I had the chance to ask 2 of the members (Casper/guitar and Robert-Jan/bass) of the now defunct band CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING some questions via email. Below are the questions and answers. Go here to read Dave's full-on review of the band's discography on the (((((OPENmind/SATURATEDbrain))))) blog.
***C = Casper (guitar)
***RJ = Robert-Jan (bass)
Which bands influenced CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING?
*C: Back when we were a band my playing was influenced by French screamo bands such as Amanda Woodward, Aussitot Mort, and Daitro, as well as stuff like Pelican, Cult of Luna and more post-rockish bands like Mogwai. I listen to a lot of different bands. Lately I’ve been into Fuck Buttons, Dawn of Midi, Boards of Canada and Nils Frahm.
*RJ: Another big influence (for me at least) was Envy. Along the way we started listening to lots of Russian Circles as well. At the moment I’m impressed with a new Dutch thing called Wander (http://wanderutrecht.bandcamp.com/album/swimmer), Ufomammut, Sun Kil Moon, Deafheaven and Pygmy Lush, just to name a bunch.
Do you think you sound like your collective influences?
*C: We did, probably, but we found our sound very naturally. It wasn’t like we said to each other: let’s take some of this band and some of that band and then we’ll sound awesome. We just made music, and we sounded like we did. Every band member brought in their own influences, and because we always wrote our music collectively there will probably be a bit of everyone’s influences in our songs.
*RJ: I remember when Casper and I first came together, I wanted to sound like On the Might of Princes. Well, that kind of failed, but I didn’t mind. That’s one of the fascinating things of playing in a band. Everyone can have plans about what it should sound like, but nobody gets to decide: the band decides by itself. The members can only push it a little this or that way, but you create something that lives by itself.
When I first heard “Godspeed to You, Pola Negri” from the Mio split 12”, I was hooked. Old Soul was the first band that came to mind, and then I realized that your song was from 2010, which was before the Old Soul albums that I love. When listening to the first CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING release, I feel it sounds much more like Curl Up And Die. Describe the band’s evolution.
*RJ: Old Soul, Curl up and Die… We’ve also been compared to Burst and Converge; I’m always surprised by how metal these comparisons are, because I always have the impression that (at least instrumentally) we are much less aggressive and high-gain. But perhaps that’s just because you’re so familiar with your own stuff you don’t realize how loud it actually is.
Can you talk about the progression in your albums? Which album is your favourite? What is your favourite song?
*C: I can clearly hear some differences between the releases we’ve done or the sessions we’ve recorded our songs in, at least. Our first release was our demo, later released on a 12” called “Cross your fingers for the epilogue”. I think those were 4 of the 5 first songs we’d written. They’re pretty straight-forward, but I still like how they turned out. It probably was about a year later when we recorded another 4 songs, which appear on the split 12” with Mio and Connections pt.2. To me, those songs have a little more depth to them. We put some extra effort into the details of the songs, and I think we had a better idea of how we, as a band, wanted to sound. When we recorded the 3 songs for the split with Black Everest we had a new drummer and guitarist, which you can hear musically. I don’t like those recordings as much as the ones we did before because they don’t sound as heavy and in-your-face as I would have liked. Musically I think we delivered a very solid split though! My personal favourite release is our split with Mio, also because of the tour we did together to support the release of the split. My favourite track is on Connections Pt.2: “Always giving parties to cover the silence”.
*RJ: I agree with Casper about the development. After not listening to the demo for a while I’m always a little amazed by how many ideas are in these songs. They’re a little all over the place. I think it’s common to get more structured and focused along the way and write more coherent songs, but I do like the sheer enthusiasm of those first steps. “Always giving parties to cover the silence” is also my favourite. Since we’ve had that song, we started pretty much all our shows with it. It never failed to get me in the mood.
What was the high point of the band’s tenure, in your opinion? The low point?
