We had a chance to talk with Beaver Falls, PA indie rock group Captain the Sky about their new deluxe EP, the future of the band, and Chick-fil-A. Check them out on Facebook and be sure to follow them on Spotify!
Tell us a bit about the band. (how’d you meet? How long have you been together? Who are your major influences? How do you describe your style?
The band was formed in September of 2015 when Aaron approached members with the initial idea. The members were all, at one time or another, students at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA. Matt Neal, our drummer, worked at Geneva at this point. The idea was that one of the genres that the local scene had been missing was a band based around pop sensibility. Throughout that year they wrote and recorded “Mary Celeste”. The band was founded on a few musical principles: 1) Everything should be accessible, 2) Do not sacrifice musicality for accessibility, and 3) Everything ties back to the core concepts of both the individual project (album or EP) and the message the band strives to send. This message is that what we do as individuals matters. We have an impact on the world around us, therefore understanding where we have been placed and how our actions effect the world is vital. This is played out through the concepts that bind the music together. The individual concepts create a cohesive piece while tying the different pieces of art together.
Since the initial band was formed, the lineup has changed twice. So, while the band has been together over two and a half years, there have been 7 total members who have played with the project at one point or another. With this comes the reality that all of our releases have had different lineups. This really helped with the natural growth of the band because Aaron, who is the primary writer, has been influenced by several different musicians striving for the same goal in different ways. Two and a half years has pushed us to grow a lot as musicians and challenge ourselves to make the most of what we do.
Our influences tend to be very broad due to the membership’s personal tastes. While Matty listens to some more low-fi indie, post-rock, and indie-alternative – Dave tends to listen to more singer songwriter stuff and straight indie music. Matt is heavily influenced by post-hardcore, but also drums to the grooves of indie rock, alt-rock, and any other genre whose syncopation will make your head spin. Aaron was originally influenced by metal-core and indie pop. He has since closed the gap, filling in genres like post-rock, post-hardcore, indie rock and even a lot of djent, specifically Animals as Leaders. When you combine these styles you really get four bands that we would say most influence our sound, although they are not comprehensive: Young the Giant, Hippo Campus, mewithoutYou, and Death Cab for Cutie. As far as how we describe our sound…you’ll get more help by just re-reading the above cause if you ask us we will probably just tell you, “It’s kinda like…beach rock, but in space.” No one has found that to be useful yet.
You’re from Pittsburgh, right? What’s the Pittsburgh music scene like?
Pittsburgh is diverse as a music scene, but you can definitely find some tendencies here. To start, there are tons of places to play, tons of promoters, and tons of bands to play with. Unfortunately, what you find is that Pittsburgh is ruled primarily by three genres: classic rock, metal of almost any kind, and country. When scrolling through the radio about every other station is one of those, throwing in some Top 40’s stations of course.
What is really cool about the scene is that there is a growing DIY scene and underground indie scene. We are seeing more and more of these bands playing shows. Captain the Sky falls into this category, but there is one catch. We are only “kinda” part of the Pittsburgh scene. We are based in a town called Beaver Falls which for the last 5 years has produced a surprising number of incredible bands. It has also become a hub for many DIY touring acts. This scene is where we have called home, but we have been working our way more and more into the Pittsburgh scene. The band is planning to relocate to be about 5-10 minutes outside the city within the next few months. Thus, Pittsburgh will become our only scene.
Opinion on the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Aaron: I have been a lifelong fan of the Pirates, but I’ll just say a few things to keep me from rambling. They have shown they are an organization that does not care to put a winning team on the field, unless the find it more financially beneficial. They were seemingly turning that around until this off season when ownership outright said that they would not put a good team on the field unless people bought more tickets. All that said, let’s go Giants!
You guys released “Mary Celeste” as your first full length in 2016. What was that process like? What does the title mean?
I conveyed this earlier, but we write in concepts. To fully understand the album, you will probably need to grasp the concept that pulls the songs together, so I’ll start there. In short, “Mary Celeste” is about finding God in all places. Many artists hit this topic by talking about how to find God in the hard parts of life, but I wanted to talk about finding God in every part, the good, the bad, and even the mundane. Understanding how to find God everywhere and in everything makes your actions in those moments all that more important.
The name ties into this. Mary Celeste is not a woman, but a ship. It was supposed to harbor in the Caribbean during the age of exploration. When the ship was spotted off shore it was boarded only to be found empty, still carrying the crew members items, and with no sign of a battle or grand exodus. It was left a mystery as to what happened to the people on board. The story behind the name points to the idea that we are to look for the things unseen. Purpose, meaning, and reasons for the seasons of our lives often seem like mysteries, but it is our job to find God in those seasons, seek Him out in order to understand our place in all of it.
