Caligula’s Horse Interview

InsideOut Music

The Australian progressive band Caligula’s Horse have been around for a decade, and really saw their profile rise globally with 2017’s In Contact. Their latest album, and fifth overall, is Rise Radiant. Guitarist Adrian Goleby gives us the lowdown on the album, their newest member, the effect of the coronavirus pandemic and other topics.

Chad Bowar: How did your newest member, bassist Dale Prinsse, come to join the band?
Adrian Goleby: Dale has been in the Australian progressive music scene for quite a long time, I believe he’s known Sam Vallen (guitarist) the longest through their connection at university. I knew him as the bassist in Opus of a Machine – a band that features Zac Greensill (Ex-Caligula’s Horse guitarist) whom I replaced in 2017. He also toured with us in Europe as our lighting tech/tour best friend. After Dave Couper’s departure, we knew that we wanted someone that we could tour with and had a plethora of talents that make any band function better. It would’ve been extremely hard to find a better fit. When we auditioned him, we were so excited about the prospect that we left him waiting outside for a very, comedically long time. He’s been an excellent source of inspiration and friendship in this new iteration of Caligula’s Horse.

Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Rise Radiant compared to previous albums?
Definitely! It was the first time that every single member of the lineup has contributions to the writing process. Sam and Jim (Grey, vocals) are definitely still the native speakers of the Caligula’s Horse sound, but the doors were wide open for collaboration from the very beginning. I can’t stress enough just how thoughtful these albums are!

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
This is an easy (and extremely mundane) one for me. It corresponds with the very first day of drum tracking, but nothing to do with the tracking itself. Josh (Griffin, drums) lives two hours away from the rest of us. He does an insane commute to get to rehearsals and pre-production sessions. Honestly, he’s nuts. We recorded Rise Radiant down the Gold Coast (a lot of tourists know this area as near the beaches and theme parks of Queensland). So even for me it was an hour away. Since this part of the world is so tropical, we get some brutal summers – and this was no exception. My car was out of action for a drive like this, so I borrowed my partner’s (historically reliable) car and set out with Josh down to the studio so I could film during drum recording. Within seconds of setting out, we had some car troubles that I foolishly ignored. By the time we got to a drum shop to pick up some essentials, we were getting intermittent beeps and flashes warning us to stop. So, naturally, we kept going. The alternator had started to die, which meant that aircon was a no-go.

We got stuck in peak school holiday traffic for over an hour in the middle of a sweltering summer day, putting us behind schedule from the beginning. That night, Josh stayed with Sam, and I drove home to return my partner’s car. It was midnight, and I figured – as long as I can get a jump start I’ll be fine. (Strong sarcasm on that statement, because I know very little about cars.) My lights gave out, the accelerator stopped working, the speedometer stopped working and I drove through pitch darkness in intermittent bursts for many hours – unable to get in contact with anyone at such a weird hour. I eventually gave up, and my partner picked me up in my car. I think I’m still stressed from that night.

How has the band’s sound evolved from In Contact?
The keyword is “refinement.” This is a much more refined statement in comparison to In Contact. Not to say, that IC wasn’t refined – but, Rise Radiant embraces the power of its themes to the fullest extent. I remember Sam mentioning how much he would push a theme of the arrangement to the pinnacle of his satisfaction and intent.

Is there a lyrical concept or theme?
I would say Rise Radiant is thematic instead of conceptual. The themes touch on a variety of different topics under an umbrella that we’ve enjoyed summing up into one word – perseverance. Some of us have reached parenthood, and that has become a pivotal motif in a number of the songs. In my case, it represents looking back on my own journey and being able to grow and move forward despite my own narrative being an obstacle in the way. Jim has done an incredible job of creating this imagery in his lyrics and melodies.

Did you struggle with track order?
I don’t think so! I remember Sam writing out an optimized version of the track album with some songs not even written yet. We knew that “The Ascent” was going to close it out, and we knew that “Autumn” was a penultimate part of that puzzle. One of Sam’s more obscure skills, in my opinion, is being able to look at a bigger picture and then orient himself according to that.

With the success and impact of In Contact, what are your goals and expectations for Rise Radiant?
I’m glad you can ask that question! Our intentions are to be the best versions of us as individuals and as a group. We want to create what we can to the best of our ability, and the people that respond to that will solidify the goal of it being a statement that we can appreciate as a community of music enthusiasts. We don’t really know what to expect with the current global climate, but we hope that it reaches the people that will join us on the next part of our journey. It’s so exciting, because even though the album talks about hindsight quite a bit – we’re still so young and excited to see what we can do next!

