Interview: Caracara


Recently I was able to catch up on the road with the ultra-talented band, Caracara, for an in-depth interview about the process they took while recording their latest record New Preoccupations. I asked the band about specific songs like “My Thousand Eyes,” “Colorglut” and more as well as what went into deciding the final tracklisting for the album. Be sure to catch Caracara on their current US tour with Sad Park and Heart To Gold.

Thank you so much for your time today, guys. Let’s start off by discussing your great new record called New Preoccupations, which was released in March of this year. So now the album has been out for over half a year, what are you most proud of looking back on it?

Sean: I think it’s pretty evident that we tried a lot of things stylistically, with that record that we’re kind of new. And I think anything can feel a little bit like maybe pigeon holed or expected to sound a certain way. And I think I’m, first of all, proud that we didn’t do that quite. And now that it’s been about six months, I’m pretty proud that like people have gone along with it. Both how they’ve received the record, and how people have reacted at shows to a lot of their lives, a lot of the new stuff. That’s been pretty gratifying. And I’m glad to be making the choices that we did.

George: I was just gonna say, it’s pretty cool to see how well received and wide reaching it has been pretty much everywhere. We’ve been on tour and there’s people giving us very positive feedback about it. It’s just really cool to see that it’s in people’s ears. They’re really receptive to it.

Yeah, it’s really well deserved.

Will: Thank you. Yeah, I would agree sort of, along similar lines of what Sean was saying. I just think that I don’t know if this is necessarily like something I would say, as a private wine. But I’ve just been continuously impressed by people’s openness to just let us travel. We want people’s willingness to be supportive, and get into our music, even when it is a little bit. Even when we’re thinking maybe great pains to not be pigeonholed. And I mean, like Sean said, We incorporated a lot of elements that we did really mess around with on the first record, and we did a lot more sort of production-based writing and beats and synths and stuff like that. And in the months leading up to releasing a record, I feel like those are the songs of the world, like, “Oh, what are people gonna say how he’s out for this.” And I mean, we’ve been so lucky, and that people just take it all in stride, and our life. I would say that it’s almost less of a pride point. And more of just I think the biggest inspiration I’ve taken away from this past record has been like we should just make what we want to make. And I mean, obviously, that’s not a leap. But people are open-minded people and like to hear big swings.

Yeah. And this record includes a lot of great guitar tones, textured and atmospheric elements, as well as great sounding rock songs. So great job on that. Now that your fans have had a chance to kind of digest New Preoccupations a little bit, and you’ve had some fan interactions on the road, what do they tell you their favorite songs are?

Carlos: There’s several that we play live now that have been pretty well received. We start off pretty much every set with “Hyacinth” and “Strange Interactions.” Both of those are just pretty fast bangers going right at the top. So that has felt really good every night. And then “Colorglut” has really been a standout for us. And I have the unfortunate task of being Anthony Green, so I gotta make it my own but that one with the band and everything and we try to have these electronic elements kind of sneak in throughout the sensor by the time they hear “Colorglut.” Everyone’s feeling pretty good, and that has been very rewarding for us.

Nice. So congrats on the 7.6 score on Pitchfork! That was a pat on the back, too. Do you guys ever go out of your way to read reviews, or what’s your take on music criticism? 

Carlos: I’ll say that I try to read quite a bit just because I’m interested. If someone has a take I don’t agree with, I don’t really take it very personally at all. Like the Pitchfork review, it was mostly references of who we sound like and stuff like that and a lot of it was accurate but it’s also not like how we go about making music. We’re not like oh, what did we do? It’s kind of like it’s just a natural thing that happens. But I do like reading other people’s reviews and stuff. Sometimes I really get off onto something that I really like, a record that I really like. And I’m going to read the review to see if someone else likes it too.

Sean: I’m pretty sure when the record came out, we all obviously read the Pitchfork review actually in the parking lot of the Cobra Lounge in Chicago. The review came out like while we were playing there, we packed up all our gear and then sat in the band. We’re like, “oh shit.” <Laughter> But I think I spent more time on ChorusFM where there’s message boards. I mean, music critics are gonna do music criticism. And that’s such a small fraction of the listener population. I much more enjoy just silently reading through people’s commentary. What songs they like, what expectations weren’t met, and a lot of people said like, “oh, the record’s slow,” and then they will say, “I still really like it, though!” But I found myself diving more into that. But I think that was in the honeymoon week of the records out and I was like, “alright, well anyways, back to writing more stuff.”

Sure. And the record really starts off very cautiously with “My Thousand Eyes,” a quiet, mid tempo kind of song and kind of slow builds, and even mentioned the title of the record and one of the lyrical lines. Was there any consideration within the band to open up the record with a different song? Or can you just describe the process for creating the final tracklist thing that came out?

