Formed in 2011, Brisbane prog collective Caligula’s Horse are just now starting to reap the rewards of half a decade of hard work as they commence what they themselves call ‘the most extensive tour’ of Australia the band has yet undertaken. Definitely one of the best young acts Australia has to offer, we here at Sentinel Daily were happy to chat with the bands affable singer Jim Grey as the ‘Horse gets readt to hit the tour trail again…
You started the Turntail tour this weekend in Gladstone at the El Grande Festival – how did that go? “It’s an interesting show, an interesting experience. We’ve never been to Gladstone before, which is a town that just seems to… be. I’m not sure it’s there for any reason other than mines. But not a bad experience”.
That was listed as the first date of the Turntail tour, but now you’ve actually got a while off before the next dates. Is that frustrating? Surely you want to get out there now and follow El Grande up with a few more shows? “Totally. You get that momentum building up on tour. The first night you might walk away a bit sore, you got rock neck, you’re out of practice and you just expect to go straight on to the next show. But yeah, we’ve got a couple of weeks now and then the tour proper kicks off. In Adelaide I think”.
You’ve said that this is the biggest tour you’ve yet undertaken – you’re definitely moving up the ladder; is it daunting when the time comes to take each next step upwards or are you excited at the progression? “It does feel good, but I feel that it’s sort of the bare minimum for us. We set a standard for ourselves where we don’t do anything for no reason. The tour on the back of Turntail, which is one of my favourite songs on the album – the new clip for it comes out next week – builds up the momentum, and I think each next step should really be leading to somewhere a little bit bigger, or more exciting and I think that’s what we’re doing”.
How far can you go in Australia? How big can heavy rock bands be in 2016? Is the market still there for bands that just want to tour here or do you think you have to go away, play overseas, then come back to keep that interest bubbling away? “I think definitely the latter for bands in the progressive rock and metal scene; for rock bands in general I don’t know. I know that there’s a really healthy alternative music scene in Australia on the back of support from radio stations like Triple J, but that’s a particular sound. You notice that a lot of Australian bands share a similar sound and they are part of a scene that’s fairly ephemeral; so they are around and touring for a couple of years, working hard and then they’re gone. I think if you want longevity as a band then you’re right – you have to spread your wings a little bit, go overseas and garner new audiences and try and grow them as much as possible. Legitimacy overseas is what’s required to gain legitimacy in Australia for some reason. People see you coming home from touring overseas and say ‘oh, you’re legit now!’ It’s a really strange thing”.
I think that’s always been the way, and not just in Australia. There’s something about getting of your arse and heading overseas that seems to demand respect. “Yes. At least it shows you’re willing to get up and pour all your money down a hole”.
Talking of money, what’s your take on the whole Patreon/Ne Obliviscaris thing? Is it something you could see Caligula’s Horse doing? “I don’t think it’s the right thing for us; certainly I can’t see us doing something like that in the near future. I think it’s brilliant, but it’s one of those things that will only work for particular bands. I know for a fact that Ne Obliviscaris have a very loving – dare I say adoring- fanbase. It’s one of those things where they have a dedicated fanbase, and there are enough of them around the world to support the concept, at least for a while. I don’t know whether it’ll have longevity, whether it’ll support the band forever, but it will get them through the meantime while they do all this touring. I’m interested to see what it leads to, what other people will come up with, because everyone’s reaching for something like this right now”.
You’re on the bill for the Legion Fest next year aren’t you, which is working along similar lines? “I don’t know if you caught the announcement today but it’s now being wholly privately funded so they’ve stepped away from the crowd-sourcing concept; I understand that what they are trying to do is continue with that mission statement of transparency, to try and ensure that everybody knows where their money has gone, nobody’s going to be chasing refunds which is cool. It’s a shame that it wasn’t able to be totally crowd sourced because that would have been a good way to shake the game up and start something from the ground up but that said, either way there’s now an alternative/metal festival taking place in Australia in January and I’m stoked to be a part of it”.
I guess in the end the end has justified the means, hasn’t it? When I was researching this interview, I noted from your Facebook page that you list, as members of the band your lighting designer and sound engineer – Is that very much part of the Caligula’s Horse package? Are those guys just as important as the blokes playing the instruments and doing the singing? “Yes. When you think about it, that list is the live incarnation of the band. Where the music comes from is me and Sam (Vallen, lead guitar) writing together. And Zac (Greensill, guitar) as well. That’s where the music is written, but live of course Ruwen (Sena, sound) and Will (Hunter, lights) are part of that. I don’t like going anywhere without them. Because their confidence in and understanding of our mission statement, and of us personally and musically, means that all of our live performances go off without a hitch. I love those guys and they are definitely full time members of the band”.
So how difficult is it to tour abroad maybe without your own sound and lighting men? “We had that experience at the end of last year when we toured with (Norwegian avant metallers) Shining. There were three bands on the tour bus so there wasn’t any room for our crew. And whilst our experience was that the average house sound engineer in Europe is probably a cut above their Australian counterpart, it was still a risky business for us and we weren’t comfortable at all!”
How did that tour go? You’re a very different band to Shining, aren’t you? “Yeah! That was chaos! It’s funny. We were very different musically to Shining but we all got along very well. What I found interesting were the differences rather than any similarities between the two bands. Both bands are playing to the left of centre; we’re not playing radio rock and certainly neither are they, but we were more melodic as opposed to their more aggressive, industrial style; however both sounds come from a high level of musicianship and songwriting. When we played to bigger audiences such as Utrecht in the Netherlands and Budapest in Hungary, there was just a big love across the crowd for all three of the bands; I guess we were saying the same thing in different languages”…
Nicely put. I guess progressive music can comfortably span those differences can’t it? “That’s right. And the audiences are more likely to appreciate it, too”.
How much more touring will you be doing behind this album before you start thinking about the next one? Or are you already thinking? “Well, we’ve had some meetings and Sam and I have started to think of some music and some conceptual ideas. It’s good to be back in a creative space because after too much touring you start to feel a little bit uncreative, which is one of the downsides. The likelihood is that this will be our last tour this year as we concentrate on some other special things for our fans that we’ll be releasing”.
Anything else Sentinel Daily readers should know before they come out and see you on the tour? “Get drunk. I love it when our fans get amongst it, cut loose and have a good time. Everyone enjoys shows differently, and that’s fine, but my favourite thing is having a big, physical, sweaty conversation with the fans. So get amongst it, come see us, come hang out”.
Remaining Turntail Tour Dates:
7th – Jive, Adelaide [18+]
8th – Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne [18+]
9th – Amplifier, Perth [18+]
14th – The Pier, Port Macquarie [18+] *
15th – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney [18+]
16th – The Basement, Canberra [18+]
17th – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle [18+]
23rd – The Zoo, Brisbane [18+]
Tickets available by clicking through the ad on the front page!