Caspian’s Island are an emerging electro indie- rock band based in London made up of young musicians Harry Pearce, James Hogg, Kenzo Burnett and Luca Torrens. Their eclectic psychedelia-tinged tunes and fun, frenetic live shows have impressed the city’s gig-goers who’ve had the pleasure of watching them at The Barbican Centre, The Finsbury pub or Whitecross Street Festival. The quartet even earned a place playing on the same stage as Young Fathers and The Horrors at Oxfordshire’s Truck festival and, prior to the arrival of the dreaded pandemic, had set their sights on getting even more crowds moving this Summer. I sat down to catch up with the band’s mastermind and front-man, Kenzo Burnett, to talk about the inspiration behind their rainbow-soaked sound and to find out what the future holds for these musical island dwellers.
1. For people who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing your music, could you describe your sound in, hm… 5 words?
Vivid, ambiguous, nostalgic, familiar… Olive-oil!
2. Sounds delicious. What other artists would you compare yourselves to?
We have been compared to the likes of Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Toro Y Moi but the style of the music we’re putting out is always evolving with each release.
If you were to compare our 2018 “No One Else” EP with one of our more recent singles, “Imperial Echo Vault”, the vibe and tone are totally different. It all comes down to what music I’m interested in at the time, or the instruments I have at the time (I’m always looking into new gear, it’s like a rabbit hole!) I can tell you for sure that our upcoming unreleased music is another change in direction, moving deeper into the idea of creating a groove that you just can’t help but move to, while still holding the key elements of a Caspian’s Island song. Things like a strong and well-mixed drum track and a lot of psychedelic effects are just a few of the elements that I feel are integral to CI.
3. What’s unique about Caspian’s Island?
I think what we get right is taking familiar vibes from tunes we like, putting them together in a giant mixing pot and sprinkling them with modern and forward-thinking touches to create something new. We listen to a massive range of music, including classics like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Chic through to Sergio Mendes, Lofi House of Max Graef, experimental records from Quantic etc. which broaden the scope of what we can come up with.
Imagine taking the complexity and detail of something like The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire painted by William Turner with the expression and freedom of a Basquiat; Caspian’s Island would be the musical version 😉
4. How do you want people to feel when they hear your music?
Caspian’s Island is a figurative place: It’s your place, it’s my place, a safe place, a dangerous place, an exciting place, a relaxing place. It’s here or there, it’s in my head, it doesn’t matter! The music will transport you there and will most definitely be blasting out the towering speakers from the beach-front main-stage on the island. I want the music to make people dance, place you in a trance, induce dreams and soundtrack moments in life as if it were a movie.
5. As a London based band, what’s your take on the city’s psych-rock scene?
You know, we’ve crossed paths with many great artists and bands in the live circuit, but I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface yet. After all, genres are amorphous – they don’t stick around for long as one form.
I’d like to find or start a collective of unstoppable great artists and bands so we can all grow together and elevate each other in this carnivorous industry. The psychedelic scene, in general, has moved past what it was in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I’d say our slice of the pie would be Neo-psychedelic; taking aspects of that vintage sound and modifying it with heavier hitting drums and mixing techniques that just wouldn’t have been possible before with the equipment at the time.
6. You are a beautifully styled group – always dressed to the nines in a kaleidoscope of colour! Is it important for you to make a big impact visually as well as musically?
The visual aspect is undeniably the other side of the coin to the music of Caspian’s Island and they go hand-in-hand. Most of the time, I don’t have much of a problem creating the visual identity of CI because the sonic palette kinda automatically paints the picture. It’s pretty evident when you watch our music videos or see our Instagram.
7. Speaking of visuals, what inspired the music video for your latest release ‘Imperial Echo Vault’? It looks like you guys had fun making it.
Yeah! I was heading to LA and it turned out to be the perfect backdrop and location for a music video; the tricolour sunset skies, the everlasting golden hours, rows of palm trees and glass towers which encapsulated the physical representation of an “Imperial Echo Vault” perfectly. There is a loose narrative to the music video which I can reveal so… SPOILER AHEAD.
