Brisbane-based prog rock champions, Caligula’s Horse channel raw honesty and skill into a seamless package. Their 2011 debut album Moments from Ephemeral City was released in the same year the band formed. Their 2013 follow up The Tide, The Thief & River’s End, a dark album with a powerful narrative received international acclaim. On the back of that album the band toured, a lot. They shared stages with the likes of Opeth, Mastodon, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Twelve Foot Ninja and Ne Obliviscaris.
Now with 2015’s Bloom under their belt, plus joining the roster of North America’s The Agency Group and signing with prestigious German label Inside Out, the band’s sights seem wider and deeper than ever before.
We chatted to frontman Jim Grey ahead of their national tour. He was particularly excited about the brand new announcement that they’ll be joining a killer lineup at Barcelona’s Be Prog! My Friend Festival.
“The idea we can share stage with literal prog legends like Jethro Tull is absolute madness to us,” Jim said. “Not to mention Anathema.”
Jim is a self-avowed history buff and we talk about the fact that he’s touring awesome cities with long and interesting histories.
“I’m just traipsing around the world, touching old things,” he laughed. “It’s just me trying to seem cool. I’m a student of history at UQ, studying ancient history and ancient languages.
“I love studying, it’s the best. It’s like I’m furthering myself,” he said. “Although I’m taking a break now, at least a year. I have an 18 month old daughter to take care of at home.”
One of the things that left an impression about the Caligula’s Horse tour announcement was the effort put into introducing fans to the support acts. For Brisbane, Osaka Punch, Dyssidia and Kodiak Empire are given nearly as much airtime as Caligula’s Horse themselves. The same happens for the support acts for the other cities on the tour.
“It’s part of our belief and mission statement as a band,” Jim said. “To give back as much as possible as well. The bands we picked on tour, they’re not picked at random and they’re not just picked because they’ll sell tickets.”
“It’s the ideal situation for whoever comes to the show. It’s best night of music possible.”
“Osaka Punch, they’re probably the most fun band you’ll ever see. They’re the hardest band to follow. They’ve been around for a while in different forms and I have known them for more than ten years.”
“There’s no way you’ll leave without a smile on their face.”
“People who don’t dance dance at Osaka Punch shows.”
Jim is known for crafting songs with meaning. At the Queensland Music Awards ceremony earlier this year he performed a spoken word piece about people seeking asylum We Should all carry a Coin for the Boatman that left many people with dust in their eyes. Me included.
“There’s a message and story in everything we do. Writing music without a core in it is totally facile.”
“Whereas for us, when I try and capture a concept or a story– it’s about capturing emotion – those things are partly informed by my view of the world – and the guys in the band.”
“We’re not like Rage Against The Machine,” Jim said. “We’re not going to be writing a song that’s politically targeted about what’s going on in the world… but at the same time, there will be political messages in songs and people will interpret them that way or their own way.”
Does that mean the band are all on the same page with some of these political and social issues?
“We all kind of mesh politically, but that’s what makes tour bus conversation so interesting – we can’t agree all the time.”
“After our experience in Europe on a tour bus and in a new city every night distances in Australia are remarkably bigger. But then after a run like that, we’re old hat,” he said.
So touring’s not quite as luxurious as some people might think? Jim actually chortles.
“I am laughing now,” he says. “None of us make any money from this at all. Maybe in the old days of bands we’d be making money, but it’s just not happening.”
“Other bands are seeking ways to sustainably tour. Like Ne Obliviscaris. They have a Patreon setup which means they can do it fulltime. It means it’s viable to tour – that’s the nature of things now,” Jim said, not that he likes money.
“It sickens me to my core dealing with money.”
And the tour itself? It’s the most excited Jim has been about new stuff for a long time.
“We’re bringing some new material along with us,” he said. “And the immensity of it. It feels large, it feels important to me.”
“There’s some conceptual elements to this that are a little more personal than stories I’ve told in the past.”
“I’m looking forward to sharing and seeing how people respond.”
Caligula’s Horse tour dates
Friday 4 November | The Triffid Brisbane
Friday 11 November | Amplifier, Perth
Saturday 12 November | Fowler’s Live, Adelaide
Friday 18 November | The Basement, Canberra
Saturday 19 November | The Small Ballroom, Newcastle
Sunday 20 November | Newton Social Club, Sydney
Saturday 3 December | Progfest, Corner Hotel, Melbourne