Lucid psychedelic chamber ensemble driven by the ethos of anarchy.
Photo by: Samer Ghani
Lyrically,To Start A Fire That Sings You A Song navigates a large array of the human cognition through a lens of philosophical concepts and personal experience. There is a level of forceful poeticism that evokes similarities with artists like Silent Planet yet Social Caterpillar strikes a new vein completely. This isn’t the blurried headrush akin withf hardcore punk or metalcore but rather an atmospheric slow burning blend of alternative, folk and indie with ambient and experimental elements. One thing that makes this album unique is that it likely needs a few listens and accompaniment from the album liner and lyrics to let the full depth of the subject hit it’s highest level of resonation, but on a sonically attractive level the record satisfies from the first listen on.
Discover Vinyl: Congratulations on the release of your debut album Start a Fire That Sings You a Song, how are you feeling now that the record has been released?
Social Caterpillar: Thank you so much!! It feels really great to finally get this record out and we are incredibly excited to be able to share these songs with everyone. This record is really important and deeply personal to everyone in the band, and we are incredibly stoked with how everything turned out. As a whole the record took several years to take shape, and it reflects not only our growth as a band, but also several of the struggles the band members encountered leading to its release.
Prior to Start A Fire you had been releasing music in the form of cassettes (Motorcycle in 3 Movements, Welcome To The Petting Zoo, and more), what drew you to put this release out on vinyl?
We all listen to and collect vinyl, and as a band had a goal to start releasing our music on vinyl so we immediately jumped at the opportunity when it arose. Cassettes releases are great and are a wonderfully viable way for bands to release their material at a low cost. Nevertheless, we all think there is something particularly attractive and rad about releasing records on vinyl. It’s a bit cliché to say this by now, but like a lot of other artists we feel like physical releases, especially vinyl, help establish a more personal connection between the artist and listener. From being able to hold the artwork, to reading the lyrics and linear notes, and even to having flip the record from side to side, all help, we believe, in establishing a more fundamental relationship with our audience.
All this said, we also know that we live in a world where streaming and downloading are more steadily becoming the most prevalent medium through which people listen to music. Rather than lamenting a time long past, we think streaming and downloading music is absolutely great, and are happy to always offer our releases for free download. At the same time, however, we still feel that physical releases are important for those who want to have that connection, and we will continue to do so as long as we have the means. Huge shout out to Steve Roche from Confluence Records for helping us release this record.
Your debut EP Welcome To The Petting Zoo shared similar dark and melancholic undertones with your debut album Start a Fire both beautifully and emotively expressed. In your words is there a driving theme or higher meaning that contributed to the overall atmosphere of the record?
Conceptually and thematically Social Caterpillar has always existed as a medium for the members of the band to collectively work through and reflect upon the struggles each of us endure as we attempt to navigate the increasing emptiness of contemporary life. In general, we like to think of Social Caterpillar as a direct reflection on who we have been, who we are, and who we hope to become, and the melancholic atmospheres of our records showcase our attempt to work through these ideas. The philosopher Michel Foucault once wrote that the point in life is to “become someone else than you were in the beginning,” and the trajectory of this record follows this idea. The opening track deals with the theme of what we call “collective pain”—a sense of general hopelessness we feel is becoming more prevalent in all of our lives and the lives of those around us, and really sets the tone for the rest of the album. The track “Bad Electricity” was written after losing a friend to suicide and another to an overdose and is dedicating to everyone who has a difficult time navigating through the troubled storms of paralyzing depression. Whereas the album’s closing track sings of protest and of hope for different, better world—that is of what we might later become through resistance.
We were delightfully caught off guard by the ambient electronically driven interludes laced in between songs on the record, it really helped bridge the compositions together for us while also letting them stand alone strongly. What led to your counter approach where so many bands today would place “filler” songs?
We initially started experimenting with the ideas of using short interludes between our tracks when we collaborated with the Denver/St. Louis collective UTAJAHS for our EP Motorcycle: In Three Movements. On that record, we had three tracks that we really felt constituted a larger piece of music, and wanted to come up with a way to make the EP feel more like an entire composition than a collection of songs. With Start a Fire that Sings You a Song, we had a similar idea in mind and wanted our songs to feel like specific movements within a larger composition, and we think that the use of interludes helps us achieve this effect. While each of the movements can stand alone, we hope that in succession the album works toward creating unifying the record as a whole.
Your final track Where There Is Power There Is Resistance opens with a sample from the 1976 movie The Network, could you tell us a little about that?
We chose to sample The Network because of the direct parallels between the film and what is going on in our own contemporary world, not only in the sense of a movement of resistance that the sample inspires, but also how the film addresses the simultaneous issue of the ways in which media outlets often profit from sensationalizing movements of protests as a spectacle to be consumed. As the album’s closer, we wanted to end with a song of protest and hope for a less bleak world, and we felt that the “mad as hell” speech not only helped set the tone for the song, but also parallels certain sentiments of a contemporary world in protest and revolt.
Where There Is Power There Is Resistance
I recently watched a live clip of Social Caterpillar performing with an entrancing b&w film loop as the backdrop, how do music and visual art live together with (or apart from) each other in your creative process?
Due to the limitations of some venues we are not always able to play with live film, but we always jump at the opportunity if we can. The films we use are created for us by one of the artists who helped with the album art named Michael Lagerman, and are made to coincide with the live songs. We kind of think of the use of film in our live shows as the opposite of a soundtrack where the film helps establish a visual context and atmosphere for our music. We absolutely love Michael’s work and think it helps create a wonderful component for our live shows that compliments the music. None of the members of Social Caterpillar are visual artists, but we have been very lucky to work with a bunch of friends who have helped us create the aesthetic of the project. We always try to choose artists we feel help accent our music, and in turn hope that our music compliments the art.
Are there any non musical pieces of art that have acted as a muse or inspiration in the recent years?
We have several non-musical muses that act as point of inspiration. Most importantly, our music is influenced by the friendships we have within the band and with the people who are closest to us—you might call this the muse of friendship. We are also inspired by a melancholic world in protest and all of the people seeking to make the world a little more friendly and inhabitable to all.
We noticed your music has parralells to other alternative genres and your shows last year with metal / hardcore group THOU, one of our current favorite singer-songwriters Emma Ruth Rundle and environmentl screamo kings SNAG who also recently dropped their debut record. What’s it like being active in the diverse and definitely growing midwest DIY music scene?
We absolutely adore the diversity of bands we have been fortunate to share stages with, and we hope to continue playing with a wide variety of bands and for diverse audiences. We all grew up playing in DIY hardcore and punk bands and we definitely feel most at home in the intimacy of DIY communities. Our music takes cues from a lot of different genres that are reflective of our diverse tastes in music, and we hope to keep our live shows filled with a wide variety of artists from all types of genres within the larger DIY community. The Midwest scene is absolutely killing it right now and we feel lucky to be able to share the stage with so many rad bands from around these parts. The members of SNAG are our best friends and we share a practice warehouse with them and have released a split cassette with them as well. I think we have played close to 20 shows together at this point, and hope to tour together sometime soon. We love Emma Ruth Rundle and our drummer used to play in a hardcore band from Colorado with her drummer many years ago.
Additionally, check out these rad artists from Midwest: The Nunnery, Cairns, Large Print, Operations, Lifes, Sista Strings, Klassic, Knaaves.