Due to the changing line-ups, our process has changed somewhat drastically over the past two years. For “Mary Celeste”, 90% of the song formation was done before being brought to the band. Once this was done, band members wrote most of their own parts to fill out the space in the song. The album was also almost entirely produced within the band. Mary Celeste’s process looks very different from “Lions & Foxes” as well as from the newer stuff we have been working on. We notice ourselves writing with a more cohesive effort from all the band members.
You’re just released a deluxe version of your “Lions & Foxes” EP from last year which also includes acoustic versions of the songs. What made you want to take this route, especially with an EP that’s so recent?
“Lions & Foxes” was a little over a year ago. While we were proud of the result from our recording it and the quality of music it produced, we wanted to try to get a little more out of it. There were some things that we wanted to try, one of them being acoustic arrangements. The acoustic tracks were asked for by numerous fans, and we thought they may translate well to acoustic. We began to rearrange the ones that we thought would be the hardest and quickly realized two things: 1) that the parts we had written sounded different, but good when put in their most basic form. 2) Many of the things that we did in the original recording, such as extensive harmonies and complicated layered guitars, became clearer and more easily accessible. We wanted to give the fans something really special though, not just the same songs with new instruments. When we began remastering the original track was when we decided that the best options would be to combine these as a deluxe edition of the EP. We brought the idea to some of our fans asking if this would be something that they would want to hear. We got an overwhelmingly positive response, so we decided to move forward with it.
What does the writing process look like? Has it changed between releases?
OH YEAH! As I said earlier, we have had three different line-ups in the band, each creating a different dynamic with the writing. It seems as though with each set of personalities that has come through we find ourselves working to find the truest sound to our tastes. Often those changes are nuanced due to the different efforts focused of collaborative writing vs. singular individual writing.
With “Mary Celeste”, an overwhelming majority of the music was written by Aaron, but it was then presented to the band allowing members to take basic creative liberties with their parts. What we saw was that most all of the parts were close to their originals, with some of the band’s personality coming through. The songs that were written later in the process show this a little more. “Lions & Foxes” was much more collaborative. Most often frameworks of songs were presented to the band with a firm direction to how the song should unfold. We then worked together to allow our parts to unfold as such.
With the newer stuff and the most recent line-up (most of which has not been heard by fans yet) we are experiencing the most fluent writing process yet. Sometimes it is a framework that comes to practice, other times things are worked out, but we are seeing a lot more of a mixture of tastes in the new material. However, while the process changes, the major themes stay the same throughout all the music, accessibility, musicality, and writing centered around concepts and imagery guide the band. The process just falls where it may.
You’re stuck in a ditch during a snowstorm. Which local band comes to save you?
As of right now, Second to Safety. Some of our best friends are in that band, but in a month, they will be relocating to the Philly area (pray for them). Once they leave, definitely Steel City Ruins. Great guys from Midland, PA. They’ll have our backs just like we would theirs.
Best sauce at Chick-fil-A?
Matt: Chick-Fil-A sauce.
Aaron: I like my sandwich how I like my clothes…no sauce.
Matty: Polynesian comes second only to the bop chick-fil-a sauce
Dave: *strums guitar ominously in the background*
Which Office character is each member of the band?
Aaron: Michael – Kinda the head of the band, but more importantly he has lots of ideas…and many of them are really dumb.
Matt: Jim. Literally always has a joke ready, ALWAYS!
Dave: Pam, because she is in love with Jim.
Matty: Ryan BEFORE his promotion!
It’s Fashion Week. Which track from your discography are the models walking out to?
Shorelines – groovy, upbeat, medium tempo. Granted we know jack squat about fashion shows.
What item off the Taco Bell menu would “Canopies” be?
Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos…Obviously.
What’s next for you guys?
We have some really exciting stuff planned and while some of it we are keeping under wraps, as I am sure you’ll understand, I can say this: The band has been focused and excited about the idea of reaching out to new scenes and to meet new people. The best way that we know how to do that is through touring. There should be a good number of weekenders so maybe look out for us in your area. The second thing is that we are gearing up to record another full-length record that will go by “The Butterfly Effect”. We are starting in the studio in May and you should see posts, updates, and some fun little insiders coming up as we get further into the process. If you want to stay more updated on what the band is doing hit us up on Instagram (@captainthesky) Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/captainthesky/) or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) since we are soon to start an email list. It is an exciting time for the band and as members we are hoping to welcome more people into our community of fans (more like fam) so we can share some stories and time together. People are important, and investing in a community of people is the heart of the band. That is what we are most looking forward to.