Carlos: “My Thousand Eyes” since that inception, we were like, that’s the opener. The tracklisting is an incredibly difficult process for us. I mean, we’re writing the music now, and we’re already thinking about the sequencing and stuff. Even though we know that it’s totally futile. But we had a couple of different ones. A lot of the songs were like on the side where we’re pretty much standard, but we were just trying to figure out how to balance out the record on the B-sides, we threw around a lot of stuff with that.

And the record has a lot of cool photography on here, too. Where were these photos mostly taken? Just out of curiosity…

Sean: Most of those I’m pretty sure we’re taking on a full US tour we did in 2019 by our friend Ashley, Ashley Gilman at Salad Jockey. She’s the best. She’s touring now with Lucy Dacus. She’s outgrown us since 2019. But we had our first full US tour, and we brought Ashley along. And it was a really formative experience for us as people and us as a band. I think a lot of those photos are just like from all over the country on that trip, and I think it kind of captures the beauty and the chaos of all of it. 

Nice, were there songs that took more time to finish on this record than others? And if so, can you describe your overall writing process? You guys mentioned you’re also writing new material too.

Sean: Yeah, I’m sure that there were certain songs that were more difficult to put together. For this record. We really had a lot of them already, pretty fully. Because we had been writing for several years before that record came out, and then the pandemic happened right when we recorded it. So, I don’t even remember some of the songs that were harder to put together some were somewhere from 2018 that we had demoed out. I know “Nocturnalia” was one that was kicking around. That was one that went through several iterations. But then other songs like “harsh light,” too.

Will: “Monoculture” is the main one that comes to mind for me. The song “Ohio,” even down to the name, had a different name. Up until like a couple of days before we had to turn in all the design assets. And that was a song that I just lyrically, we fought with for a really, really long time. Because there’s a good amount of space and that song to sort of tell a bit of a story. But there’s a moment on the record when it doesn’t feel like I want to be particularly interested in beating anybody over the head with like earnestness. I sort of wanted to…I feel like I was listening to a lot of Tom Petty at the time, and I really wanted to tell a tight, concise story. But it’s something that felt true to me and it wasn’t necessarily so totally formed fitted for the song. And I just like got overly in my head by that premise that I just explained. And so, I’m like, this is what I’m doing. I mean, it’s definitely one of my favorites now, because I was here, I can hear all those deleted verses.

And can you guys describe how the new material is shaping up? Is it a lot different than the new record? Or is it kind of a continuation of that sound?

George: It’s all Reggae! <Laughter>

<Laughter> That would certainly throw a lot of people off.

Carlos: A couple of the lessons we learned on this record were just like that. Will said before that people aren’t really negatively averted to us taking swings and things. So we’re kind of going pretty loose with it, going where the wind takes us. Some of the more upbeat dance elements of New Preoccupations have definitely been the more heavy creative stuff for us right now. We were still pretty deep in the process. And I can’t say that we have a full scope of what we’re going to do yet.

Cool, so you guys are currently on tour supporting New Preoccupations. How have the shows been going, and have you learned anything from the other bands you’ve been playing with kind of on a nightly basis?

Will: Yeah, the shows have been great. I mean, the shows all year have been a lot of fun. We are humbled by the whole experience story this year and having people come out and we’ve got some unbelievable opportunities to do cool support slots. Our first US tour back after COVID was with this band called Delta Sleep. And they’re a band from the UK. Incredible band, incredible guys. We made fast friends with them and really love those people. But I feel like they reignited a little bit of a fire for touring and being like…I love touring, and I always have and I want to keep doing it. But I don’t know if they’re just them coming over from the UK. This was their biggest tour of the states yet and they were just constantly blown away by the crowds. They are so appreciative of everyone coming out like they just have such a good time. They’re so available to fans, they’re so willing to hang out at merch all night and talk to whoever. And I mean, I understand the tours can be taxing on people. People have to deal with it in their own way. And not everyone can always pull that off. But I really do think that in a post sort of locked down world the amount of appreciation I feel for everybody who feels inclined to spend 20 bucks to come see us and like to even actually leave the house. I feel like after COVID and through the eyes of Delta Sleep I’m just so acutely aware of what it really does take to just get somebody out and tour off this record, which is like definitely our most personal stuff today and our widest reaching. It is just incredibly humbling. I just want to do right by everybody who comes out. I’m very inspired to play as well as we possibly can and I need as many people hanging out as hard as possible.

Yeah, that’s a good point. Because a lot of people are really, like you said, starting to come out of their shell now with the pandemic being more under control, and being willing to take a risk and go to the shows. It seems like the live industry is definitely bouncing back now.

Will: And we appreciate it. We know it’s a risk. We know there’s still plenty of immunocompromised folks, there’s plenty of folks out there doing things correctly, breathing bad shit all over everybody. And the world’s crazy. And it sometimes feels like a big ask if people are just willing to come out. And I just want everybody to know how much we so totally appreciate it. But I really think that Delta Sleep communicated that to their fans really well. They’re everybody’s best friends and feel a part of their community when you’re at their shows. 

