Brooklyn’s Great Caesar have been riding the wave of their new self titled EP, released earlier this month. The EP offers a wide showcase of all the band has to offer, with harmonies, soulful solos, and lyrics to entice any lover of stories.
I got a chance to chat with Tom Sikes of Great Caesar about the new EP, and the deeper meanings of what they have to say in their music…
-“Don’t Ask Me Why” has a great message about sexual equality. In conjunction with the current HeforShe movement, how do you guys feel about what Emma Watson had to say in her recent speech and the HeforShe movement?
It’s funny you ask that. We listened to Emma Watson’s speech together in the tour van last month, and had a pretty lengthy discussion about it. Great Caesar does a lot of work around social justice and equality in general, like with the “Don’t Ask Me Why” video you mentioned, and our feelings about Feminism are no different. The HeForShe message is actually pretty similar to that of some of our favorite organizations in the sexual equality realm, (check out Athlete Ally, for example) which is that the most important voices in support of any repressed demographic often come from those typically doing the repressing: straight folks speaking out for their non-straight friends, men identifying as feminists, and so on. We’re very much on board with that mentality, and applaud Emma for addressing it so powerfully at the UN.
-What’s the story behind the video for “Don’t Ask Me Why”?
John-Michael wrote the song based on ideas related to the work he does with NYC High Schools, in particular this notion that there are two kinds of people in the world — dreamers and do-ers — which are actually much more powerful when brought together than when kept apart. Really successful and fulfilled people dream up ideas, and they put them into action. That’s what the two characters in the song, McGill (the dreamer) and Marie (the do-er), coming together in this big, biblical storm represent. So, the music itself didn’t actually have a lot to do with sexual equality until we brought it to our long-time friend and film-maker, Alex Colby, who took that simple idea and turned it into the very specific story about civil rights and same-sex relationships you see in the video. It wound up becoming a really huge project, and took a lot of support from friends and colleagues and family to raise $50,000 on Kickstarter to pay for the whole thing, but we’re very happy with how it turned out and what it’s done so far in the world and for the band.
-How did you all meet?
Most of us went to High School together in Connecticut (myself, John-Michael, Adam, and Mike), and we picked up Stephen in College and Tom Stephens, our drummer, more recently in New York. So the core of the band has been playing together for 12 odd years, which I think is a really important part of how we work and perform — as friends before musicians, I guess you could say.
-The subject matter in your songs have a very storytelling aspect to them. Where do you get the inspiration for your songs?
The answer to both of those questions is probably the same. We tend to write music about fairly concrete things in our lives — people we care about, relationships with family and lovers, issues we’re tackling in our daily lives, like the dreamer vs. do-er duality John-Michael addresses in ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ — as opposed to looser concepts. Storytelling lends itself well to those kinds of specific themes. That’s not always the case, though; the closing track on our latest EP, ‘Bury Me’, is super conceptual and has no plot whatsoever. I think the lyrics written out in full are like 200 characters, and it’s a 5 minute song.
-What would be your dream tour?
Personally I’m a big fan of Europe and the UK, so I’d love to tour there. A few of us also just went to a CMJ panel yesterday on playing in Asia — that would be great too. We’re pretty happy playing anywhere, honestly.
-What is your snack of choice for the long tour rides?
We’ve all got our preferences, but I think beef jerky takes the cake. Holds up well in unrefrigerated in a hot van, too. We’re not the healthiest band in the world.
Have a listen here and let the words take you where you want to go: