It is not easy to put South London’s multi-dimensional Caroline in a box, they just won’t accept conventional tags when it comes to describing their guitar music.
Instinct, interest and intellect are key drivers in the creative vision of Jasper Llewellyn - acoustic guitar, cello and drums, Mike O’Malley - electric guitar and vocals - and Casper Hughes - electric guitar and vocals.
The DIY led outfit began as a three-piece over three years ago, but as things took shape more musicians joined. With an overall passion for traditional sounds like folk and country but fused with electronic elements it became apparent that this was no instant, short-term affair.
Heavily into dance, house and techno, being in a guitar band might have been hard to imagine for Casper just a few years back. Yet everyone bonded over shared influences and the experience of playing Appalachian folk, minimalist classical and a diverse palette of dance music.
William Basinski is an influence. “It’s electronic music, and it’s ambient”, Casper says. “We had a post-rock phase as well where we listened to some of the same bands, we did enjoy certain Mogwai albums.” Less than keen on generic labels like ‘indie’ and ‘alternative’, Caroline view their music as experimental and unconventional in vibe with strong elements of improvisation and discord. April saw the Rough Trade release of their debut 12” single ‘Dark Blue’ backed with ‘BRJ’. The two tracks represent different milestones.
‘Dark Blue’ is the second song they played together in January 2017. “It’s a riff”, Jasper reflects. “I was playing around with different open tunings and played that riff. We had a bare bone iteration of it, which is just the kick drum and a cymbal. We’ve been through ten versions of that song to get it to where it is now.”
The other track ‘BRJ’ is more recent. Last autumn they spent some time in Wales, the idea was to work on ideas and generate new material. Based around a “guitar thing”, what initially started off as a bit of fun ended up becoming an ambitious, fully developed track.
Keen to avoid working in rigid or formulaic ways, Caroline play with various components to create a space where the polished and clean is less interesting than what’s considered rough or messy. “We like creating an equilibrium with a few linked parts”, Mike says. “Softly adding improvised bits onto that to create a juxtaposition to different types of atmosphere and instruments playing in different ways.”
It has been a hectic few years for Caroline who are completing material for their debut album due for release later this year.
There is a belief that gigs shouldn’t be static but encompassing and holistic. They want to put on shows where music can be part of a bigger social environment. Like an open air all day event curated with bands and film screenings in an atmosphere depicting a bigger cultural setting where people come together and art provides a route to experiencing collective joyousness.
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'Dark Blue' is out now - purchase LINK.
Words: Susan Hansen
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