Caligula’s Horse have enjoyed a massive 2015, signing a worldwide distribution deal with InsideOut Music and scoring some huge tours both here and abroad. On the eve of their Australian tour supporting TesseracT and new album’s release, we caught up with vocalist Jim Grey to hear what it’s been like going from local favorites to a band with worldwide potential.
How’s life been at your end?
Yeah, good. A lot of these interviews, but things have been great. We released ‘Marigold’ recently and we have been really pumped with the response.
What made you release Marigold first?
It’s the energy, I think. Because ‘Bloom’ has such a specific theme, such as brightness and positivity, I feel like Marigold was the best we had between that ideology, and also the energy we have within the band, which subsequently has helped certain songs become live favourites. Marigold is the bridge I can make between the previous albums to Bloom. Other material in Bloom, fans will know for a fact that it is not just a shot in the dark, we have definitely taken a natural step forward for the band. Plus, I like the song.
With Bloom, what made you guys want to go against the dark, deathly cliché?
You see it a lot. Lots of metal bands have that darkness in their image and it works for them. I think that this is more a reflection of our personal selves. It is where we are at right now. I want to be part of something positive. I want to be part of something that makes people happy. It won’t be a negative experience. The music and the band’s sound is a broader reflection of where we are at personally more than anything else. We are never going to fit into a particular genre. I wouldn’t classify us a metal band really. There are metal elements in the music, but we are a progressive rock band by definition. But that is like, “Here is the key, there is the hole in the door, do whatever you want.” We all are writing music for the present.
What are the main lyrical themes?
There are a lot because it isn’t a concept album like our previous record ‘…River’s End’ was. For the most part, I think one of the recurring themes you see is the celebration of life and life’s fragility, which is something that I talk about a lot at the moment. The important thing is that we celebrate one another while we are here. The songs like ‘Marigold’ are songs that have the main theme of the idea of not being judged for what you earn. It is about the people that love you and care for you. That’s what’s remembered when you’re gone, not your personal possessions. Each of the tracks have a different view on that theme, I guess.
Did the arrival of your first child influence the lyrical writing?
Absolutely. Like I said before, we are a band that are writing about how we feel in the moment. We have taken that shift because of the influence of me having a daughter. I would like to be part of a celebration. I would like her to look at the music that I have made when she is older and be able to smile.
I saw that your daughter was born just a few hours before the band went onstage to support Opeth. How on earth did you make it through that gig?
Basically, we had been in the hospital for a few days and it had been a long, long process. Once she was born, we had 12 hours and I got a little bit of sleep. Then I woke up and went to the venue and when the gig was done I came back to the hospital as quickly as I could. The thing that surprised me the most was when we were onstage, which was a dream come true, was when I decided to mention to the audience that there was no better way I felt I could celebrate my daughter being born, and the room full of big, black shirted, big bearded metal heads all went “naaaawwww.” It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. Whenever people are talking about how metal is bad for people and makes people more aggressive or whatever, I think about playing the Opeth show and hearing 2000 dudes making that noise. That was a good time.
How are you guys, as a band, going to be able to adjust with your upcoming international tours and balancing that with normal family life?
Everyone in the band works in one way or another. At some stage it will get busier than it is right now, spending more time overseas, which will result in us leaving those jobs and hoping for the best. It’s a time of great instability for us as in terms of we have toured Australia a lot and balanced our lives with that, so this is all new. It is a dream though. Friends of mine have been asking me how we are going to balance it all out and keep it going. The fact is that we have no idea. You spend your entire life in Australia and you have these dreams in the back of your mind like, “Yeah, I’m going to be a musician.” But because it’s nearly impossible here in Australia, you don’t allow yourself to dream that big. You don’t let the pipe dream take over. You always have a backup plan. Right now we realised this year, with all the steps that have happened with the band, that I have never developed a continued plan for success, because you never allow yourself to do that. So now we have the opportunity to go and set the groundwork on a world stage for a successful musical ensemble, and I have no idea how to think about that. It’s going to be a huge change in our lives and our outlook. Everything has accelerated very quickly. But there is no better time for this than now. We are all very ready.
What was the turning point this year when you guys realised that you could take this further than you had imagined?
I think it was when we put pen to paper and signed the deal with InsideOut. Because until then it was just talk, and there is a lot of talk that goes around. We have faith in our music, in the art that we make because we put a great deal of effort and time into it. But never once have I really thought it would go that far. I wouldn’t call it making it. The way I have described it to people when telling them about what it really means is that we now have our foot in the door. We have an opportunity on a world stage to launch from a platform that has been handed to us by the good people at InsideOut, and to take our show to the world stage and then see how we go. Of course, we are going to take this as far as we can. But it wasn’t until we signed that it clicked to me that we were sharing the same roster as some of my musical heroes: Devin Townsend, Pain of Salvation – they are my buds now. It’s thrilling to us, in fact it’s like a joke. More than anyone else in the world, we know what a bunch of dickheads we are. To see us on that same roster is a shock to the system. I think it is going to be a good year!