Sean: And like night after night to like, there is no bad show from them every single night. It’s all on the table, full connection with the crowd, everybody’s into it. Not to take away your answer. But I think that really inspired me from what we can do as performers. And that was that really lit a fire for sure. They really set a good example.

And I understand you guys are from Philadelphia, which has a rich music history, and a pretty good scene too. So what are some of the things you love most about where you’re where you’re from, and the music scene in particular?

Carlos: There is so much I think it’s so saturated in terms of punk rock and all the rock types in Philly, that you really get to understand. If you can make it in Philly, and people in Philly…you can go out into the country and at least feel proud of what you’re putting out there. You may not be the most popular kid on the block. But you get that street cred. From just grinding.

George: It’s really cool because it’s like a small-ish city. I mean, it’s not even just music, all the creative scenes, if you were getting into a service industry or whatever, and everything is so tight knit. Everybody knows everyone else, or at least like knows, people can go to everyone else. And it’s just such a supportive community. And just just a little bit of something for everybody that you can go see any kind of show you want to see. You can just fall into a scene really easily, and just pick up and start doing something and people are gonna be there to support you is really cool. And that’s definitely, in our case. I am really appreciative of that.

Will: It’s like there’s no way to come out of a fulfilling music scene with any sort of sense of entitlement. Because the competition is…people are really making really high quality stuff regularly. People are putting out records all the time. And there’s so many good bands in Philly that seem to have a ton of resources. There’s a lot of studios in Philly, a lot of people doing bedroom recording that is just taught here. And I don’t know, it’s, I think, sort of to speak to what Carlos was saying. If you can make it at least a little bit if you can carve out a little space for yourself in Philly, that’s a good primer on how to do that on a larger scale and how to just comfort yourself in other scenes. 

I understand your song “Colorglut” which also features Anthony Green like you mentioned before, name-dropped a couple different bands in there like Dirty Projectors, and others that you mentioned in the lyrics. What are some other artists that you’re influenced by or have been listening to even recently that you’re blown away by?

Will: I got to shout out the other name drop in the song “Colorglut.” So the other name drop is an artist called Murkave Dave. He’s sort of a grime and Jason kind of UK two step guy. And he’s super brilliant. I think that he is making some of the most sort of poignant, futuristic, but low key and extremely reserved, kind of modern r&b. I love British music in general. But yeah, I love Dirty Projectors too. Don’t get me wrong, I gotta give my man a shout out.

Sean: He’s also been really, really good to us. He checked out the record. And he’s been really supportive and chatted with us a little bit. Very, very nice guy. 

Will: Yeah, which I geeked out. The new Marcus Mumford record is unreal, too.

Sean: And also, right when we were recording, The 1975 is just always kind of an influence and a guiding light for some of the things that we want to do. And I think they’re very forward thinking. Notes on a Conditional Form came out as we were recording. So that was a big one. We also kind of did a little bit of an immersion exercise while we were recording. Not super intentionally, but we were obsessed with that record listening to it almost every day. There’s this one, Christine and the Queens song called “People I’ve Been Sad.” We listen to that literally every single day on the way to the studio. Christine is incredible. And then we also like did a deep dive into some David Lynch films. Listened to one of his books on audiobook, watched the world documentary about just his past and career. So those were in the recording process and the things that we immerse ourselves in. But I mean, the influences are innumerable.

Nice. Those are all great answers. So the last question I have for you guys, and I’ll let you guys get back on the road. What do you most hope fans of your music will take away from listening to Caracara.

Carlos: Great question. I think we just want to make music that sounds like us, and no one else. And that might not be like making the most groundbreaking music ever in terms of using new instruments, and electronics and all of this stuff, but like the combination of things, making that unique to us. So we just want people to recognize that, see that, enjoy that. And then dance with us at shows and have fun. Because the songs are sad, but we try to have as good of a time as possible. And hopefully everyone else does, too. So we’re just trying to be ourselves, really.

George: I can’t speak for everyone, but at least for me, like, it just is really cool that I can provide something that’s sort of an outlet for people that people can resonate with the same way that when I was like, younger, getting really into music, all my favorite bands were just the world to me, and my outlet and source of good energy. So we can do that for people.

Sean: That’s really, really cool. I’m not writing the lyrics for the songs. But I think the New Preoccupations album in particular, both lyrically and musically, we’re not like, ”everything sucks”, or a gloom and doom kind of band playing. Sure, some songs are sad. But I think one thing that we do, both like from a story perspective, and then also just aesthetically is we kind of take the good and the bad. And I think just reflecting on who we are and acknowledging who we are and what we are. And I think that could be one of the aspects why people have connected with this record. And like we’ve met people in shows that have said some really, really cool things to us about what it’s meant to them. And so I think I would hope that more people kind of use it as a medium to reflect on themselves in that way.

All right, well, thank you guys so much for your time and hopefully, you guys will start seeing your name and record on the “best of” lists coming out pretty soon. Thanks so much for connecting with me, and I hope you guys have a safe tour.

Thanks Adam!!