A Chat With Castlecomer

Words by Jess Garcia.

Sydney’s Castlecomer released Lone Survivor as a follow up to debut EP, Danny’s Den, back in July and currently taking part in their first national headline tour. Bede took some time to chat with Jess about travel, other bands they’ve performed alongside and how the guys go about creating their music.

You have had such good reception from your fans, having sold out in Oxford Art Factory and the Gaelic Theatre. Did you ever anticipate such a positive response in such a short amount of time?

Um, not really I suppose, it’s all surprising. Any success we get is always surprising. In terms of the Gaelic and the Oxford Art in Sydney, it’s been really good. What we find better is not that our friends are in the audience, but when people we don’t know are in the audience and luckily that sort of improving. We did a house party tour in June, up the East Coast and that was great. You see a backyard full of 200 people that you’ve just never met before. It is always surprising, and I think it will continue to be surprising… forever.

Having performed with the likes of Ball Park Music and Last Dinosaurs, how has the transition been, from playing with them to having your own national tour?

We haven’t really done a huge amount of support tours; we’ve done support shows. But it does give you a full insight to what it’s like to be on the road with a big band. But when we do play the one off shows, it’s great to get a real look into what they do, pre-gig and post-gig, and just their sound and how they’re really professional about it. Especially with BPM and Last Dinosaurs and guys like that where they have been overseas and they’ve got everything really, really tight.

On our tour, we’re a lot less organised, and casual about things. But we’re working on our professionalism. We don’t even have a sound guy yet — things like that; we really need to look into that.It’s all building, it’s all building. At this stage, it’s really more important for us to rehearse so that we don’t sound too shit live.

What are the important things you consider when you are on stage performing?

We try not to wear the same coloured t-shirt. We’ve had a few gigs we’ve all turned up in a blue shirt or a black shirt so that can get really awkward. So that’s the first thing we look at.
When you put yourself out there as a five-part harmony band, if you’re not singing five-part harmonies well, it’s really bad. So we practice that.

Other than that, we just dance naturally and sweat a lot and make sure there’s not too many lulls. I’m working on the banter as well. It’s… slowly getting better, but there are often awkward moments. Rude jokes don’t go down too well.

What are the things that you learned making your first EP that you took into consideration for your latest release?

One difference was that when we made this one (the first one) was that it was an hour and ten minutes away from where we lived. But we always drove home every night, so we were always quite tired. And it was a bit more of a smaller studio.

This time, we recorded this EP in the 301 studios, which is 10 minutes away from where we live and it’s with a guy called Simon Todkill, who is like… a legend. And just having a really big fancy studio brought out our strength in terms of room sounds and gain vocals. And Simon just knew exactly what to do when we had questions. Not to play down our first EP, but there was a big difference.

So you’re really happy with how everything turned out?

Yeah, we were exceptionally happy at the time, and we’re really happy with the product, but it’s such a weird thing when you’re in a recording band. By the time you get a product out, you’re already so far ahead of it that it’s easier to get more stuff out of it. So we’ve already been demoing our album, but it is such a weird thing.

What do you like to experiment with in terms of instrumentation?

We used some sort of random African drum, like a djembe. We used a steel drum; we got a guy in to do the steel drum, just to try some things out. We play string instruments and brass instruments, so we threw some of them into the songs, which worked all right.

We didn’t really want to experiment too much. The steel drums were a real random moment for us. We ended up doubling the line with a guitar anyway. We’re not hugely experimental, but we’re going to have to work on it.

Your musical influences are quite solidified, having mentioned Mumford and Sons and U2 in previous interviews. Other than music, what other influences do you draw from?

Other than music? Well lyrically, it’s hard to speak for the other guys and where their inspiration comes from with lyrics. But mine, I t comes from things around me, like people who are close to me, and things that affect me somehow.

Even things like sitting in the sun. For some reason, if I’m in a dingy little dark room, I can’t really write songs, or lyrics. I just go out in the sun, get some Vitamin D, get a little sunburnt and some magic happens. It’s always going to be something personal and it’s always going to be different for us.

Yeah, it’s because I found it really interesting when I read somewhere that Danny’s Den had biblical references in it.

Yeah, yeah, that one does. I tried to make it as subtle and discrete as possible, so that one was sort of hard. We’re in no means a Christian band or largely influenced by that stuff, but it is a big part of people’s lives, so writing about it is nice.

You have such a unique voice I can’t quite pinpoint it! How did you develop your voice to make it sound so different?

I have no idea. We’re not really trained singers. We all went to school and then joined the choir and then joined the band. It’s not really been a trained thing, it’s all natural. I shout a lot, which might have something to do with it, and I don’t smoke often. We just have five very different types of voices that blend well somehow.

Your harmonies remind me of Fleet Foxes. Do you get that a lot?

I don’t think many people would compare our sound, like our song writing, to theirs, but their harmonies are great.

We don’t go out of our way to have a harmony that is similar to the chord structures they use in their harmonies, but sometimes it happens. And if you’re singing harmonies these days, they’re sort of the bosses of modern-day-folk-harmony singing, so we sort of just get bunched in with them.

What kind of bands are you into at the moment?

We’re all different. At the moment I’m really liking the band called Half-Moon Run. And I like a band called HAIM. I’ve seen their videos and they’re hectic. I listen to a lot of old music, like Fleetwood Mac and The Beach Boys.

There’s a lot of influences in our sound, it’s hard to narrow it down, but I mean, we like all sorts of music. One guy’s obsessed with Death Metal, so it’s really random. We’ve got a variety, which turns into whatever the hell our sound is like.

What do you think your band sounds like?

I could not tell you. It’s hard when people say you’re like this band or that band, but I don’t really see it too much. But I definitely see flavours in our music that are similar to others.
With the songs that are coming from the album, they have a more consistent sound to them, but the stuff we’ve recorded is a bit different.

Sometimes people don’t like being compared to other bands.

Oh, we’ve got no problems with being compared to other people and other bands. Like, all of the bands that we get compared to are amazing bands, so we’ll take it.

Your band seems incredibly self- sufficient. Do you think you will stay this way, or do you see yourselves signing with a label in the future?

We’re not afraid to sign with a label. It’s really weird in the music industry, because when you don’t know what you’re doing, you just try to take every step. Like every appropriate step as it comes. But there’s a reason why bands sign to labels. We’re not afraid to sign with a label, but right now, we’re not ready to because we want to sort things out. I think the label takes you the next 40%, but you’ve got to fill the 60%. We’ve got to cover a lot of things first, so we’re almost there. Who knows what’ll happen in the future.

Where would you like to see your band in the future?

We’re pretty relaxed about the whole thing. I mean we all have degrees so we haven’t thrown away everything to pursue this. However, we invested a lot of our time and a lot of our self in it and it is the greatest thing we do. Like everyone, you hope to be as successful as possible, but we’re pretty realistic. It could be over in 6 months. But then again, we can imagine the biggest of the big.

Dead or alive, who would you love to/have loved to collaborate with?

That’s a really good question. I reckon it would be awesome to collaborate with Sigur Ros. I just think that band is so different; they’re just making music with a hell of a lot of sound. So however we’d fit in there, if they ever want to have us like, if you know him, tell him to call us.

Catch Castlecomer on their first headline tour.