If you watch closely, it begins with me being lost in my thoughts and walking aimlessly, alone. I’m in the ‘Imperial Echo Vault’ that’s in my own head. I see visions of my friends and my goal is to be with them, so a reoccurring moon motif leads me and ultimately transports me to be with the band playing the song “Imperial Echo Vault”. Pretty meta huh!
8. Inception levels of meta indeed! Interestingly, while the video is mellow and upbeat, the lyrics centre on sleepless nights and convey a real sense of unease. Was the discordance between the two intentional?
The “Imperial Echo Vault” refers to the impenetrable walls of the fortress in your head that creates doubt, false reason, supposed narratives and plays the devil’s advocate to your intentions and aims. Your worries bounce around, keeping you up at night and preventing you from experiencing your dreams and depriving you of your much-needed sleep. The mellow but hard-hitting beat is the underlying desire to push through the walls and destroy the vault of worries.
9. What’s your process for writing lyrics?
They’re usually the last component of the song – I like to think of them as the cherry on top. I don’t really consider myself a singer, so I like to use my voice as an instrument and have minimal but resonant words or phrases that may be repeated for emphasis, like in “Denim Sleeper” where the only lyrics are “I can’t get around without looking back”, which describes the paranoia when your intoxication is still lingering on your lone journey home from a house party and you’re just wanting your bed.
10. What gives you your creative inspiration?
I like the idea of little moments or certain snippets of a memory that stick with you that may seem unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but probably have some kind of subconscious effect on you and the way you live. Everyone has their own vices, or things that they do to distract themselves from stresses and responsibilities. Mine is gaming because it can immerse you and take you away to the world that the designers have created. I want my music to transport you, make your head spin, let you get lost in the moment for just those 4 or 5 minutes that it plays for.
11. Let’s say you wake up famous tomorrow. What would the ultimate Caspian’s Island headline set be like?
Hmmm… I’ve always liked the idea of Caspian’s Island one day becoming realised as a literal Island and having a massive stage on the beach, as mentioned earlier. I’ve actually been on privateislandsonline.com and found the perfect one in Fiji where the temperature is 22-26 degrees centigrade, perfection! We’ll have all the essentials of light shows and flames, smoke machines, confetti cannons, with the addition of a free bar with every drink imaginable and HUGE banquet, next door water-park and a Ferris wheel that you can watch the set from, holographic visuals above the audience, speakers attached to helicopters that fly around for some insane surround sound.
We’d want all of our favourites to be on the line up including all the artists we’ve mentioned in this Q&A, but also lesser-known artists, like our friends Golden Mammoth, Beach for Tiger, Egyptian Blue, Keaton Dekker, Jay Johnson, Demonstrations, Ry-Guy, Brother’s Testament, Malady, Danny Starr, Monolithic, Cupid the Producer. There’d be something for everyone.
12. Wow! Sounds dreamy , and like the escape we’re all dying for right now after a Summer spent in lockdown. Speaking of – How has the pandemic affected the band’s plans for Summer?
Yeah, and just like every musician we’re itching to play live again. Half the band has had to move back to their parents’ places outside of London due to no income and high rent. Me and Luca (CI guitarist) have managed to put together a lil Caspian’s Island set for the virtual festival that @v_01d put on their Instagram live where we rearranged a couple of CI songs to become more chilled versions that we performed in a kitchen/living room. So until live shows become a thing again, we’re still on track to release new music this summer.
13. If we pretend lockdown isn’t a thing for a second, do you have any exciting upcoming plans?
The next single will be “My Lips, Your Lips”, which we haven’t even announced yet. It’s a groovy lil number about trying to hit on a girl that I thought would no doubt be successful and end up in a relationship but turns out to be completely the opposite. Quite a lighthearted one. It’s going to be part of an EP (also including “Imperial Echo Vault”) that will come later.
14. What does the future hold for Caspian’s Island?
We’d really like to open for and play alongside some artists we really admire. That’s the aim I think, so Tame Impala, hit us up!