Music Monday: Interview with Caleb Lionheart

Caleb Lionheart is an integral part of the community of local bands that help make Albany less boring. The four-piece pop-punk outfit has been doing its part in the fight against the ignorant and mundane by creating original music, dating back to recordings as early as December 2007.

In the years following their formation, they have powered through several line-up changes, toured the east coast multiple times, played a variety of venues throughout Upstate NY and beyond, put out a handful of EPs and organized sporadic basement shows that I always looked forward to attending as a college student.

Caleb Lionheart will be playing tonight at Bogies alongside The Queers, the Ataris, Far From Finished and I Was A Hero. Doors open in an hour (at 7pm) and is a $10 cover for guests 16+.

Additionally today marks the official pre-sale for Caleb Lionheart’s split 7″ with After The Fall. So naturally, there’s no better time than now to get to know Caleb Lionheart! Check out our Q+A beneath the jump.

You’ve got a split 7″ with After The Fall coming out on Better Days Records. When do pre-orders begin? Pre-orders for the split went up today! I guess technically the record comes out when orders have shipped and they are set to be mailed in late April. You can pre-order the record over at Better Days Records website.

What was it like working with ATF and RADICAL! for the design? Was it a collaborative creative process, or did RADICAL! come up with the concept? This is going to sound really bad, but I don’t know much more about the Album Artwork than any person might be able to glean from a first look. I do know that ATF and Radical have had a long professional relationship that stretches back to the Collar City 7” and they are very fond of each other’s work. On this particular piece, I really appreciate how dreary and dark Radical makes the Albany skyline look and, whether he meant to give it deeper significance or not, it’s interesting that he depicted Rensselaer as a cemetery. I am really happy with how it came out, but had very little to do with the creative process behind it.

Is this your first time collaborating with After the Fall on a release? Why now, in 2012? Haven’t you guys been friends for years? How did the idea for the split come to be? Almost every band I have ever been involved in has shared a stage with After The Fall. They have been friendly with us for years and have been among Caleb Lionheart’s biggest influences since our inception. Last February we felt as though it had been too long since we had released any new material so we tracked a few new songs with Craig Dutra of Aficionado in his bedroom. The songs were too short to commit to another EP but a release in 7” format seemed appropriate. After asking dozens of bands to release a split with us and after being turned away by nearly all of them, we were seriously considering putting out a solo 7” until Mike Moak of ATF asked if we wanted to work together. It had always been an idea in our heads, but for whatever reason, we thought they’d never want to work with our band. Luckily, we were wrong.

How has living in Albany, NY influenced your music? In what ways is Caleb a product of its environment? What’s it been like experiencing the day-to-day trials of being in a band in a community such as Albany? Has it had its fair share of frustration and optimism? Where do you see punk/hardcore music going in Albany in 2012? Albany is a huge part of our sound, our aesthetic, and our mindset. Countless Caleb songs make direct reference to Albany’s landmarks, local legends, and ups and downs. “Coney Island” talks about the infamous “Mayor of Lark Street” and the near ubiquity of poverty and homelessness everywhere from Broadway to the “College Ghetto.” “Dutch Guts” is about my old apartment on Hudson Avenue, just blocks from the alcohol-fueled chaos that made national news a few Saint Patrick’s Days ago. “Postcards from Scotland” describes the clogged artery that the corner of Madison and Ontario used to be when Michael’s, Sadie’s, Bogie’s, and the various pizza places forced every drunk and horny college freshman looking for booze and a dance floor in a two mile radius within a single city block. In these ways we are a product of our environment.

The Albany music scene goes through phases that every band from the Capital Region seems to remember and describe differently. I remember a time when I could count on at least 3 or 4 different houses to throw at least one basement show a month. I also remember a time when local bands would quarrel amongst themselves in a jealous attempt to assert themselves as the “biggest” band in the area. Through it all though, I have no qualms about claiming Albany as our base of operations. We’ve made friends with local bands, musicians, and artists that play hardcore, blisteringly fast punk, slow-doomy-sludge, indie rock, acoustic, alt-country, dub-step, hip hop, etc., etc., and so on. The area is capable of cramming hundreds of sweaty neo-ravers into the Armory for Rusko on one night and dozens of others into Valentine’s for the annual Ghosts of Hardcore Past shows the next. I still appreciate the diversity that only seems possible where 100,000 college students converge 8 months out of the year.

