The Mesmerizing London Byte on their debut album

During their set at the scenic Green Man Festival in the mountains of Wales last summer, Caroline ran into a problem. While playing their second single, 2021’s “Skydiving on the library roof,” a vicious rattle began to emanate from the bass drum, deflecting the meditative sweeping song. Rather than stopping the song and restarting when everything was fixed, the eight band members fought defiantly, with a few members leaving their instruments to tinker with the problem while the others continued to play the pair of extended tracks and repeated from the piece. Remarks. When the rattle finally died down after a few minutes and the band’s horn section rose for the song’s triumphant finale, the crowd’s roar was meant to be heard on the festival’s adjacent main stage, not in the comfortable tent of the new groups that they were. playing. It was as if the band and the audience said to each other: we got through this together.

Unintentionally, the technical difficulty and its eventual resolution served as a microcosm of the experience of watching Caroline live or listening to their music: they provide a communal experience like few others. “I still think about it all the time,” smiles Freddie Wordsworth of The Green Man taking place around a pub table in London’s Hackney district today with his seven bandmates.

I meet Caroline a few hours before they play Earth Theater in support of the Micros, a show that goes off without a hitch. I’m told most of the interviews they conduct are attended by the band’s founding trio – drummer, vocalist and cellist Jasper Llewellyn, guitarist Mike O’Malley and guitarist and vocalist Casper Hughes – but all eight crowd into the Railway Tavern today, and it helps me to find out how this disparate group of members from all musical backgrounds managed to come together and feel at home in the less traditional of bands.

In the mid-2010s, caroline experienced its genesis in a very different form. Hughes and Llewellyn started playing music together at Manchester University as a post-punk duo. he says now in retrospect of the genre’s influence on Caroline) but also played Appalachian folk standards with Llewellyn and drummer/percussionist Hugh Aynsley as a teenager. These influences were slowly developed and incorporated into the band’s formula as it grew to incorporate new members.

Racking his brains to put the acquisitions back into the correct chronological order, Hughes reveals that Wordsworth, an old family friend of Hughes, was recruited for trumpet, alongside Aynsley on percussion and Oliver Hamilton on violin, before an “absolutely incredible” performance by Magdalena McLean, replacing an absent Hamilton on just one show, earned her a permanent gig. Alex McKenzie, “the final piece of the puzzle”, joined after stumbling across one of the band’s shows and sending a speculative DM to Hughes, and now contributes percussion, clarinet, flute and saxophone.

“I never felt like it was a complete or incomplete thing,” O’Malley says of the slow buildup of members from a two-piece to an eight now. “He just took his place as we played more shows.” He adds: “For logistical completeness though, eight is enough.”

Nevertheless, two months after our conversation, the band grew even larger, bringing in Geordie Greep and Cameron Picton of London contemporaries (and other tiny enthusiasts) black midi to join them for their six-hour impromptu show at the capital’s Southbank Centre. . Interconnected with the London post-punk scene despite not sounding like them, the members of caroline also became increasingly coveted employees for others, with McLean, Wordsworth and Hamilton joining Shame for their Tiny Desk gig for NPR last year.

As more members came into Caroline’s orbit, the original line-up’s musical curiosity also increased, with Llewellyn taking up the cello again after “forgetting” he played it as a child. It is an instrument that is now at the heart of several of the band’s songs. “I’m the only one who plays my instrument properly,” Wordsworth jokes to the laughter of the rest of the band (he’s the only classically trained member), before telling me later that the fluidity and bending of the rules that he experiences caroline is what makes him feel at home in the group; he felt ostracized from local jazz scenes due to their rigidity, despite the love of the music they play.

The group’s first single, “Dark blue”, followed them through this transition. The simple circular guitar riff that runs throughout the track was first penned by Hughes and O’Malley in 2017 and has changed and evolved as the band have done the same in the years since. ‘upon its release in 2020. progression of the band – to have a really solid core that’s very simple and can be played almost endlessly, but with messier, more improvised elements on top of it,” O’Malley says, identifying a recipe that runs throughout the stunning, one-of-a-kind debut album, due out next month via Rough Trade.

On “Dark blue,” the opening riff is joined for nearly seven minutes by criss-crossing violins, slamming percussion, and Llewellyn’s unique vocals, who brilliantly bring her folk background to the fore, her vocals producing more of a dark mantra. -like singing than a traditional singing voice.

“I love ‘Dark Blue’ in tracks, but we’re different now,” O’Malley says of the band’s progression. Llewellyn adds: “We were in the guitar, bass and drums format, and trying to do something interesting in that ‘rock band’ format. We hadn’t thought of the potential for anything else until this happened.

“You feel safer being more free,” Wordsworth says of how Caroline makes music now. “You’re less afraid to do something a little different from what a ‘normal’ song sounds like. My musical background is completely different from others, and I had initially found it quite difficult, because we was about our music so much. It would all turn into this massive discussion before we even played a note, talking about those tiny details. But now it feels really helpful. (“That’s excruciating!” O’Malley adds since the background.)

Another track that has accompanied the band since its debut is “Good morning (red)”, which is unveiled today with a video by Jonas Pequeno, a month before the album’s release. A magnificent burst of sunshine after the dark “Dark blue”, the track explodes in a wave of optimism thanks to melodic violins and guitars. Written in 2017, the song’s lyrics revolve around the “political feverish period” of the 2017 UK general election, when Labor Party candidate Jeremy Corbyn offered the prospect of a truly socialist government in the country for the first time since decades. A number of Carolines were involved in campaigning and canvassing for the party at the time.

“There was a sense of hope, and I was trying to do that with the lyrics of the song,” says Hughes, who shouts the lyrics “I need hope in this world!” in a wonderfully provocative explosion halfway through the track. “They sound more optimistic to me than I feel now,” he reflects, with UK politics on a continuing trend of conservatism since the 2017 election defeat. “When I shout it now, I shout it with a lot more venom than before. It used to have a bit of a beat, but now I’m totally screaming it. There’s a lot of anger and disappointment coming out of it. Later, during the show with the microphones , Hughes – as promised – delivers a chilling exorcism during the track, breaking the beautiful poise and poise of the band’s live show with a deeply impassioned scream.

In caroline’s live, as in their first album, patience is a virtue. On “Skydiving on the library roof”, the song by the ensemble Green Man which is based on two swollen, repeated notes, O’Malley leads the group through the seductive and prolonged repetition by rocking his body back and forth, before pointing his guitar skyward to start the rehearsal again. Hughes does the same with his head when they begin “IWR” with an extended and a cappella version of its opening lyrics, going from a squat to almost a leap to indicate that the repeated verse must start all over again. Over the long songs, these simple, repeated patterns become hypnotic and transcendent when played enough times. Although there are eight people in the group, Caroline still truly feels greater than the sum of their parts.

These methods and their subsequent rewards are felt alike on the debut album, which lifts off the “Dark blue” blueprint laid out half a decade ago and journeys to softer, more vocal places (the magnificent “IWR”). , through minimalist vocal and cello tracks (“Desperately”) and improvised soundscapes (“Engine (eavesdropping)”, which is both chaotic and quiet for its five minutes), before “Natural death” brings it all together in nine minutes of music that is simple yet witty, dark yet triumphant, messy yet perfectly logical. Trying to interrogate the inner workings of music like this takes away its magic; you just have to let it happen to you.

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