Before jetting off around the country in support of their debut album, guitarist/vocalist Alistar Richardson of The Cairos caught up with LAUREN WILLIAMS to talk songwriting decisions, the recording process and touring antics.
Having played alongside the likes of Julian Casablancas, The Temper Trap and The Holidays, four-piece rockers The Cairos are more than equipped for their upcoming Australian tour. Having recently performed throughout Asia, the Brisbane band will showcase their latest creation Dream of Reason in a string of dates, beginning later this month. Produced by Nick DiDia, the debut album follows their 2011 EP Colours Like Features; although Alistar noted that since the early days, The Cairos have developed a darker sound, “I think people were sort of surprised at how different some of the sounds were to stuff we wrote when we were younger.”
Being in Asia for the album release was a surreal beginning to an epic journey for the band. He said, “It was a pretty weird experience being over there and promoting it over there at the start.” After a successful Asian adventure, The Cairos are pumped to be back home in Oz, “I just can’t wait to get out and actually play in front of people.”
Upon querying Dream of Reason’s musical influences, Alistar remarked that while the album on the whole was not driven by any overriding influences, individual songs took inspiration from various artists and sounds. “In the second single ‘Desire’s harmonies – I really tried to make haunting harmonies like the Raveonettes … I’m such a massive fan of the band.” He also recalled how elements of the band Yuck motivated and shaped his compositions, “I remember one of the songs, just trying to write a whole bass line around that sort of style.”
With all four members actively composing, they faced a tough decision in selecting the album’s final ten songs from a pool of around two hundred. “I still don’t really know how we got to the ones we did … that was probably the hardest thing – harder than writing the songs, harder than recording them – was choosing them.” Yet even after composing hundreds of songs, the process is always different. “I don’t think two songs have ever been written the same way … we all have completely different ideas and takes of it,” said Alistar.
Alistar also spoke fondly of the group’s experience recording with album producer Nick DiDia. Having worked with rock legends Rage Against the Machine, Powderfinger and Pearl Jam, the band was confident and at ease in the studio. “You kind of relax straight away, knowing that it’s going to be a really good product. He would make you really want to perform your best and out-do yourself.” On the topic of Powderfinger, Alistar commended guitarist and “godfather of the Brisbane scene” Ian Haug, who featured in Dream of Reason. “Here in Brisbane there’s a really tight-knit community, and Ian’s been a really big part of it. When lots of bands are starting to come through, he comes to shows and supports people and hangs out.” Inspired by these experiences and recording with DiDia, the addition of Haug to the album was a milestone for The Cairos. “When it did [happen] it was just so exciting. It was an unreal moment.”
With the Dream of Reason tour just weeks away, The Cairos already have an impressive performance history under their belt. Reflecting on past shows with Julian Casablancas, The Temper Trap and The Holidays, Alistar described each as a unique learning experience. “You take something from a band every time you perform with them. Say with Julian Casablancas, he just has this presence about him, this aura” while The Temper Trap “were just the friendliest, nicest guys you’d ever meet” and, “The Holidays were really professional and down-to-earth.”
However, playing as the support band is distinctly different for The Cairos to their headlining shows. “When you’re the headliner, it’s your show and you can sort of take control … You can really put on a show that you want to put on. When you’re a support act, you can’t be over the top”. He contemplated, “I’m not sure which one I prefer, because some of the funnest shows are when there’s no pressure on, when you’re a support band – and then sometimes when you’ve got all your fans coming to the gig at your show it’s a real special moment.”
It turns out that these special moments can take unexpected turns, though, as Alistar laughs his way through a recount of his strangest stage experience. “I had a migraine on stage and had to run offstage halfway through and throw up in the first thing I could see,” he began. Unfortunately, this turned out to be another band’s alcohol bucket. “That was a tense moment”. Luckily, an optimistic Alistar appreciates these throwing-up-in-other-people’s-alcohol type incidents as part of a natural progression. “You’ve gotta get all of these thing out of the way,” he said.
With this memory secured safely in the past, he was animated and excited to discuss what we can expect from The Cairo’s upcoming shows. “It’s a chance for us to really perform the way we want to and really portray the album as a whole.” Alistar’s enthusiasm and eagerness resonated clearly, “We’ve had these songs stored up for a long time. I can’t wait to just perform them for everyone…It’s gonna be a real show.”