I still see so much potential in and have so much optimism for the future of Albany punk, hardcore, and independent music. People like Dan at Asylum Shows still hit the streets to staple flyers to streetlights and approach people to talk to them about upcoming shows face-to-face. Bands like Phantogram, Self Defense Family, Aficionado, Born Low, After The Fall, Drug Church, and others continue to put the Capital Region on the map by releasing consistently good records and touring the world. When things like the “Cabaret Tax” are proposed that have the potential to negatively affect live music citywide, people like Anton over at Hudson River Coffee House petition the Municipal Government, plan protests, and make their voices heard to keep forums for local and independent music alive and well. I can’t predict the future, but I feel nothing but optimism about what this area has to offer. The potential is there, the community exists, Albany-natives simply need to do something creative with it.

I think you mentioned once to me that you guys have played with the Ataris/Queers annually? What anniversary does this year make? What’s it like playing with them over the years? Hahaha, our “Annual” Ataris show was mentioned tongue resolutely in cheek. The Ataris come through Albany twice a year and the last 3 times they’ve played Bogie’s we have opened for them, tonight being the most recent occasion. I can almost promise you they would rather have other bands play the show, but local promoters like us enough to do us these favors. I’ve personally never spoken more than a few words to any of their members, but I can’t help but think how my 14 year old self would lose his mind if he was told that 10 years later he’d be playing with the Ataris in a 200 capacity venue.

Tell us about your new L.P. When is it coming out? What makes this one stand out from past music you’ve recorded? We’ve wanted to write and release a full length record just about from the moment we completed our first song. With member changes, full time jobs, college, and touring schedules we tend to take months to write a single song and feel obligated to release new material as soon as we accumulate between 3 and new 6 songs. With the record we are currently writing we have about 6 songs, dozens of ideas, and thematic strands that will tie the record together into a cohesive whole. Lord knows when it will be completed, but it’s tentatively titled “Take Nothing” and we’re aiming to finish writing it with an eye toward recording before we go to Europe in September of 2012.

Tell us about the latest on your bandcamp for Disconnect Disconnect Records. Was that just a single or a teaser for more to come? Would you consider releasing an all-acoustic album? I don’t think I can properly describe how much of an ordeal putting out this latest 7” has been. At separate times we thought the record would be released on 3 different labels before we settled with Better Days, then we thought it would include 3 songs and be a solo-7”, then we thought it would be a split with only of the 2 songs, until we finally decided on the record in its current specifications. Back when the tracks were in limbo, Disconnect Disconnect reached out to us to be on their compilation of unreleased tracks and we agreed to contribute our acoustic song “We’re Rooted Here…” from the Split Recording Sessions. It wasn’t so at the time, but the song will now be one of the three included on our side of the ATF split.

Our first “release” entitled “Make Believe” was an all-acoustic record. Over the four years since its release in 2007, there seemed to be some interest in hearing another acoustic record from us and I have a few new songs and “unreleased” songs that I’d like to re-record. So yeah, it’s absolutely on the agenda. I’d like it to coincide with the release of the full length but again, who knows when all of that will happen. If anyone reading this is at all interested in something like this keep your eyes and ears open.

What’s it been like overcoming the challenge of solidifying the latest line-up of Caleb? Would you say 2011 was a year of change, or new direction? What do you think this year will bring? I’d say the last 3 years have been times of change and re-direction. Our longest lasting drummer quit the band in the fall of 2009 and has been back periodically to fill in. When he’s not around we have a revolving door of drummers and fill-ins. We parted ways with one of the founding members of our band, Kris Wildermuth, over the summer and have transitioned Jon Pratt into the second guitar position. All of these developments have created difficulties for writing new music and playing shows, but each new hurdle is challenging in a progressive way. Creativity thrives on tribulation. I’m extremely proud of the new songs we’ve been writing and think them heads and tails above anything we’ve written previously. I can only look at 2012 with optimism and excitement.

Entering your fifth? sixth? year as a band, how do you manage to keep the creative juices flowing? How did your first gig ever compare with your most recent? It’s easy to be creative when you surround yourself with creative people. Our band is not the best band in the world, in our genre, or even in our area. I am not the best singer, I am not the smartest lyricist, our members are not the most proficient musicians, and we are not bearing the torch for future generations of punk bands. But these young men I write music with and the people I call friends inspire me and push me to be a more talented musician and a better person. Successful people surround themselves with other successful people, learn from their mistakes, take risks, and attempt to improve themselves and the people around them. Creativity begets creativity. Progressive people beget continued progress.

What else is in the works for Caleb Lionheart these days? In the next year and a half expect at least one new release from Caleb Lionheart, a European tour, sporadic regional touring in the U.S., a re-release of “Climbing Up A Mountain, Just For The View” on 10” Vinyl, and likely more excuses for why some of these expectations were not actualized.

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