By Zach Schepis
Photo courtesy of The Cairos.
Six weeks, well over 100 songs, and a Grammy-award winning producer later, The Cairos crafted an album of their dreams. Aptly titled Dream of Reason, the record culls from the talent of producer Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam) to assemble unity from a band that underwent numerous lineup changes over the years.
It appears as though the Australian rockers have finally cornered their sound. Hailing from Brisbane, The Cairos are founding members Alfio Alivuzza and Alistar Richardson on guitars and vocals, respectively, along with Reuben Schafer (bass) and Jacob Trotter (drums).
BTR tunes in with Trotter before the band’s performance at NYC’s CMJ to talk about their influences and recording the album.
What’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed between playing here and playing back home in Australia?
I think that the crowd’s here a little bit more receptive, straight up. I think once you’ve worked the scene for a little while in Australia, once you’ve had a chance to build your audience there and they really like you, then you can do okay. But here it seems like it’s a lot easier. Well maybe not easier, but people are willing to listen to you and go out to a show.
In Australia people would be less willing, and I think that’s because it’s so spread out there so it takes effort to go see a show. But in New York City you walk down the block and you’ll automatically stumble onto something. It’s more of a culture, people checking stuff out, which is rad.
How did you guys first get started?
It’s kind of a long story. Ali and Alf have been friends since primary school and they’ve pretty much always written music together, so you could say that The Cairos fleshed out of that collaboration. But it’s been in various incarnations with different people, and members have left over the years to continue on and do their thing. Actually, BC from Dune Rats used to play drums in The Cairos…
He was mentioning that, we interviewed Dune Rats a couple of weeks ago–small world.
Exactly. It’s funny, because there are actually quite a few Australian bands that used to play in The Cairos. Brisbane especially is a really tiny community and everyone is kind of playing music in one another’s groups. This current formation with myself and Reuben has been around now for about two and a half years.
How about some of your biggest creative influences, musical or otherwise?
I think we’re all very different people in the band, which is kind of good but also kind of bad. We all like really different stuff. I like a lot of ‘90s shoegaze music, groups along the lines of My Bloody Valentine and Alf’s also really into that. Then there are pop tunes, The Beatles, whereas Reuben loves ‘80s stuff like Ozzy and Midnight Oil.
It’s all different, but that’s good because when it’s one person’s influences in a vacuum nothing happens, but when you start colliding a few peoples’ together that’s when it starts getting weird. That’s when you can really make something new.
Speaking of creative collision, what’s The Cairos songwriting process like?
It’s changed a bit over the past couple of years. It used to be more collaborative where everyone came together to write songs. But we’ve all gone away and bought recording equipment, so each member has their own kind of home studio set up. All four of us write, but we’ll come up with ideas on our own in these spaces and if we think something’s good enough we’ll bring it to the table. It’s never the same for any one song, but that’s the general direction it’s been moving in.
Official Dream of Reason cover art.
You released a great record earlier this year called Dream of Reason. What was your favorite part about working on the album?
It was a pretty amazing experience. We got to work with this American guy actually, Nick DiDia who’s made some great records over the years. He worked with Rage Against the Machine on their early music, Pearl Jam–he even co-wrote a B-side single with Eddie Vedder, which I thought was pretty cool. He’s worked on Springsteen’s stuff too.
That’s pretty awesome, how were you two introduced?
He actually lives in Australia now. There’s this band over there called Powderfinger, they’ve been pretty big since the 2000s, but the producer’s link to our country was through them. They would come overseas to the US and he would put them up in a studio and record their tunes.
It got to the point eventually where he was getting a lot of work back in Australia, so he just uprooted, set sails, and brought his whole family along with him. So he lives in Byron Bay now and works out of studio 301 there.
What was it like working with him?
It was wild, and definitely a little bit intimidating at first. You know, the man’s got a Grammy in the bag for a Springsteen album that he worked on, and so you think, “Holy shit, man, this guy’s gonna be scary.” But from day one we found out that he’s the nicest, most down-to-earth dude.
He actually came to our crappy little rehearsal space at this warehouse in Brisbane. He sat in the jam room for a couple days beforehand and listened to all of the material so that he could have some ideas for recording, which all of us really appreciated.
Did you have most of the songs ready?
We’ve known we were going to do an album since 2011. I think we had something close to 150 songs finished by the time we were ready to record. The hardest thing for us was deciding which ones were going to make the cut. I think we got it down to 20 songs or so that we sent him, and then trimmed it down to a dozen. There were a couple that were really developed in the studio too–it’s always nice to throw in some pleasant surprises.
To hear more from The Cairos, check out their bandcamp, official Facebook page, or tune into BTR’s very own In the Den.