*C: I don’t think I can come up with any specific highs or lows. We’ve played some shows I’ll never forget, met so many nice people along the way, and had a lot of fun doing it. I can’t choose! Sure we’ve had our share of stolen gear, frustrating rehearsals and other annoying stuff too, but hey, there are no highs without the lows, right?
*RJ: to me they’re pretty close to each other: the tour with Mio was a 10-day holiday/adventure that was one of the best periods in my life (more on that later). Then Wilbert and Roland quit, and the year after that was the hardest period for me; it was tough to see the band become something new, and to realize that it would take a long time before it felt really solid again.
Do you feel like there was a driving member in CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING, or was the creative control shared equally among the group?
*C: I think we all contributed equally to the creative process. Most song ideas came from jams, or started with a bass/guitar riff. Everyone wrote their own parts, and arrangement was something we’d work on as a band collectively during rehearsals.
*RJ: Let me pretend that you asked how we wrote our songs. The first years we practiced in an old crummy place with three practice rooms and lockers for amps. We rented a room one evening per week, from 7 to 11. We'd eat falafels together, buy a crate of beer, make coffee, set up the amps and hang outside half the time. I really enjoyed these evenings. We were slowly crafting our sound, one week just jamming and having fun, another working hard on a specific song. Typically, Casper and Wilbert came up with these wonderful intertwining guitar riffs while the rest was still hanging outside, then Roland and I would join them and start playing whatever felt natural to go along with these guitar things. Whenever we felt it was going somewhere, we discussed structure and tension and things, but we hardly ever critiqued each other's playing. It all came pretty natural. Friso would mostly sit and wait and listen and think, and when the song was finished he started putting words to them. I remember how these weekly practices almost always gave me energy. No matter how tired or tense I was, I always went home more relaxed. Simply hanging out together and slowly creating something gave a lot of satisfaction.
CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING recently disbanded, which I’m sorry to hear about. What led to the band’s demise?
*C: It’s probably my fault mostly. I kinda got tired of all the stuff you have to deal with when you’re in a band. The stuff I loved about being in a band before really started to bother me. Long drives to and from shows, long waits, cold squats - all that. I had been in bands for over 10 years, so I decided to quit and see if I’d miss it. I would have loved the other guys to find a new guitarist and keep going, but unfortunately they didn’t.
*RJ: When Casper said he was done, I still remembered very well how hard it was to start over two years earlier, so I wasn’t looking forward to another round of that. Also, both creatively and concerning organizing/putting effort into the band, I was growing a little tired as well. Friso, Ruben and Robin didn’t want to go on with both of us gone, so that was it. We decided all this on a Saturday night after the second show of our weekender with Break Character. I expected the Sunday afternoon show to suck, but as soon as we started playing the monster came to life again, and it was one of our better shows. A few weeks later we played a farewell show at The Loch, perhaps my favourite spot ever. It was packed, all our friends were there. I’m happy we got to end it there, and not in a big fight or slowly fading away. We had a good run.
What is your fondest memory of CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING?
*C: For me there are a lot of good memories to CYSIS. All of them would have meant a lot less without having the guys in the band, Jeroen (our driver) and Basti (MoC) with me there. Most of those memories are simply nice collective experiences which probably are kind of hard to explain in a few lines. I really enjoy remembering our first rehearsal space, in which we also organized a couple of shows. It was kind of crappy with poor acoustics and isolation, and it would smell of cigarettes, beer and wine, but it had mojo and we had some great times there. Our first show at Rote Flora in Hamburg and the tour with Mio are definitely two big highlights as well.
*RJ: Our tour with Mio was one of my favourite things ever. 10 days, 10 shows, all over Germany and Denmark. Of course it's nothing special compared to many other bands, but I was truly amazed by how hospitable everyone on the road was. Playing everyday for over a week also made us a much better band. Every set would get me into this focus in which there was nothing but the band and these dozen or two people listening; the riffs would come automatically, and I would get overwhelmed by our walls of sound. I suppose it's not a cool thing to say, but yes, I loved our stuff.
What is the funniest memory of CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING?
*C: We’ve had loads of fun at rehearsals, hangouts, shows, on tour and in the studio. We had a lot of inside jokes among each other. So even though it may crack us up, it probably isn’t that funny if you weren’t there with us…
*RJ: I’ll try anyway. One story that is often shared at parties is when we played in my living room. I lived on campus back then and I’d organized a few shows there before. Also, there was an annual festival our house organized with the neighbors. There were a few outdoor stages, and typically over a thousand visitors. This one year I thought it’d be nice to have an indoor ‘stage’ as well, and that we’d play there. Many more people showed up than I expected, so it was loaded. A friend of ours started crowdsurfing, but it wasn’t very high, and a bit of the ceiling came down when he hit it. At that point Jeroen (our good friend and driver) looked at me worried, as it was my house. A huge grin emerged on my face when I saw what happened, and (as if they now had my permission) they started to tear half the ceiling out. If I ever felt like I was contributing to a punk show, that must have been the time.
How would you describe your band? What genres do you think CAPTAIN, YOUR SHIP IS SINKING borders on?
*C: I always liked the term “sludgy screamo”, but obviously there’s a hint of post-rock and maybe even black-metal in there too.
What are your thoughts on the Holland music scene?
*C: I must admit that I’m not very involved with the Dutch scene (anymore). I know Groningen is still a cool place for independent music, and Incubate (a festival in Tilburg) is something I look forward to every year. I sometimes visit a nearby venue called The Loch, a squatted car repair shop which now houses an anti-culture collective in Enschede. They always book bands I don’t know but that impress me when I’m there.
What is your favourite song to play live?
*C: “Son, you sure you know what you’re going to dig up when you open that grave?” I wish we had more songs like that one.
How did your split with Mio come about? Where did you hear about the Connections II comp? What would you like to say about the release? How did you become acqainted with Black Everest?
*RJ: These questions need only one answer I believe. It was back in the Myspace days, and every once in a while we’d see a cool band looking for a show in our area. Local venues weren’t interested in this stuff, so we figured we could just invite bands to my living room or to our practice space, and invite some friends over. No one made any money, but a blast was had by everyone (except the neighbours). One of these nights in the summer of 2008 was with Only For The Sake Of Aching, Amalthea and Ding Dong Dead. The OFTSOA guys had just started Moment of Collapse and enjoyed our stuff, so they said that if we’d ever get to record something new (we already had the demo on CD-r), they’d like to put it out on vinyl. A few months after that we got a message on Myspace out of the blue from Sadness of Noise, they wanted to press the demo on 12”. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that guy in person. The MoC guys didn’t mind sharing the bill, so that’s how it started. The next winter Bail played in my living room, and they invited us over to Germany for a weekender, and there we met Mio. I think Basti proposed doing a split and a tour with them, and also asked us for the Connections II record and the split with their new band, Black Everest. So basically, we owe everything to Basti and Jens of Moment of Collapse.
“No Shit, I’m The Original Partycrasher” is your first longer/epic song that I’ve noticed, was this an important song for the band? Were there any songs that encapsulated the band?
*C: This actually was the first song we wrote as a band, so it probably has been a defining song for us. It’s a song we never got tired of and we have had it in our set pretty much every show we did. It probably is the only song we played at our first as well as our last show.
*RJ: The fundaments of that song already emerged the first time Roland, Casper and I came together. Our friend Mark played guitar that evening, but he wasn’t interested in a new band. When the build-up went right it always gave me chills, no matter how often we played it. But if you want the definitive Captain song, I think ‘Always throwing parties to cover the silence’ is one, it’s got everything we tried to put into our stuff.
Can you please guide us through your musical history, starting with the first band that you remember liking to the newest band that you’ve discovered?
