Zeppelin albums next to my head on a big stereo and try to play along with John Bonham, which I was horrible at at first, but a lot of his beats are really groove oriented. Early hip hop sounds a lot like his drumming, and I just really like that groovy stuff. I also listen to a lot of electronic music. So for me it’s more groove oriented stuff. I know Phil (guitarist for Caspian) is a big Zeppelin fan too. Aaron likes 90s rock, like Bush and Live. Johnny likes emo stuff. Cal, who we started the band with, listens to country a lot and that shows through his playing, he utilizes lots of finger picking. So our taste in music is definitely diverse. I think it’s important for us to listen to different types of music and to expose each other to these vastly different things. For example, I have a soft spot for Skrillex, and these guys hate it, but they can get something out of my experience with that music and vice versa.

Would you say you pull influences from media not of the musical form?

Yeah, I read a ton of books. Recently we started getting into the Game of Thrones series because of the show. I read through everything. We even have a song based off of it called Fire Made Flesh. So I draw heavily from that because I spend a lot of time in books, so thematically when we’re writing our demos it helps me to think of where it’s going to get a storyline in my head, and I know Phil thinks along those same lines as well. He watches a lot of HBO television, which still has some of the most amazing storylines ever, and still a very immersive media. We also draw from a lot of personal experiences, from the atmosphere of where we come from. We’re all home town boys in Beverly, we just kind of hang out in our town. It’s a little seaside town, so we spend a lot of time on the beach in the summer. It’s nice. We like the ocean, and I think that comes through the most in our music. The vastness and expansiveness of the sea. I think everyone gets their influences from whatever their passions are, whether it be in that field of media or the music that they listen to causing them to create a painting or write a story or something. I’ve heard a lot of times after we’ve played a show people tell us, “Oh man, I just want to go home and write!”, and that’s awesome. It’s great to inspire people like that. We do a ton of traveling and see a lot of different places, and that affects our moods which comes through our music as well. I don’t know, I’m probably rambling at this point.

I’m here to let you ramble!

Haha, yeah I guess so!

Who or what are some of your favorite bands/acts out there right now?

These guys Native, who we’re on the road with, everyone should check them out. They are badass. They have a new album that they just finished, and their new stuff sounds ridiculous. It was a real cool thing for us to tour with them. I think in 2011 we did a short run with them on the way to SXSW and I had never even heard of them before our first show, and I was just blown away. So everyone should check them out and see them play with us on this tour!

Caspian is currently on tour with Native throughout the United States. If intrigued, please help support an awesome band and check out their newest album Waking Season which, in this humble writer’s opinion, was one of the best albums of last year. 

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