"We all went through that feeling with the bands we grew up with, and if people can do that with us, then that’s a dream."
Capstan's new album 'Separate' is out now via Fearless Records.
A tight and technically stunning display of post-hardcore invention, it's a record that shows off all the best elements of the band in their most refined and raucous forms. Though it represents so much for the band on a personal level. Serving as an emotional vessel for guitarist Joe Mabry as well as a distraction from the darkness of the outside world for the rest of the band throughout 2020, it's an album showing off a band at their most vulnerable as well as vicious.
We jumped on the phone with vocalist Anthony DeMario and drummer Scott Fisher to discuss the ins and out of making the band's finest moment so far...
In terms of the bare bones of this record, how did what your initial intentions look and feel like compared to what we have now?
Scott: "We were on tour in March of 2020. We played three shows, and it was cut short because of COVID. But we finished up in Chicago, which isn’t far away from Detroit. So we drove to Detroit and stayed at Anthony’s parent’s house as we usually do. We went down into the basement, and we had a computer, an acoustic guitar and Pro Tools and thought, ‘Let’s just see what happens’. Even then, it felt very different to what we had done before. We had a loose demo for what would eventually become ‘sway’, but there were also songs that we wrote at that time that didn’t end up becoming what the record eventually sounded like. They just didn’t quite fit."
Anthony: "Song structure was a huge thing for us as well. The songs that we ended up using flow an awful lot better than the demos that we had for other songs. Even though there were some that were out favourites, there were some songs where parts just came out of nowhere, and that’s not good enough’."
Scott: "Yeah, so many of those songs that came early in the process ended up being scrapped. Even though they would have still been a slam dunk on our debut, we really set to make a clear step up."
A lot was going on with your debut as well. But when it’s your first full-length offering, you want to throw in as much stuff as possible. But now that step is done, it’s about figuring out what you’ve learned…
Scott: "I think that those lessons were a gradual thing, really. Before this record, we had never scrapped any ideas that we had. We had written it, so we use it. That record was a lot less thought out, you know? I love those songs, but we gradually learned what we wanted to do now. We knew we didn’t want to do the same again."
Anthony: "It was all about keeping it cohesive with this record, and there wasn’t any with that last record. It felt a bit all over the place."
There is the context of being forced to stop everything because of COVID as well. How did that help you in developing what you wanted this album to be?
Scott: "We had so much more time! We considered how we could turn the situation into a positive, and we ended up meeting for up to 40 hours a week and just working. At that point, it became a massive part of our lives, even if we didn’t want it to be. We couldn’t turn our brains off, and it made us constantly grind to make the songs we had even better. As hard as that might be, I feel like it made the product better."
Anthony: "I feel like it shows in the music on records previously when we didn’t have the time. You’re out on the road and looking for normal human comforts, and it’s tough to write music whilst doing that. To have the chance to meet up and everybody be on the same page, most of the time, reflects in the sound we go out."
Within all of that, you’re going through your own stories and situations within this larger thing that you’re then bringing into the band and that workspace. You must realise there are themes and elements that you had never previously brought to the band…
Scott: "It’s all retrospect. With this record, Joe was going through a tough time in his life whilst writing the lyrics. At the time, you don’t even really notice, but then when you look back, you’re like, ‘Damn, I hope I was there for him’. It’s not that we weren’t, and we are five best friends first and foremost, but sometimes you don’t realise. So much time went by in that process, and you spend so much of it together, yet there are still elements that you don’t even really notice."
What was it like realising there were also things on there that you hadn’t ever really done before?
Scott: "Yeah, songs like ‘take my breath away’ sounds like something we have never done before. It happened naturally, though. Ultimately, the things that we asked every time we wrote something like this was, ‘Is it strong?’ and, ‘Are we actually happy with it?’. That’s a song that checks both of those boxes, but that’s not to say it wasn’t weird."
Anthony: "When I first heard that bassline, I remember saying, ‘What are we doing here?’ I didn’t know at that time how I was ever going to like it or work with it. But it’s now one of my favourite songs that we’ve done."
You sometimes need that fear of what you might be creating to remind you of what it’s like to make music together…
Scott: "Absolutely, and if we had just written and released what we had done before, it would have been simply what was expected. We wanted to push what we are whilst also trying to be catchier. That’s a fine line."
It must help when you have a producer like Machine vouching for and supporting that different vision as well…
Scott: "Oh very much so. Like you live in a bubble for a year, and you work on it so much that you don’t even know if it’s good anymore. It’s certainly comforting having a presence like that telling you that it’s good and worth it."
Anthony: "He’s such a good coach all around as well. He pulled the best out of us, and it was the most fun I’ve ever had making a record."
Scott: "I’ll never forget when I was recording my parts and he was just air-drumming along and giving his all. He knows exactly how to get the best out of you. I feel like you can hear that on the songs and feel the emotion that was in that room."
How does it feel to be working with those different energy levels compared to how you have crafted music in the past?
Scott: "It’s pretty different now. When we started the band, we were all in college. It was just fun. We weren’t thinking about how we could make a chorus pop off or something. It takes a while even to consider approaching songwriting in that way. And you can see so much of the difference. You forget how much time you have spent trying to get to this point that we’re at now. And you don’t realise just wild the difference is."
Anthony: "Back then, we all loved music, and all loved to hang out with each other. We wrote a lot of music that we liked to listen to at the time. I think we just grew up whilst liking music, and it has allowed us to create a more grown-up version of what we were looking for back then. There are now different boundaries that we have put together and surpassed from the time we started."
When you consider what a lot of this record is about, the personal struggles that Joe went through during a difficult period of his life, you need that more mature head to be able to do that justice…
Scott: "This is the first time that Joe has ever really put his soul on paper with this band. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I’m sure that it was difficult for him to open up. And I feel like you really can hear that."
Anthony: "The band was an outlet for all of his emotions at that time. The beauty of that is that now the songs are out in the world, people can hear it and relate to it in their own ways. People will really dive deep whilst listening to these songs share their own connections because of that."
Scott: "You relate so much to music and to be able to give that feeling to one person is such a blessing for us. We all went through that feeling with the bands we grew up with, and if people can do that with us, then that’s a dream."
How does it feel, as you consider the next step of Capstan, to have this batch of songs under your belt and a part of your story?
Scott: “We’ve already started playing with some ideas of what’s next, but I really feel like we have figured out what we want to be. How we approach songwriting and the feeling that we want it to be, we have all of that right now. And that feels really great.”