*C: When I was a kid I had two older cousins I really looked up to. One was into hip-hop and the other was very much into rave music. They gave me a lot of hip-hop and rave tapes that I listened to until I got a bit older and discovered bands like The Prodigy and Fatboy Slim, which I really liked. Around the same time a few friends got into stuff like Korn and Deftones, which I thought were pretty cool bands too. Later I went on to listening to bands like Thursday and Thrice and I started attending hardcore shows. I also got interested in slower, heavy bands like Neurosis, and (for my taste) more experimental music like Set Fire To Flames and Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ album. During that time I also started playing in bands. From there on I dug deeper into some subgenres, but I didn’t venture into any entirely new genres. It’s only been in the last few years that I grew to appreciate some forms of electronic music.
*RJ: I started with Fat Wreck-style punk rock, which gradually got heavier and darker: Strung Out, Thursday... Also, I discovered post rock, and via EITS, Mogwai and Godspeed got into post-metal things like ISIS and later Russian Circles. Sort of in between these two I explored this huge field of more-or-less experimental guitar music that is maybe post-hardcore or something. At The Drive-In, On The Might Of Princes, Bear vs Shark, City Of Caterpillar, Fugazi. And there’s always been a softer line as well: Logh, Karate, the Weakerthans, American Football. Bands come and go, and some keep coming back. There’s not much of a line, I think. I can still get excited about discovering something from the 90s that I totally missed.
What bands have been earth-shattering for you? For example, ones that got you interested in new genres.
*C: Deftones introduced me into heavy music and showed me you can make heavy music while still incorporating nice melodic elements. They were the reason I picked up the guitar and got into my first band. Thursday have been very important in getting me interested in emo and hardcore bands, while Envy have played a major role in getting me into screamo. I still enjoy listening to Deftones and Envy, but Thursday have been more of a stepping stone than a real benchmark. Other bands that have had a huge impact on my taste and playing include Cult of luna (introduced me to post-metal), Mogwai (introduced me to post-rock), and Modern Life is War (that’s when I finally ‘got’ hardcore).
*RJ: City of Caterpillar was the first band that connected everything I liked in music up to then in various bands: oppressive build-ups, explosively aggressive punk rock, and sheer beauty. That made a big impression. Amanda Woodward has long been ‘that one hardcore band that I really like even though I don’t like hardcore’, and eventually, that opened many new doors. And Pygmy Lush is still earth-shattering. No matter how often I listen to it, especially the Old Friends record remains extremely powerful to me. I don’t even know what it is, but I adore them.
Do you consider yourself punk? What do you think makes someone ‘punk’?
*C: I know a couple of punks who care a lot about what other punks think makes them punk. Personally, I don’t really care about labels. I’m kind of a regular guy with a job I quite like and I like to make music in my spare time. Perhaps my lack of care for being considered punk makes me punk. ;)
*RJ: Only when the ceiling comes down at a house show.
Do you think humans will be able to overcome the problems we’ve created and start making the world a better place, or are we kinda fucked?
*C: I like to think we’re not. The shit we do to each other and our planet is just unbelievable and really makes me sad when I take a minute to think about it. At the same time I have very high hopes for technology to contribute to solutions to for example the world’s water and energy problems, as well as inequality and health issues. I work at a university where I get to see how people dedicate their lives to finding answers to our grand challenges, which I think is amazing. So, yeah there is a lot of stuff wrong in the world today, but I refuse to be pessimistic.