How did this deal come about?
We had their attention from around the time of the second album. There had been rumours and hype on the internet about the first album, which we were not necessarily even going to continue with the band until we saw that online response. After the second album, which was ambitious for us, we had their attention. But labels don’t work like they used to. They do not pick up a band that has been un-tested and make it work. They have to have a tried and tested thing because there is not the money to throw around like in the 90’s. So we already had a couple of releases under our belt, we had toured a lot and had our sights set on the world. They were obviously fans of the product, and they are really good people. They are so easy to work with. It’s a good opportunity for us.
With the upcoming Australian run with TesseracT, how much of Bloom will we see?
It will be a mix. We are going to try and include as much from Bloom as we can given the time restraints, but of course there will be crowd favourites in there and a mix of both old and new. When we go off to Europe after that, we will spend a whole month on the road with Shining from Norway. That will be more of a balanced mix because we want fans that are over there that love the older material but have never had a chance to hear it live get to hear that. We will be sharing some tracks from Bloom, and a couple of golden oldies as well here in Australia.
Is there any U.S tour in the works?
It’s absolutely going to happen. There is nothing set in stone so I can’t talk about booked tours, but it’s been in our sights for a long time, and, like in Europe, we have a very strong and local fan base all across the U.S. If we got on the right tour and played with the right band, I feel like that would definitely be a fantastic opportunity for us. It is on the cards and we hope to be there next year.
With the upcoming tour with Shining, are you guy’s fans of the band?
It’s very exciting. I love other bands work, especially when it is not something I would normally listen to. I love the idea that we are going to tour with this band that are startlingly different in sound to us, yet perfectly complementary. I think that the energy and the upbeat-ness of their music is what will meet us in the middle, because we have this really melodic approach to our song writing, but delivered in a really strong energetic way. We are going to translate to their audience, and vice versa. It’s a really good match and I can’t wait to see their live show.
How has the bands live show changed recently?
It just gets tighter and tighter all the time. You grow and you play with a particular group of people enough, you learn each other’s language and it becomes really natural. There are definitely things you take away from every other band that you play with. We will watch Opeth from side stage and Mikael will do something that you didn’t think of, you know “That was a nice delivery, I might put that in my back pocket.” Things you subconsciously pick up from seeing the band play, even on The Ocean tour. They are another band that are very different musically to us, but it was a complementary set up. Even watching them play, there are things you just take away that I’ll never forget. I’m really looking forward to touring with TesseracT just to watch Dan Tompkins sing every night. It will be like a masterclass.
Do you always make a point to watch the bands you are playing with?
I definitely do. Perhaps not every night, especially in Europe with that many shows, but I definitely do. For example, there is a band that is opening for the TesseracT opening show called Dyssidia who I recommend, they are good dudes. Now we have played with them a couple of times, I would not have met those guys and I wouldn’t have got to know them if I hadn’t bothered to stay and watch their band play. They impressed me and excited me, I went up and said, ‘hey’ and now we know each other. If you don’t go and support other artists when you can, particularly in Australia, then you are just shooing yourself in the foot. There is always something to learn and new relationships to make.
With the Aussie scene, there seems to be a new wave of Aussie bands going international like yourselves, Voyager, Ne Obliviscaris and Thy Art is Murder. Do you think there is a heightened attention on the Aussie music market?
Yeah, I think [with] heavy and progressive music, I think people are beginning to climb on to what is happening here. It’s not just now, there has been a strong undercurrent of interesting heavy and progressive music in the country for a long time. Breakthrough bands like Karnivool will go and sell out shows in Europe and thanks to that I think the eye has turned to Australia, and people are starting to think, “Ok, well what else is coming up now on this giant continent”, and all of a sudden people are finding bands like us and Voyager. It’s exciting times, and I think that the internet has a lot to do with it. There are lots of undercurrents where people are seeking out Australian music.
With the upcoming European tour, it’s the biggest tour you have ever done right?
Far and beyond. Just because touring Australia, and something to know in general, is that we are a band that appeals to metropolitan areas predominately. So we will be playing mostly in major cities. If we were Jimmy Barnes or even someone like King Parrott or another extreme band with more rural appeal, we might be playing more shows, but the fact is when we go on tour in Australia the most amount of shows that we will play in a row is five, maybe six. So, now we are going across Europe and doing 26 shows in 28 days. It’s by far and beyond the most we have done, but at the same time, that is kind of the world standard. Europe is geographically closer together and people are clumped together in bigger numbers. So we want to take that step as a band do that, and this is what you have to do and it is a real test for us.
How will you manage your endurance?
We are all seasoned musicians. It is the first time we have done a tour this long before, but it’s not our first experience of touring. We are all fairly conditioned to hardship and poverty (muso life), but it will be a test. For me, I cannot emphasise enough that we are absolutely ready.
‘Bloom’ is out October 16 via InsideOut Music. Catch the band supporting TesseracT on tour this month.