Caspian’s Dust and Disquiet includes extreme grinders, proggy soundscapes, and electronic-tinged epics, but also throws listeners a curve with the delicate acoustic folk ballad “Run Dry.” Photo by Igor Kasyanuk
In “Dust and Disquiet,” there’s a section in the middle where the noise is less like guitars and more like actual white noise, but there’s still a musicality to it. How do you arrive at that?
Joss: There are a lot of guitars. There are strings in that section and all of these washing cymbals.
Jamieson: Then there’s a piano part that runs prior to that, and it introduces a really soft melody. That has an upward trajectory. Then when it hits that sort of collapse spot, I just went wild on the piano.
Joss: We’re making noise, but we’re also articulating notes at that point. That’s the only part in the whole song where I get really heavy in the distortion I’m using. Even at the peaky points of the end of the song, I’m playing with a lower-level distortion to give it more feeling, whereas the rest of the guys are playing with the heavier distortion, so they counter each other. I’m making more of the melody so it has a quieter, more mournful thing.
In “Arcs of Command,” am I hearing actual harmony lead guitar parts or is that done with effects?
Jamieson: Guitar-wise, that song was a monster. There are seven or eight guitars, all doing distinct, separate melodies and harmony parts. We volleyed little moments—it shifted from Jonny to Erin to me at a certain spot. We were all passing the ball around in a circle. We were going for something pretty bombastic. That was the first time I ever used a wah pedal. There’s a part maybe three quarters in where it’s just a whiteout sheet of noise, a total maelstrom, and I was like, “Oh, this finally works. Awesome.” It was nice to just cross that off the bucket list.
You guys don’t use a ton of guitars. Cal, you rely pretty much on a Fender ’72 Thinline Telecaster reissue.
Joss: Yeah, it’s not the original, which is too bad. It’s my main guitar. I did use an ES-335 that Phil borrowed for one or two tracks on the new record. The Thinline Tele has been my staple for a long time. I just really like the warmth that it adds. It’s been a good guitar for me. I keep my action kind of high. Being that it’s a semi-hollow, it’s got the warmth of my acoustic to a degree.
And Phil, you tend to favor your Jazzmaster that’s not really a Jazzmaster.
Jamieson: Crazy-ass thing right? It’s a Jazzmaster clone built from parts. The guy who built it plopped the Fender laminate logo on there, just for shits. He bought all the parts stock and put it together. It’s become my Excalibur. It was out of commission for a couple of years, so I brought it to a guy in Boston who does amazing work. Getting that P-90 high-output pickup in the bridge was just massive. I don’t know where that thing’s been all my life, but it’s huge and warm and creamy, and it takes effects so well. That guitar’s been an ongoing passion project of mine. I’m glad it’s back in the fold.
It’s a sea of pedalboards as Caspian goes for the six-man assault (with Calvin Joss in tow) during this raucous, decidedly “un-shoegazer” three-song opener at the Larcom Theatre in their hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts, in 2014.
You both use a lot of effects, but what’s the one pedal you can’t live without?
Jamieson: Probably my Strymon El Capistan, for this record especially. I’m not using it as a delay, though. I’m just using it as a tape simulator, more or less. I wanted that to be my signature sound for this record. I was looking for something that I hadn’t heard a lot in this music, and that also got me excited about playing the guitar. It’s like nostalgia in a box.