Though the chaos of Bigsound rages around him, Jim Grey is nestled comfortably at home in Brisbane with a cup of tea. “Yeah, that ain’t my scene, man,” he says. “I don’t like crowds.
"I would definitely describe myself as an extrovert but my anxiety is tied up in small spaces and things being outside of my control. I tend to not enjoy being in public really. The biggest difference being that if I’m up on stage, I have a microphone in my hand and I’m essentially running the thing. That’s the place I feel most confident, most comfortable.
“In that way, I can have that musical conversation with people, we can feel that connection with people without all this mental illness and fear stuff pushing in from the outside.”
It seems odd that the frontman for Caligula’s Horse, one of Australia’s biggest exports in progressive rock, should have such an air of disinterest in the city’s events. Stranger still considering the subject matter of the band’s upcoming fourth album. A conceptual exploration of what connects us as human beings, In Contact is divided into four distinct and deeply personal chapters - with much to be taken away from its onslaught of metaphors. “We wanted to have a far bit of variety on the album,” says Grey. “In between albums we always have a discussion as to what we’re going to do next, how we’re going to step forward from previous stuff we’ve done.
“In this case we very much wanted it to be conceptual in nature. Bigger, heavier sounding; we wanted some more aggressive tones in there, take the heavy riff approach to stuff we’d stepped away from with [2015’s] Bloom.
“Within each chapter, because of the conceptual nature of the album, those separate stories, they have their own sound. The first chapter has a distinctive sound compared to what you’ll hear in the second chapter and so on and so forth, so yeah, it’s definitely a journey I guess.”
That musical journey and narrative, though Grey says it isn’t necessarily biographical, does carry personal stories. “It’s very much the case that our lives inform the way we write because part of our entire mission statement as a band is to be honest,” says Grey. “There are moments in the album that do reflect my fears of fatherhood when I became a dad, but a lot of it, particularly the first chapter, is looking at the way society treats artists in general and whether it’s healthy.
“It’s a discussion I think is important right now, particularly with the rate of suicide in the arts and particularly alternative music.”
Caligula’s Horse are preparing for a nationwide tour beginning this month, ready to relay the bittersweet hopes and tragedies of In Contact with a rare rock savagery. For each city they will be joined by a different local support - Mercury Sky, Branch Arterial and Kripke’s Illusion to name a few. According to Grey these bands compliment the mantra of their new release whilst also showcasing the diversity and success of the current scene with their own sound.
“Australia has a really strong progressive scene and the world has actually grown rather fond of it of late,” says Grey. “For us it’s not that difficult when we’re touring to find local acts in each city that are exciting or interesting and that’s exactly the case on this particular tour.”
In Contact is out now through Cooking Vinyl. Caligula’s Horse are touring Australia in September and October through Wild Things Presents and Oztix.