Great Caesar’s Ghost! It’s a brand new New Music Friday, featuring Brooklyn based indie rock band Great Caesar! They’re a super fun six-piece band, they put out really awesome videos to go with their really awesome songs, and they’ve got a whole new EP, Jackson’s Big Sky, out today.
I got to talk to John-Michael Parker, who founded the band while in high school in Connecticut. They bounced around between a couple different genres closer to their formation, exploring the thrills and chills of Connecticut’s ska scene in the early 2000s and then moving to “high school emo,” a la Brand New. Their sound has grown up a lot since then, but still play emotional songs that will make you want to call your parents.
There’s still a pretty good chunk of the original lineup intact: Parker met bass player Adam Glaser in the third grade, while guitarist Mike Farrell and trumpeter Tom Sikes joining in high school. Drummer Thomas Stevens and vocalist Niki Morissette joined within the last year, after the band relocated to our fair city.
Over the years, though, they’ve settled into a solid, indie rock sound that has been compared to that of Arcade Fire, Jack Garrett, Beirut and Mumford and Sons. Parker said their manager “gets pissed” when they call themselves an “indie rock band,” that’s what they are: pop is involved as well, and it lends itself to accessible, catchy music.
As I mentioned before, Great Caesar puts out great music videos. Here’s their highly acclaimed song, “Don’t Ask Me Why.”
This video is beautiful, and it’s heavy. It made me cry. Possibly because I was both going through a breakup and was also very hungry the first time I watched it, but also because it deals with big things like racism and homophobia.
The concept for this particular video was the brainchild of director Alex Colby. The song did not have a specific narrative, but rather sang along the broader concept of living life fully, so Colby came up with the idea of focusing on the human struggles of racism and homophobia. Plus, it’s got two really cute kids and a bunch of running through fields, and it’s racked up more than 330,000 views on YouTube.
‘We wanted to make a video that was about something,” Parker said. “So we raised $50,000 on Kickstarter to make it happen. I love that it’s gotten some pick up on it, it seems to really resonate with people.”
“Still Love” is also kind of heavy, with the above video by a new director, Charlie Polinger. This one features a cute kid and his super fun and adorable grandma. I’m realizing I’m bad at watching Great Caesar videos without weeping myself into a very tall, redheaded puddle. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it’s this song’s themes about the shifting relationship between parent and child as people get older.
“As a child, you see your parents in a different way,” Parker said. “This song is about growing up and being there for a parent, the way that they were there for you as a child.”
And with lines like “show me your wounds/ I’ll wrap your bandages” and “I’ll keep you safe while you’re still here,” the message hits home. Hard. Excuse me while I call my parents.
We can anticipate a cool video for the new single “Hey Mama,” one in which we can actually see the band members’ faces. (And they’ve got nice faces, as shown above.)
“It’s a pretty simple concept, that just shows us playing live,” Parker said. “We’re proud of our live show and we think it’s time for people to see who we are.”
So in addition to being a fantastic songwriter and musician, Parker is also a bit of a smart cookie. He studied biology at Yale. I asked how that shaped his music.
“I think that in the beginning I sort of felt like ‘I’m gonna study science and be a doctor,’ ” he said. “My dad is a doctor and my mom is a nurse, so I thought of going into college as a means to keep up with that and succeed in that way. But by the time I graduated, I realized I didn’t want to go to med school, so naturally I moved to New York to pursue music instead. At first I didn’t know what was up at all. I was lost in Brooklyn, without a solid job, but college allowed me to think I could figure out how to do it. I worked other jobs and then decided to make the band a serious career.”
Parker and his bandmates are no longer lost in Brooklyn, but are now firmly planted throughout the best borough. Check out Great Caesar’s new 6 song EP, Jackson’s Big Sky, out today, and catch them next Thursday (March 31) at Webster Hall.
For more local music news and things that make her cry, follow Lilly on Twitter.