RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with frontman and founder member Pye Hastings as the band prepares to rekindle memories of the famous Canterbury movement.
And we’ll be bringing you a review from the band’s hotly anticipated tour later this month.
rushonrock: How long have you been living in the Highlands and how did you come to be there?
Pye Hastings: I was born in the Highlands. I came down to England with my family when I was nine. But I came back up here to Tomintoul about six years ago – it was never planned but we had a holiday home here. A weekend became a week and a week became a month and in the end we decided to stay. My wife and I had become a bit disillusioned with town life and we wanted a change of scene. I love it in Scotland. I have a small 5m by 5m shed in the garden that’s soundproofed and doubles up as my recording studio. In actual fact it’s just jam-packed with junk but it’s supposed to be my recording space! You always dream of a space like that and then suddenly you fill that space.
rushonrock: Tomintoul must seem a world away from Canterbury?
PH: It is quite different. I was back down in Canterbury about a month ago and it’s a great place to visit – lots of people do. I think they get three million tourists every year so it does get busy. Tomintoul’s population is around 300 and we don’t get too many visitors! It’s the highest village in the Highlands and a fair trek.
rushonrock: How did the Canterbury movement evolve back in the 60s?
PH: It was just a collection of bands who were playing in the local pubs and clubs and Caravan developed a jazzier style. A journalist came over to watch a few of the bands, saw us and described our music as the Canterbury sound. It was a term invented there and then and it stuck. We were a bit more jazzy leaning and we wrote our own songs so that helped us stand out from the crowd. Maybe that’s why we were seen as the scene leaders at the time. But there were half a dozen bands from the area playing the same pubs and clubs.
rushonrock: Did that initial buzz then enable Caravan to spread their wings?
PH: I suppose so. The grand plan had always been to go to London and record our music and hang out with the big boys. We all looked at what the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks were doing and of course we fancied a piece of that action. The whole Canterbury Movement helped us to do that.
rushonrock: What inspired you to create the progressive sound for which you became famous?
PH: It was just an idea we had to change things and to make a point of not being like anyone else at the time. We approached songwriting in a different way and tried to look at things from a different point of view. We said to ourselves let’s do this with a 5/7 time signature rather than the 3/4 that everyone else does. It was a challenge but we were all like-minded and we were committed to doing things differently.
rushonrock: Did you ever feel pressure to go down a more commercial route?
PH: We tried but we didn’t actually manage it for some reason! We made albums rather than singles and I think that was part of our problem. We should have worked harder at writing and releasing a single or two but that’s just the way it is. We’re still here 45 years later so it wasn’t exactly the wrong approach. To begin with we did see ourselves as a singles band but then I think we became a bit big-headed and thought we were better than that. By the time we’d realised that punk was upon us and nobody wanted to hear 10-minute epics! And rightly so. The young bands and their fans taught us a timely lesson and things were changing. But tastes come full circle.
rushonrock: When did you begin to think about a tour to celebrate the 40th anniversary of For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night?
PH: It actually happened by accident insofar as the timing of the tour. Over the last five or six years we’ve been playing regularly but mostly at European festivals and one-off dates here and there. I spoke to my agent about doing a tour of the UK and by the time it was all fixed up it just happened to coincide with the anniversary of Girls… The tour’s been marketed around that but there will be so much more to the show.
rushonrock: Did you think the days of Caravan undertaking a headline tour across the UK were over?
PH: I never thought they were over – in fact I actually always believed this tour would happen. We still have a life span as a band. We’ve never, ever hit the big time but we’ve always bobbled along and these days there are brand new fans coming along to Caravan gigs and discovering the band for the first time. This tour’s as much for them as the people who were there from the start.
rushonrock: Has the tour and renewed interest in the band’s back catalogue stirred the creative juices?
PH: Well yes and no. I’m always writing new music and things haven’t changed in that respect just because we’re hitting the road in 2013. But of course there’s an opportunity to play some new material live. We’ll be doing about three new songs in this set and I have around 10 more bubbling under. The plan is to record a new album in March – after the tour. I’d like to get the band back together, play them all of the new material and gauge their reaction. If it’s positive then I’d love to make a new Caravan album.
rushonrock: Is it important to include the new material in your set?
PH: It’ll be fun to do – although we only have three days of rehearsals to get it right! We’ll be changing a few of the old classics too just to freshen things up and brighten up the set. We’re looking to vamp it up for the British fans!
rushonrock: Progressive rock is booming in the UK again – do you feel a certain pride that Caravan were forerunners of the scene?
PH: I’m not very keen on the term prog rock and never have been. I certainly don’t see Caravan as a progressive rock band. And I can’t see it myself – in terms of us inspiring a generation or a genre to play music that way. But people do come up to me and say they’ve always liked what we do and that has given them the incentive to make their own music. I just don’t see that but it’s great for the old ego! We just did what we wanted to do but if that’s helped people get up on stage and play music it’s great.
rushonrock: As a musician is it empowering to pay in a band without boundaries?
PH: I actually feel as if Caravan is constrained by certain boundaries. After a period of time – and certainly after 45 years – a band like Caravan becomes a bit of a brand. And people associate brands with certain things. You cannot stray too far from your roots. There’s a need to develop your sound with a view to what you’ve done before. If I suddenly wrote a heavy rock album people would say ‘that’s not a Caravan record’. So we might write rock songs in our won style but there are still boundaries.