Words/Interview by Tracey Moyle – Music Maven
Caravãna Sun singer Ant Beard has spent years touring Australia and the world, winning the hearts of anyone lucky enough to be close enough to inhale a dose of their high vibe surf rock energy. As a solo artist, Ant has been inspired to find a new expression within his music with his solo side project Caspia. On top of the success of his debut single Alone, Caspia has just dropped a beautifully inspiring second single Trick of the Light.
Trick of the Light was co-written/ produced by Eskimo Joe’s, Joel Quartermain proving the pair to be a perfect combination producing an uplifting yet thought provoking song that reaches deep into the soul and holds a mirror up to anyone listening.
Caspia has gained global notoriety for his highly developed sense of control and restraint in his work, as well as a breath-taking level of emotion and personality in his performance. Recently I had a wonderfully in depth chat with Ant on the coming together of the single, how Caspia came to be and finding yourself in a world full of misleading perception.
Congratulations on Trick of the Light, it’s such a beautiful track and when you find yourself grasping the true meaning behind the lyrics, it’s even more amazing. I love the analogy of life sometimes being a ‘trick of the light’. It’s a very self-aware song about conditioning and expanding growth. Almost like a rebirth.
You wrote the song with Joel Quartermain of Eskimo Joe, was it an idea that you had or did it evolve from you guys sitting down and having a chat?
“It was one of those slightly magical moments I guess, Joel and I had been good friends for a while. We’d done a record in 2014 and we always said there was unfinished business when it came to writing songs. There’s this magic genius, floating thing in the air above us when it came to talking about ideas and music and songs. So it was like ‘lets get into a space where we can try and make sense of this’. So we did that. The first couple of days we recorded that first single Alone and Trick of the Light was nothing but the thought of us wanting to write together.”
“Basically that morning we woke up and he ducked out to check out a rental he was looking at and I just chilled on the piano. And then the chord change started at the start and then the rest is just history. We ended up finishing the song on a napkin in a North Melbourne pub at the end of the day. It was an ‘aha’ moment in one respect but I guess we started out writing that song about the concepts of the world. Like Instagram and the highlight reel and how people can really portray themselves as one way when really they’re just a trick of the light. They almost look like one thing but actually are just something else on the other side.
We kind of just started the conversation there and, as a lot of conversations do in my life, they go deeper and deeper until you’re talking about something that’s going to move somebody and in order to do that you need to write for yourself. So for use we kind of realised that all these songs, they’re actually about us and the conditioning of life and how we are conditioned to live in society, kind of forces us to create these tricks of the light. It forces us to have that highlight reel. It forces us to tell all the good things. And I guess with this song I wanted to highlight that, and I didn’t want to point any fingers and say, ‘you’re a trick of the light’ or ‘ I feel bad cause I put myself forward’, but instead I wanted to be more like ‘ I’m a trick of the light, and a lot of this stuff is generated around conditioning and around the environment we live in, and it’s totally fine but it’s good to be aware of that’. Be aware of how you can be that person who’s in the shower and vulnerable, matching the person who is up on stage with all the lights. And I think there’s a place right there in the middle where you can hold hands, and I feel for more senior artists, I feel for people who have had more experience. I know it’s a place, but I guess I’m more of someone becoming that more authentic self where you don’t have to be a trick of the light. Does that make sense?”
Completely, and you’ve just given light to something I’ve always felt with live music. Some of the best artists I’ve ever seen live were artists who were completely vulnerable and had a strong energy with the crowd. I felt this with MIKA and X-Ambassadors, it was like a big bubble of love energy. The crowd adored them and they adored the crowd right back. The lead singers seemed to be so authentic.
“I love that concept you’re talking about, I feel like it’s such an exchange. There’s an exchange happening with the band and the crowd and there’s something in the air between the two things that is really not tangible and quite hard to understand and something that just can’t be created from a factory. It’s quite a magical authentic exchange that happens between two parties and I’ve been in those situations and I totally agree with you. I think it’s the magic that’s the reason why, when I look at my pay at the end of every tax year and I go ‘wow I’m turning 30 this year and I’m on such little amounts of money’, I feel like its an important thing to check in with these stories that you talk about and these experiences because they’re the reasons you tough it out in the world we live in.”
I’ve had that conversation to many musicians. It’s a job that you do because there is such a strong passion for music within you. It’s the same with music writers. It’s for the love of it, not the money.
“It’s an interesting conversation that one but I feel like at the end of the day there is only yourself who has to deal with the choices we make in life. And I’ve reflected on that over the years and I have spent at lot of time touring over in Europe and you have these incredible models artists getting paid and the crowds, they just adore music and its deep in their ideology. I spent a lot of time thinking about what music and what art represents in different cultures and what it represents in Australia, what it represents in our culture. I feel like I’m at a point now where I don’t need to spend a lot of time romancing on what we do in Australia, but instead owning that tradition and what I’ve chosen to do. The glass half full. I’m trying to embody that.
Everyone has their own idea of success. And as a young artist I really grappled with that for a long time, what that looked like, how it compared to other artist, how it looked to me. I think the most inspiring artists are not necessarily the ones that are selling out the most tours, it’s people who are devoting themselves and having the audacity to do something they truly love, even though there is a – not suffering -an acceptance. Where there is ten people in the room or ten thousand, it’s about delivering the same show and I feel like that’s the magic. That’s what we’re talking about.”
