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Band Crush: Caspian

October 19, 2010

Ambitious. Epic. Heavy-hitting. All suitable descriptions of instrumental post-rock band Caspian (l-r: Joe Vickers, Chris Friedrich, Philip Jamieson, Calvin Joss, Erin Burke-MoranPhoto by Rachel Amendola). The band hasn’t played Boston in over eight months, and no, it’s not because they are self-hating Bostonians. Rather, there is high demand for them all around the globe. Caspian are just returning from China after having toured Europe, and before they set off again, they will grace us with a show here in Boston at the old South Church in Copley Square on Friday, October 22. The show will benefit Amirah, a safe house for victims of sex trafficking, in conjunction with the Boston Faith and Justice Network. Bassist Chris Friedrich discusses the band, their past and their future:

BBC: You’ve toured all around the world. Could you tell us in your experience what the major differences are between shows, crowds, responses and general touring from the U.S. to Europe to your most recent excursion in China?
Chris: Over this past year we’ve gotten to play in some incredible places: Athens, Istanbul, Kiev, Moscow, Hong Kong, China, as well as most of the rest of Europe and North America. Every city has it’s own, different feel and flavor but the biggest difference we’ve experienced in places like Eastern Europe and China is this massive sense of excitement. It’s only recently that any kind of rock bands, let alone Western bands, have been able to play in those places and people seem amazed by it. For me, in particular, it brought back a lot of that excitement I felt about playing some of the first shows we played as a band; that feeling that something new and different was happening.

BBC: As an instrumental band, you do an incredible job of packing each song with intense energy and emotion. What inspired you to go the instrumental route in the first place?
Chris: Thanks. The true story is that we never set out to be an instrumental band. We began playing music in an old factory building on the North Shore without any real ideas of recording or playing shows. We just played for the joy of playing but people began showing up to our practices all the time so we felt we should finally play a show. The problem was that none of us were really great singers (in fact I couldn’t carry a tune to save my life). I remember Phil apologizes to the people who came and saying that by the next time we played a show we’d have a lead singer. Seven years and hundreds of shows later we still haven’t found one.

BBC: Who and what influences your songwriting?
Chris: We all listen to incredibly different kinds of music so it’s hard to peg a direct, collective influence on Caspian’s songwriting. There’s a mash up of alt country, bluegrass, metal, instrumental, classical, Radiohead, Mogwai, Massive Attack, Beethoven, Hank Williams and all sorts of other things jumbled in there. The best thing to say is that we’re influenced by all the experiences we’ve had and all the insane places we’ve been over our years of being Caspian.

BBC: As a band that is constantly on the move, what would you say is your favorite thing and your least favorite thing about your lifestyle?
Chris: My favorite thing (besides playing the music itself) would have to be the incredible people we’ve met all over the world. It’s incredible now to read the news and hear about cities where we’ve been and feel genuinely connected to the people in those places.
My least favorite thing about this lifestyle is leaving the North Shore and all my friends and family behind for months at a time. I must say though: I have the most patient and understanding girlfriend in the history of girlfriends. How she puts up with me being gone for so long I have no idea.

BBC: You haven’t played the Boston area in eight months and your first show back is a benefit for a safe home for sex trafficking victims in the Boston area. Can you tell us why this issue is particularly important to you?
Chris: It was about a year ago that I started talking to my friend Ryan McDonnell at Boston Faith and Justice Network about doing a benefit show in Boston. Both of us had done some microfinance work in Africa and we both share similar passions about justice issues in the Boston area. He began telling me about Amirah and their plans for setting up a safe home for trafficking victims in Boston. The more I heard about the issue the more I was shocked about how huge of an issue this is in Boston and how little was being done to fight it. This article can do more justice to the issue than I ever could.
The other great thing about this show is the location. Old South Church in Copley is one of the most beautiful and historic churches in Boston. The acoustics in there are incredible and I cannot wait to hear what it’s going to sound like to play in there. We’re planning on doing a live recording and DVD shoot for the show. Waiting eight months to do this show was definitely worth it.

BBC: Though your travels take you far and wide, let’s keep it local for a second. What Boston bands are you currently crushing on?
Chris: I’ll double down and make it even more local: the two North Shore bands I’m crushing on right now are Dreamtigers and Ready, Steady…Torpedo! Two vastly different bands but both are incredible. They play in Boston quite a bit so go see them!

Some footage of Caspian live in China:

“Ghosts Of The Garden City” from their latest release Tertia:

This Friday’s show:

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