CAPAC are serious about their electronics and their love of the Warp back catalogue, as Nic Toupee finds out when meeting Joshua, Gaz and Stu to find out about their upcoming EP release Pastels, out on 23rd August on Off The Shelf records.
This band are not only well trained musicians, but they are intensely determined to ensure their music is perfectly executed. They cite Radiohead with reverence, Aphex Twin and Burial as key influences to their ideas about electronics, if not directly to their sound: these boys are not going the cheesy presets, glowsticks and quick cash route to electronic success.
Exhibiting an unusual panoply of instruments for an electronic act, Capac achieve their complex and understated sound through the careful layering of affected guitar, added to the usual virtual and outboard synths. Stu, tech geek for the band, explains:
“A lot of the things that sound like synths are actually guitars that Josh or Gaz have played that we’ve recorded in and affected in some way. We want them to sound less like a guitar and more like a sound we’ve got in our head. Each of those sounds becomes its own unique sound, because it has gone through that process: the guitar normally comes from an acoustic so just that pure sound, and the kind of processes we’ll put it through differs from tune to tune, depending on what sound we’re going for. It gives them a bit more meaning than just tweaking together some parameters on a synth.”
Josh, classical guitarist, Howard Moon style Jazz enthusiast, composer and chief philosopher for the group, gives a more technical view (we warned you this was slightly eggheaded): “You can look at it slightly philosophically. You can get your analogue synthesiser and spend a lot of time combining waveforms in such a way to get something that equates to an acoustic sound, and end up with an organic sound. We’re taking it from the reverse, taking an already acoustic sound which in its nature is very complicated because its’ built around the acoustic qualities of that instrument.”
“Most of the sounds we use, particularly around the mid-range in our tunes come from a guitar. Not usually the bass and drum sounds which are usually soft synths and samples” further elucidates Gaz, jazz guitarist and knob twiddler.
It’s an elaborate and laborious approach, not entirely different from that which their heroes Aphex Twin and Burial would consider appropriate. But in these days of soft synths, modular units, effects and such gimcrackery, why bother with the blood sweat and tears and make it easier on yourself?
“It’s for a pure sound, that real organic feel” Gaz explains, before Josh reveals his pedantic streak:
“I’m very anal about this” he states emphatically, and not for the last time in this interview. “I think that you should bear a personal and emotional connection to where your music comes from. You can approach music in so many different ways: pleasing an audience or the other polar opposite is writing music purely for yourself. We consider the listener in what we do but not exclusively. We really value the sound we want to make for our own musical expression – without wanting to sound too pretentious about it.”
“We haven’t achieved it yet” Gaz intones, “we’re still developing the sound. I’d like to think we can listen to the EP we’ve just finished and in 3 years time and think it’s good, but that we’d also have progressed. All the new ideas we’ve had are from the processes we’ve been using. Not deliberately, but it just happened through trying to change a guitar sound and make it sound interesting. Experimenting and finding little sounds within that expression.”
Despite the deep thought that goes into their tracks, Capac aren’t just inviting chinstrokers to spot their techniques: they’re hoping that when you see their live show, you’re going to be able to parallel process the dual arts of dancing and thinking.
“We try to make music that you can dance to in sections, but also there’s definitely stuff to listen to” Stu asserts. “There are sections of our songs that a good DJ could drop and keep people happy at a proper big club night, and then there are completely ambient sections. We want people to get moving but we wouldn’t market ourselves to play at Chibuku because we wouldn’t give that crowd exactly what they want. We wouldn’t take out an ambient section for fear that people weren’t going to dance to it.”
“One of the problems I find with music is that if people are not satisfied in the first five seconds of a tune then they’re not going to listen to it” Josh contributes. “That’s the opposite of my attitude towards music. Those songs which you just start liking the fourth time you’ve heard them end up being the best tunes. That influences the way we write: it’s got to do with an approach to listening. And that’s why we’ve got Post-Rock links: you need to give a tune a go knowing you’ll have to dedicate six or seven minutes not forty seconds to a post-rock track. We’ve got that in common.”