You are dubbed as being a multi-instrumentalist. Did you grow up playing music? Was it in your family?
“Not at all actually. I didn’t come from a musical family. I came from a family that has a family business that’s been around since 1899. It’s a mattress/bed company and I’m fifth generation. But it was never pushed on me. I always loved music, and I think I was around 14 when Jeff Buckley’s ‘Grace’ came out and that combined with another artist City and Colour from Canada that came into my life. That made me feel like I’d never heard anything so beautiful in my life and that’s what I want to do. I dipped my toes in different pools over the year’s but I feel like a lot of things were decided in those younger years.
I was so lucky to be in a situation where I could do what I wanted to do and I honour that now as such a privilege as a young person living in Australia to actually be able to pursue music.”
What other instruments do you play?
“To be honest I’m a jack of all trades. They needed a bass player when we first started (Caravãna Sun) and I had played guitar for a few years so I said I’ll play bass, then next minute I’m a bass player. I play piano, keyboard and guitar but predominantly keys and vocals. I like writing songs and they make the most sense to me.”
Any new music for Caspia in the form or an EP or Album coming up?
“Caspia the project is very much in the incubation process for me at the moment. It’s still early days in terms of tracks I’m releasing. But there is a whole catalogue of demos and songs and potential songs and ideas that I’m very conscious of at the moment I’m in. For me right now I am very much in to writing and creating and chasing those magic moments. Pushing myself into places of inspiration. So there’s definitely going to be more music. It’s very much a big focus for me at the moment, there’s going to be new stuff released down the line and I’m excited about that.”
Where did the name Caspia come from?
“I am very much a big closet bird nerd, twitcher, and I always have loved birds and basically I’d been looking for a name for a couple of years and I’ve got a bird ‘Field Guide to Australian Bird Life’ in my house and I was literally going down the index and I came across Hydroprogne caspia, which is a Caspian tern, a tern is a small ocean bird. I thought it was nice, not to masculine, not to feminine it was a bit ambiguous, just one word. It comes from the biggest tern of the family which is the caspia tern.”
You released a video for Trick of the Light. It’s so simplistic in the way it was filmed but like we were talking about vulnerability before, it’s just you. It’s you in your truest purest form. It’s a beautiful clip. Who came up with the idea to do it that way?
“I really appreciate that. It was shot between myself and two other really good friends Renae Saxby and Carlo Santoni who goes under the name Cr38or. We organised the for the film clip and I’d always like that basketball court out near Byron Bay, and the conversation, as they do in those moments when you are collaborating with people, really rolled on. Then it got to the point where I thought I’d love to get a dancer for movement and then it got to the day and I thought, ‘I don’t need a dancer, I’m just going to try and dance and just try and move and be free and just own up to what this song actually is’. It started as a small conversation, we nutted it out over dinner then the next day we just shot the whole thing in a day. We didn’t plan on it raining, I didn’t know it was going to be in black and white, I had no idea there would be three hundred black ibis that would fly over the top during the shoot. There were enough moments in that day for me to warrant the risk of working and collaborating on something that’s very personal and very close to who I am. Sometimes there’s no better way of describing it than it becomes greater than the sum of its parts. That concept of when people are working together it becomes a lot more prolific that what it could have been if it had been on my own. I’m really happy with how it turned out.”
Caspia is very differently to Caravãna Sun. Have you always had plans to do a solo project or did it just grow over time?
“I always had plans. I feel like over the years we have toured and played some incredible places, when touring with Caravãna Sun, it’s been a buzz playing at festivals, I absolutely love and adore that. I feel like the Caspia things was always about trying to push into a new venue space. When Caravãna sun first started out we did these tours up and down getting $300 for a three hour set and it would be setting the PA up under the TAB tv screen and the sticky floors and you’d be trying to scream to get people’s attention. We came form this kind of pub background and had to find our sound to the point to where we are today. So I felt like with Caspia, so much of it was about that similar process. Where do I want this music heard, where do I want people to experience it and what’s the message and how’s it best going to be received. I feel like Caspia at the heart of it is about a certain part of myself as an artist that I want to portray in the format that now has presented. I would say that has been the biggest driving force, just to be able to get into people’s hearts in a different angle than playing at a festival, which is also something I like doing, but its another shade.”
Who would you say have been your biggest influences?
“I’d say the influences on this project have been, an interesting one is an artist out of Germany, Nils Frahm, he’s a neo classical German composer, pianist, a beautiful instrumental artist, so I have listened to a lot of that over the years. It’s been a movement of melancholic moving sounds, like Jeff Buckely, City and Colour, they’re just two artists that haven’t left for a long time for me. A combination of that I’d say. And just a push to create music in that state. You don’t have to have the traditional style of a mentor in your life to be mentored. I think that’s the nice thing with music and these artists that aren’t around anymore, they represent a kind of a mentorship in a way, a sense of guidance, like these people are attached to the god, they have touched a place that is beyond human. No matter what anyone wants to say to me there’s something that happens in the performance and in songs, and the way the word sit and the prosody of the song, that is inherently pretty god- like and I feel like I’ve be mentored by these people. I’m not religious really at all in that sense but it’s really a pretty special thing to have when your inspired to open up spotify and listen to the end of Last Goodbye.”
Trick of the Light is out now on all streaming services.