You’d have a hard time compiling an argument that homegrown progressive rock lords Caligula’s Horse aren’t killing it at the moment. With the release of their new album In Contact, the band have brought new life to the genre, once again shedding light on a world of forward thinking, and challenging rock music.

Normally these releases are reserved for the underground, for small factions of devoted followers to fuss over in their cliques, but not In Contact. This album has reached for furthest reaches of the music community, charting extremely high, receiving copious amounts of critical acclaim, all the while making the potentially daunting process of exploring progressive rock a hellova a lot more manageable.

This week, the band hit the highways of Australia for a run of headline shows in support of the release, but before they left we caught up with lead guitarist Sam Vallen to learn more about the album…
 

 
Sam Vallen:…Truth be told, the guys are all actually in a van on the way to Adelaide as we speak. I’m flying in, I managed to avoid it because I have a bunch of work. So, I’m avoiding the whole Rock Star thing for a little bit.
 
The Neversphere: Since the first announcement of In Contact, there’s been so much buzz and so much fuss about the release. More so than for the usual Australian progressive rock act…Have you noticed this internally also?
 
Sam: Yeah, very much so. We knew going into this album that it was going to engender a bit of a different reception from critics and things. In the past, we’ve always tried to make things as immediate, as clear, and concise as they can be, but with this album we decided, ‘Fuck it‘, we’re gonna go all in, see how ambitious we can make the music, see how well we can realise those ambitions and just, I suppose, hope that it translates for most people who hear it.

We were ready for it to be a bit of an explosion; something that’s a little bit divisive, something that’s argued over…Fortunately it’s been very positive but nonetheless, there’s been an underlying element of that to it.
 
The Neversphere: Now it’s had time for the fans to mesh with the album, was it as divisive upon release as it was in the lead up?
 
Sam: I think we expected it to a little bit more challenging than it actually was. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Fans all seem to love it, reviews that we’ve have been unanimously positive, I’m yet to read a bad review, but I’m sure there’s a couple out there.

We’ve put it on a bit of a pedestal. If you differentiate it from its predecessor Bloom, you almost couldn’t have an album that’s more different in its aesthetic and even in its makeup. It’s an album that’s unrelentingly protracted and complicated. I’m not exaggerating when I say it really was an album where we were unbounded in terms of any stylistic limitations or anything, almost like an experiment in that way.

I don’t want to say it’s a surprise that fans are loving it as much as they are, but I’m really glad they are because I don’t think you could get an album that’s as true to Caligula’s Horse as this one.
 
The Neversphere: I was listening through In Contact earlier in the week, of course starting with Dream The Dead. I zoned out for a moment and came back. I thought I’d missed a few tracks but it was actually still Dream The Dead. That thing finishes in such a different place to where it started. This is true for most of the tracks on the album. I’d be interested to know, how different is the final version of In Contact to the one you set out to make?
 
Sam: That’s a really interesting thought. The thing is, whenever we set out to write an album we always proceed the writing process with a discussion of what we want to achieve. It may seem a little explicit to go about it that way, but I think it’s really interesting for us going in. We sat down and we said ‘Alright, what did Bloom represent to us?‘ It represented clarity, a succinct message, it wasn’t a concept album, it was genuinely quite positive in its constitution…

As with every album we do, we make sure that the contrast is tangible. So, we thought how can we do that? Step one, you need to get rid of the fact that there are songwriting limitations. Limitations in scope, limitations in density…We needed to make sure the dynamics were much greater; so the quiet was quieter and the louder was louder. We basically came upon the realisation that the album needed to be much bigger than anything we’ve done in the past. That was the main ambition.

In that way, the way the album came out is actually quite unsurprising to us. It’s what we intended to create. I’m just glad it worked out, it flows like an album, it sounds like an album. In my opinion, it’s good to listen to. But that ambition could have easily become overwhelming.
 
The Neversphere: In and amongst all that, I didn’t hear you mention the lyrical content…That’s so much attention to detail for the music side of things. Having peeked under the hood of the lyrical content on the album, it seems you were just as meticulous with the lyrics and themes also. I’m just thinking…how many hours can there in the day to have so much control over the project?
 
Sam: You’re touching on an interesting point with the lyrical content. Jim [Grey, Vocals] and I had this approach that I like to describe as holistic. At every step of the journey of the song, there’s as much involvement from either of us. Nothing is out of reach for out of us when it comes to changing parts. Lyrics are something that are created basically contemporaneously to the music itself. It’s all written and inspired by both parts. There’s a relationship that continues all throughout the creation of the music that involves the tension of those two influences. As much as it may seem like it’s meticulous…It is but the process disallows it to not be-
 
The Neversphere: -One hand washes the other….
 
Sam: Yes! Perfect analogy.
 

 
The Neversphere: Going with what you mentioned earlier, with having to tangible contracts between albums, does this mean due to the complexity of In Contact, your next album will be standard 2/4, bar chords, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus-chorus?
 
Sam: I’ll tell you what, In Contact was a creatively exhausting album to write. As much you joke about it, how do we contract this album knowing we’ll have to do that in some degree? I’d hate to jinx it early but I guess it goes without saying there’ll have to be more simplicity next time round just so we aren’t repeating ourselves. So, maybe it will be a punk album of bar chords.
 
The Neversphere: On top of the positive fan response, In Contact received a lot of critical acclaim, landing on the pointy end of just about any chart that matters. My take away from this is that people are being drawn to progressive music, given the amount of substance in that world versus just how little substance is in any other world at the moment. I that how you see it from your perspective?
 
Sam: Well, I think it’s another thing that we’re going to see cycle in and out. It will always be in response to the previously popular politic in music. You can use the example of punk in 1977 making bands like Yes kind of irrelevant due to the socio-cultural circumstance at the time; Britain was becoming much poorer, then you had Thatcher voted in. When you look at it with that edge, it’s obvious why music ebbs and flows so much.

Right now, we have the proliferation of the internet to the point where we’ve never had it so easy in terms of finding new music. So, you create these little pockets of people who may not have come across this time of music before. Now they have communities making it not only accessible, but constantly renewing their interest, and looking beyond their tastes. It’s hard to say…I think we’re going to see it die again, eventually…

…But we’re in a very good time right now.
 
 

Caligula’s Horse 2017 ‘In Contact’ Australian Tour Dates

Tickets on sale now

Thursday, September 28
Jack Rabbit Slim’s Perth
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents

Friday, September 29
Fowler’s Live, Adelaide
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents

Saturday, September 30
Max Watt’s, Melbourne
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents

Wednesday, October 4
The Basement, Canberra
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents

Thursday, October 5
The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents

Friday, October 6
The Factory Theatre, Sydney
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents

Saturday, October 7
The Triffid, Brisbane
Tickets: Wild Thing Presents