DENVER DUO COMPASS & CAVERN TALK SCIENCE, LOVE AND THE END OF THE WORLD IN THIS RESTRAINED RIOT…
When you consider videos that have the potential to be viral sensations, Compass & Cavern’s ‘Before It Begins’ boasts a package that seems to tick all the right boxes. Accosting the song’s witty commentary and Jekyll and Hyde vocal performance is a music video that serves to perplex. The impeccably directed footage features reversed footage of the band playing the song backwards, so that it looks, almost seamlessly, like the band are performing the song in real time.
The end result serves you an almost hypnotic cocktail of wonder and bewilderment, leaving you in a trance that requires the track’s fiery chorus to forcefully dig you out of. The music more than pulls its own weight alongside such a video and the contrast between the carefree, daydreamlike verses and the punchier sections that they encompass make for some very interesting and thought-provoking indie rock.
We caught up with the duo to burrow deeper into the track and find out a little more about the artists who created it…
We love ‘Before It Begins’. Could you tell us a little bit about the thought process and inspiration behind the track?
Will Timbers: At the time that I wrote the lyrics, I was reading a lot of stuff about potentially humanity-ending disasters like artificial intelligence, climate change, and overpopulation. The writers always seemed convinced that these things would happen and that they would be absolutely catastrophic. It affected me! I had never thought too much about any of these problems and imagining that they’d directly affect me in my lifetime was consuming me. The only thing that pulled me out of the “gloom and doom” mindset was this one girl. I thought that was fascinating. I was either thinking about horrible, serious things that would happen decades in the future, or I was thinking about this fun, cute girl right in front of me. They couldn’t be more different. The connection between them was that I didn’t want either to end – the world, or my relationship with the girl – especially since I felt like neither had really gotten started yet.
The song steps onto some fairly political territory at times, is there a specific message or view that you are trying to get across within your lyrics?
WT: I honestly didn’t feel political when I was writing it. I felt more like I was stepping into scientific territory! But I do think it’s a little shameful when we question the validity of overwhelmingly clear scientific evidence in the name of our political alignments. I guess that sentence stepped into political territory. Oops. But really, I think we all need to step back and evaluate our priorities. If the evidence for a deteriorating environment is even somewhat accurate, then we, as fragile humans with loved ones that will continue to live in the future, should be paying extremely close attention to how our actions might be contributing. It’s in our best interest, no matter how narrow-minded and selfish we are. Luckily, plenty of people are paying close attention and doing what they can to maintain a habitable atmosphere.
Are you pleased with the way that people have responded to the track?
Chris Fruci: For sure! The song really grooves and people enjoy how it feels. Between the tribal-esque, tom-heavy drum beat and the light synth runs in the verses, it’s a fun song to dance along to. And then when that heavy chorus hits, you just want to throw your body around a bit. At least I do! Many listeners also seem to connect with the lyrics. For me personally, this song includes some of my favourite lyrics that Will has ever written.
How would you compare ‘Before It Begins’ to your other work?
WT: That’s a good question. Lyrically, I’ve written about relationships and weird, futuristic ideas, but this song was the first to include both. It also feels like a different tone / mood than the rest of our songs. It’s full of anxiety and concern, but it’s also still light and playful. Musically, we basically follow a blues structure for the verses, which is also something new. I wouldn’t say we’re very influenced by the blues, but it was fun to use that form in an alternative rock context.
If you had to describe Compass and Cavern and particularly this track to someone who had never listened to you, what would you say?
CF: This is a fun question. Typically, when I’m describing C&C’s sound to people who have never heard us, I start by saying that we fuse 90s rock with modern-day synth tones. We remind many people of what they listened to 20 years ago but incorporate elements into our sound that other mainstream alternative bands are using today.
For “Before It Begins” specifically, it is a great representation of how we try to marry guitar and synth and create an overall sound that is full of energy and catchy to the average listener. This track also showcases our dynamic range. We pull it back in the verses to leave room for heavy choruses that hit you really hard.
The songs heavier and softer sections provide a juxtaposition that often catches the listener off guard, is that something that you intended while crafting this song?
WT: Yes! Not only do I love the element of surprise like that in music, but it also fits the juxtaposition of the lyrical ideas. Also, now that I’m thinking more about it, you could say that the feeling of being caught off guard is exactly what it’s like to all of a sudden find yourself attracted to someone. And I assume it’s what it would be like if the world ended!
The song has been likened to the work of Weezer due to its unassuming and playful sound, is this something that you welcome?
CF: Absolutely! We LOVE the comparisons to Weezer which seem to have increased in frequency over the last year. In general, we really like bands that are able to throw down heavy guitar and have it sit nicely next to lighter vocals and tones. 311 is another great example of band that does this well.
The song has gathered acclaim for its incredible, mind-bending music video, could you talk us through the thought process behind such an audacious video?
WT: The reverse video idea has been done very well a few times, but the main inspiration for us was Mutemath’s music video for ‘Typical.’ I remember seeing that video probably ten years ago and being completely blown away. The thought process when watching a video like that is pretty much the same for everyone – first, everything looks strange and off, but you’re not sure why. It’s entertaining, but deeply confusing. Then you realise it must be in reverse and it starts to make some sense (plus it becomes even more interesting). But you still don’t understand it fully because the singer seems to be singing forward… Finally, it dawns on you that the singer must have SUNG IN REVERSE to get it to come out looking forward in a reversed video, and you’re just never the same again.
It’s absolutely shocking. I never forgot about it, and I’ve always wanted to do the same thing. It’s amazing thinking about all of that and realizing that I finally got to act on my inspiration ten years later. We’re very lucky.
All of that being said, we wanted to set ourselves apart from the other great reverse videos that have been done. ‘Before It Begins’ was perfect for the video concept thematically because of the focus on things beginning and ending. In a weird way, each scene ends before it begins! That connection was important because we wanted to be doing it for reasons besides “things look cool in reverse” (even though things really do look cool in reverse).
We also made sure to include the reversed guitar solo, since we didn’t think we had seen that before. That was stranger than the reverse vocals in certain ways because, when you’re playing along to the reverse track, the physical motion of strumming a guitar happens AFTER the sound of the chord stops. That is extremely difficult to get used to. But it was the best challenge of all time and we couldn’t be happier about the whole process.
Also, we highly recommend checking out Mutemath’s music video and the behind the scenes. It’s great stuff.
Are you happy with how the video came out, and how it has been received since?
CF: First of all, another shout out to our incredibly talented director, cinematographer, and editor, Jeremy Oliver Miller. He’s amazing. He had a really busy 2017 but was still able to fit us in and help us pull this video together in just one day outside of Atlanta, GA.
Those who have seen the video are really blown away when they actually think through what we had to do in order to make it work. We still think there is tremendous potential for this video to gain traction and popularity across the internet should the right people get their hands on it and share it!
What should we expect from Compass and Cavern in the near future?
CF: Currently, we’re writing new music which has been really fun and exciting. In the coming months, we’re going to play a show in Nashville, showcase at the NACA West conference, and make the most of our Halloween with an all-Disney cover set. That’s right. Disney.
We’d love to hit the road again next spring and release new music, but we don’t currently have any plans that are set in stone. Stay tuned!