*RJ: I’m not sure. I think we’ll continue making the world a different place. Currently I have the impression it’s more likely climate change for example will be ‘dealt’ with via adaptation and geoengineering, rather than that we stop burning fossil fuels for crap that doesn’t even make anyone truly better off. Humanity is rather creative. We’re probably not fucked in the ways we now think we’ll be fucked, but as we fix this, new problems will emerge, and in the meantime there’ll be people having hard times, ecosystems will be destroyed, greedy assholes will take more than their share. I’m pretty sure a global classless, well fed, happy society that lives in harmony with nature is a utopia. Yes, some of us seem to be fucked, and I find it depressing that there is so little I can do about that. But at the same time I suppose it’s perhaps my duty to recognize how privileged I am to have been born in an extremely wealthy time and place, and enjoy it while it lasts. Not in the ‘decadent party till the end of time’ kind of way, but in the ‘wow, this life is pretty amazing and I want to make other people realize this as well’ kind of way.
Where is your favourite place to go in Holland to relax? Party?
*RJ: nothing beats the Wadden isles in the north if you need some space and silence. Vera in Groningen is still my favourite place for evenings that start with seeing an awesome band and end late with too much beer, but The Loch in Enschede has trumped it when it’s just about seeing a band play. Also, I’m not much of a party guy, so why do you ask me?
What is your favourite movie?
*C: I’m not as much into movies as I was a couple of years back. I think nowadays most TV shows are much better in terms of story and character development than movies. But there are movies I can watch over and over. Like The Big Lebowski. I never get tired of that movie.
*C: I like many of them. Breaking Bad I think is a brilliant one, like Homeland and House of Cards. I also liked the first couple of seasons of Dexter and I enjoyed watching Suits and Sherlock. Lately I’ve been into True Detective.
RJ: Twin Peaks.
*C: 1984 is my favourite one, hands down.
*RJ: I don’t read as much for fun as I’d like because I read a lot for work, but the last book I was really impressed with was Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections.
*C: I like Indian food.
*RJ: Filter coffee. Also sour dough bread, lentils, and lots of vegetables.
*C: I’m not into sports.
*RJ: I’m big into cycling, but not the competitive kind. Camping gear and a few days off is all I need to forget about everything and truly appreciate landscapes and chance encounters. It’s not really a sport I suppose, but it does wonders for stamina and getting rid of excess weight. I sometimes write some blurbs about these things here: www.crazyguyonabike.com/urje
T-shirt that you own?
*C: I don’t care about my t-shirts too much. I like my grey shirt.
*RJ: There’s an Aussitôt Mort t-shirt I really liked but it got rather smelly and I couldn’t get it fresh anymore, and it was hard to see it go. Then a friend of mine wanted to get rid of his copy because it didn’t fit him anymore. So after five years I got another one, as good as new. I really hope this one won’t get the stinky disease.
Toy that you had when you were a kid?
*C: LEGO. It’s the best! I used to build cities and when it was finally done I didn’t play with it but tore it back down and started building a new one.
*RJ: Yeah, lego, hands down. (not legos, silly Americans!) I was more into building cars and helicopters though. I remember once even bringing my self-designed Chinook with moving rotors and landing gear to school.
What are your favourite records of all time?
(in no particular order)
Radiohead - Kid A
Modern life is war – Witness
Mogwai - Come on Die Young
The Twilight Sad - 13 Autumns and 14 Winters
Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism
Elliott - False Cathedrals
On The Might Of Princes – Sirens
Pygmy Lush – Old Friends
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Russian Circles – Everything (or if it has to be one; Geneva)
Lagwagon – Let’s Talk About Feelings
At The Drive-In – Relationship of Command
American Football – s/t
Million Dead – Harmony No Harmony
City of Caterpillar – s/t
ISIS - Oceanic
What are you guys doing now?
RJ: As it happens, Casper makes ambient soundscapes/post rock as Dotlights (https://soundcloud.com/dotlights); Robin drums in a power trio called This Is My Happy Face (http://thisismyhappyface.com); Ruben sings and plays guitar in noisy shoegaze postpunk whatever The Daydream Fit (http://thedaydreamfit.bandcamp.com/album/make-me-forget). Friso, Roland, Wilbert, and I aren’t in active bands at the moment. But who knows what will happen in the future, I recently got myself a synth so I’ll keep messing around.