Phil Jamieson, who mans the keys, synth and guitars for instrumental rock act Caspian takes the "post-rock or just rock" questions with a great deal more understanding than many of his more celebrated, non-singing peers. In fact, some guitar-intensive acts get downright pissed when confronted with the seemingly innocuous "post-rock" label. In all fairness, though, it's rare to find an artist that enjoys others placing tags of limitations on their music. But Jamieson isn't terribly worried about it.
"To us it has never really mattered," he says as Caspian makes their way to Dallas this Sunday night for a show at Club Dada. "We wouldn't consider ourselves a traditional post-rock band, but we understand how other people do, and in general, the desire for people to label and compartmentalize musical genres to keep things organized. It only bothers me when it keeps people from listening to us because they dogmatically ignore certain genres of music on principle. We'd rather be viewed as a rock band and leave it at that, but honestly, it isn't something that really bothers us."
Whether Caspian, which formed in Massachusetts in 2003, is a traditionally-based post-rock act or not is one thing, but the fact is, with minimal vocals - there are faint hints and moans on the band's latest LP Waking Season - an artist still must find a way to express himself while engaging the audience in fresh and, if possible, unique ways. The perceived restraints of an instrumental rock group might seem rather restrictive, but again, Jamieson does well to hide any concern that might be there.
"It's challenging if you become self conscious about what's happening in post-rock and go on a mission to try and single-handedly move the genre forward," he says. "It becomes a lot easier when you follow natural musical impulses and temper them with a desire to push your own band forward in the context of your own work. Hopefully that is working for us."
Indeed, the band has pushed forward. Over the course of three studio albums and a handful of EPs and live releases, Caspian hasn't displayed a style that would stave off Explosions in the Sky comparisons, but it is clear that from 2009's Tertia to last year's Waking Season, both resplendent records, the band has evolved. Such is the case in terms of not only creating a certain mood, but confidently lingering inside of that vibe a bit without immediately thrusting themselves into soaring progressions that almost reflexively make the hairs stand-up on one's arm.
When a traditional rock band releases an album, it's often clear where the influence of the artists lie. Who can listen to Tame Impala's stellar 2012 record Lonerism and not feel a heaping helping of Revolver-era Beatles? For a group that leans so dependently upon guitars, drums and keys, without vocals, the history of their own so-called sub-genre, while rich, isn't terribly deep. Jamieson points to one of the heads on post-rock's Mount Rushmore as the tipping point for his musical self.
"Godspeed You! Black Emperor changed the game for me," he says. "I first heard their record Yanqui U.X.O back in 2002. Since I had never immersed myself in this stuff prior to that, it completely threw everything upside down for a while there. I purchased the album completely by chance and one thing led to another."
Rock bands of all kinds, whether a singer takes center stage or not, want to make sure they leave their eardrum-busting mark on the room they just played in. Dada in Deep Ellum will certainly give Jamieson and his mates a shot at a bit of wall-rattling on Sunday night.
"We'd rather show up in a city and play ten nights in a row in a medium-sized room than one night in a massive arena, simply because we want our sound to engulf the audience as much as possible. Large venues are less conducive to body-slamming your ears in the manner we desire."