Yell “First Blood” loud enough Friday night, and Caravels might just play it. If that song, excised from the band’s setlist eons ago, does re-emerge, it will do so for one night only. Because Caravels, mainstays on Las Vegas’ hardcore scene for close to a decade, have just one night left before they fly away forever.
Okay, so first they’ll fly to Europe, for an 18-gig tour beginning January 14. But those will be the quintet’s final shows before disbanding, with bassist Cory Van Cleef set to move to Portland, Oregon, and his four longtime bandmates ready for a new phase in their lives, too. Van Cleef and guitarist Matt Frantom joined us by phone to look back on Caravels—and ahead to what’s next for its members.
A European tour seems like an epic way to go out, especially considering it will be Caravels’ first time playing outside North America. (MF) For something that we put so much work into, it feels right to know that we went that far at the end. Why not take that next step and have that be the last endeavor?
What happens if it’s a wild success—packed shows and massive merch lines? Might that cause you to reconsider ending Caravels? (CVC) Everything’s locked in for now, and it’s a mutual understanding, that we all want to do different things. So I don’t think it would change our current plans.
(MF) We’ve also all been playing in different projects that seem to be fruitful creatively, so it’s definitely time to do some other stuff. If the tour in Europe is absolutely amazing, it will just be the best way to go out.
Talk about those other projects. (MF) [Guitarist] Dillon [Shines] and [drummer] George [Foskaris] and I have a project called Dark Black; Cory and I and a couple of our friends have another project called Stormcrow; and Cory has another band with some of the same members as Stormcrow called Still Suit.
So Cory, you’re not just saying goodbye to Caravels in moving to Portland, but also these other bands. Are you planning to keep playing up there? (CVC) I have friends up there who want to play—some of the guys in Duck, Little Brother, Duck!—so I definitely won’t stop playing, it’ll just be a new endeavor, a fresh start.
Are you going for a job or something else specific, or just to experience another city? (CVC) I’ve never lived anywhere else, and I would be a little upset at myself if I never tried that out. I also have an interest in electronics, and I’ve had a string of bad luck pursuing that here.
You guys were teenagers when you formed Caravels, and eight-plus years is a pretty long run by any band’s standards. (MF) That’s why it was so good, because we went so long, and it came to a natural ending, rather than some tumultuous explosion. Everybody was pretty much on the same page at the same time.
What are your emotions like as you think about playing your final show? (CVC) I’ve already had a couple waves of sadness over the idea of it being done, but it’s not like it ended abruptly and we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. I think it’ll be bittersweet—a chance to look forward and know we’re not cutting ourselves short on things we could pursue. But I’m sure we’ll also be emotional, especially with all of our friends at the show.
(MF) Our last tour was our largest, and we had already talked a little bit about [ending] it at that point. Like, Oh my God, there are 2,000 people watching us and we’re thinking of not being a band, so some of those feelings have already emerged. It’ll be kinda sad for it to actually be finished, but at the same time, when you’re jamming and trying to write new material and nothing’s coming, but you have these other projects where things are flowing out and taking form so easily, it will also feel somewhat like a freedom not to be tied to this thing out of obligation.
Matt, when Cory mentioned his intention to move, was there any talk of finding another bassist? (MF) Not really. We’ve always talked about how it’s important for it to be the original members. A lot of bands lose a member but want to hold onto the name, but really that’s all about holding onto some form of notoriety. We’ve always thought that if one person’s gone, everybody can continue jamming, but it’s not the same thing anymore, so don’t call it the same thing. Dark Black plays some of the things that Caravels was jamming for a little bit, but we’re not gonna call it Caravels. It’s something completely new.
That makes sense considering how collaborative your songwriting process has always been—the four instrumentalists writing together and then [vocalist] Mike [Roeslein] adding lyrics. (CVC) Yeah, every time we’ve ever written anything, it’s been us sitting in the garage and someone has one riff and then we turn that riff into three or four minutes of music that has an abundance of parts. I’ve always told the dudes that if anyone ever quit Caravels I wouldn’t want to do it anymore, because it wouldn’t be Caravels at that point. Caravels is the five of us.
Are you guys still planning to release your split 12-inch with Octaves? (CVC) Yep, it’s being released on January 20, two songs each.
(MF) That’s one of the cool things about the timing of the end of the band. We met Octaves long ago on tour, and we’ve always been really good friends with them and talked about doing a split. So it’s kind of nice that the last thing that we’ll do is a collaboration between the two of us.
Do you guys have any special plans for the Bunkhouse show? (CVC) We were talking about playing some stuff off our old Hunting Things EP, but when we started talking about it Dillon was making jokes, so I don’t think he’s super down.
(MF) I was thinking in my car today how funny it would be if we played “First Blood,” because years ago [friends] would always scream “Play ‘First Blood!’” and we would always refuse to. But we’re definitely rehearsing a lot, all the Floorboard songs, all the split songs we’ve done and the 7-inch songs.
You guys have Alaska on the bill with you, and they’re part of the same scene that birthed Caravels. How do you feel about the health of that scene? (CVC) It’s definitely come together a lot more than in, say 2007 or 2008, when we were first getting some steam. There are a lot more people doing shows and kids interacting to book things. Joel [Kirschenbaum] from Alaska is a huge help with that, and the kids that run the House of Wonk. For a while it felt like it was just Caravels throwing shows for bands in our genre that would come our way. Obviously, I’m not talking about the scene that A Crowd of Small Adventures and Same Sex Mary are in …
Sure, your scene has always been more DIY, house shows, all-ages shows … (CVC) that was the one thing I was upset about with this last show. I wanted to do it all-ages, but circumstances, I guess, prevented it.
When you look back at what you’ve accomplished as Caravels, what are you most proud of? (CVC) Everything we’ve learned—about each other, about music and also about stuff that you wouldn’t expect to learn, like van maintenance and geography. I feel like there’s a lot of things I would have no idea about if it weren’t for the five of us meeting up in a garage to play music together.
(MF) Now, when you start jamming with people who may not have been in a band situation, you start to notice all the little tools you’ve picked up through the years—like how to piece a song together. Within the scope of Caravels, we’ve all been operating the same way for so long, but as soon as you step outside of that, you’re like, wow I feel like a veteran.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently as a band? (MF) We always wrote songs in two- or three- song spurts, so we did a lot of smaller releases. I kind of wish we’d buckled down and released more albums.
(CVC) Japan. I really wish we’d gone to Japan.
(MF) Japan seems like a fun place to go, like futureland. We’re going to a historical place, Europe, that’s pastland. Japan is futureland.
In the Facebook farewell announcement, you referred to it as a “hiatus,” which implies the possibility of a return. Can you envision a reunion someday, be it full-on or just a one-off? (MF) It seems like that’s the trend now: Older bands that were notable in their day but didn’t have a really big following, going on a reunion tour—and their fanbases multiplying exponentially since the last show they played.
(CVC) I was joking with George the other night about how, when Dark Black has a record and with whatever I do up there, we’ll do a double tour and then Caravels can play every night, too.
(MF) We’re just waiting five years, so we can get more fans. (laughs)