How much attention do you pay to reviews?
I enjoy them, but I don’t look for them unless I’m trying to find press quotes that help me understand how the album is perceived outside of my own scope of being in the band. I like to be in touch with a fan base, and I’m also extremely cynical – so being torn to shreds is a good way to keep balanced. My respect for the process that goes into these albums can’t be tarnished by bad reviews. That being said, I appreciate good writing wherever it can be found – even if it’s negative.

How was the video shoot for “Slow Violence”?
This is going to be hard one to keep short! I make music videos for a living – I’ve been doing it for six years now, and I’m lucky enough to have a community that trusts me with their image. Caligula’s Horse was the first band that paid me to make a video (“A Gift to Afterthought”). I’ve also done the music videos for “Firelight,” “Turntail, “Will’s Song,” “Songs for No One” and all of our live videos/promos/teasers/ads. I’m a busy boy, but I also have a vision of how this band feels to watch for the first time. “Slow Violence” was my way of putting together a strong aesthetic based on different practical elements such as glass and water.

We shot it over three days with Dave Hunter from Circles (it was meant to be two, but you’ll have to wait for the BTS to see why!) at Mt. Cotton Rainforest Gardens in the Redlands (southeast Brisbane). We were about to get completely washed out of our initial location, and we needed to find somewhere new on the day of shooting. Luckily, those gardens were previously owned by my family, and had since been bought by the mayor of the area. I grovelled pretty hard to secure an area that would give us power/roof and we got so much more. It was an extremely special shoot that had the best crew I could have imagined. How cool is that bullet-time though? Shout out to Derek Griffiths and The Photobooth Guys for that one!

How important are videos these days?
I’m clearly biased here. Really, REALLY biased. Because to me, it’s the visualization of intent without the restrictions of what you can see on stage. It clearly creates a divide in the music community, but we all have exceptions for our favorite music videos don’t you think? I would record Rage (Aussie music video show) every weekend and watch some music videos on repeat because they emphasized what I needed a visual aid to understand. That being said – it may not be the artist’s intention, which is a whole topic that I could go on about forever. Ultimately, I see a music video as the perfect visual aid to communicate as much information about how we feel the music as possible. I appreciate the question!

Last year did a few shows where you played two albums in their entirety. Any plans on releasing those as a live album or DVD?
We did, and it was an enormous undertaking. It’s a very dextrous process to organize the shooting/editing of a full show. We have a lot of footage of it, but I think given the way we consume media now – it might not be the right time in our career to release that. I’m currently editing one from a tour we played with Ne Obliviscaris (Aus) and to me, it exists as a statement about that band’s career. I can’t wait to share it!

It is extra challenging for Australian bands to make inroads in North America and Europe because of the distance. Have things like streaming services and social media helped build your fan bases there along with touring?
I was a fan of Caligula’s Horse long before joining the band. I’d heard of them (or do I say us? Ha!) from a close friend that insisted I had to come and watch a show. I tagged along, curious about his enthusiasm and saw Sam playing his white Ibanez Universe and just destroying these crazy solos. I promptly bought a bunch of merch and started telling everyone I knew about us. Them? Them.

Word of mouth is huge in Australia. We know way too much about each other, but we also care deeply about the health of the scene. I think Aussie bands are great at operating on a grassroots level, but we often get stopped there. It’s fair to say that the quality of the music is one of the huge components of how the world sees us. Some people don’t even think about where we’re from, they just like it and are passionate about it. This music is passionate in its own right and I think a lot of people empathize with that. We care a lot about our social media, but we also appreciate those valuable face-to-face interactions when we get overseas!

What has been the impact of the coronvirus pandemic on Caligula’s Horse as a band?
Apart from postponing the U.S. tour and juggling timelines, we’re grateful that none of us has to make enormous changes to our personal lives. It’s a matter of pointing our attention more in the direction of how can we service the fans that need us the most, and having an album that might be the difference between a good day and a bad day for someone that is truly living in fear right now is a reward in its own right.

What has the impact been on you personally?
I’m busier than ever! Bands are hungry to release animations/videos/stuff! Right now I’m rendering videos on two different computers and juggling multiple projects. I’ve also lost quite a lot of work interstate, but given the circumstances – I’m almost never out of the house unless I’m filming anyway! If I could complain about anything, it’s that I keep getting hooked on U.S. news and it’s slowly driving me insane.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’m really enjoying the new Igorrr album Spirituality and Distortion. In complete contrast to that, I’m digesting some Newton Faulkner too! I’m a huge fan of what he does and how much talent is going on there.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Definitely! I hope you can all turn your attention to the new single coming out from Glass Ocean, one of my favorite bands in Australia! And also the new Ebonivory single is an absolute tearjerker! Thanks for having me, and take care!

(interview published May 21, 2020)

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