Showcase Interview: Sinai Vessel

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Sinai Vessel is an up-and-coming indie band based in North Carolina and Tennessee. The group blends crafty and genuine songwriting with melodies born of wholesome, southern charm, all while maintaining an earnest ethic rooted in punk culture. I had the chance to catch up with my talented friends at this year’s FEST to talk about their forthcoming new album Brokenlegged, touring, and religion.

BT: So what’s up man? How’s FEST been for you?

Caleb: It’s been really nice. Uh, I think the first year that I ever went – this is my fourth year – the first year I ever went I ran around constantly seeing band after band after band, which was a really fun time. It’s fun to bring new friends here and see them roam about and do the same thing but now if I just see two or three bands that I want to see I’ll consider myself satisfied. Plus, you just see so many friends and it’s draining… in a good way, if that makes sense. I want to spend myself on all these people. It’s a big family reunion.

BT: Any good sets thus far this weekend?

Caleb: Oh, man. Honestly, where we are right now, at Whiskey House, the Lemonheads cover set that was right before me. I think this guy’s name was Mike; he plays in a band called Sunshine State, which I’d never listened to before. He did really, really well. Over the past two years our bassist Danny has turned our whole band on to the Lemonheads, and we’ve become obsessed with them. We have all of their CDs in our car, and it’s the only thing we can all agree upon in listening to, just getting to sing those songs back at some mic with the rest of the band was really nice.

BT: So, on to you. New album is coming out. I’m very excited

Caleb: It’s happening (laughs).

BT: So you guys, if I’m correct recorded it, scrapped it, redid it. Why?

Caleb: Two times, yeah. Well, the first time we were really excited with who we were recording with, it seemed like it was going to shape up to be a really good process, but I think what it really came down to… I just don’t think it was the proper context for us to be recording these songs because the engineer or producer didn’t really have a feel of what we were going for and we didn’t actually have the time to establish that. We originally were going to have two weeks in his home studio to work on everything, but his band was asked to play Japan, which shortened our recording time down to four and a half days. So, the tracking went fine, we really liked that guy and had a nice time. We got to explore Kansas City a lot. It just came down to the vibe not being right. The songs didn’t have room to breathe – the songs themselves were pretty new and weren’t road tested yet. I think we came away uneasy about it and we knew pretty quickly that it was going to be a stretch to make this the record that we imagined in our heads. It took a long time to get a mix the first time around and we kept second guessing then we just decided it’s way better just to scrap it and be comfortable with it.

BT: How do you feel about what you have now?

Caleb: I feel really, really good. To some extent, I think it’s a really satisfying record for the goals that we had at the time that we made it. It satisfies the goals that we set out to accomplish, which I think was to expand the tone of our music. A lot of our music up to this point is just very direct, which is fine and good, and I think it’s something that we excel at, but there are a few bands that all of us collectively listen to that explore more atmospheric, moody tones – and just musical colors that we realized just weren’t anywhere in our palate and we wanted to explore that. With the content of the record, I think that it makes sense to be a little bit more reserved and pensive. We accomplished the goals that we set out to do, and I’m really glad we recorded it a second time, and it sounds the way we want it to sound. With all of that said, now to me, it’s an old record. It’s brand new but old to me (laughs). We’re really excited to play the songs. I can’t believe people are finally going to be able to hear them. At some points, during the whole process, it was so prolonged that I didn’t think that it was ever going to happen, so it’s so nice to have it out finally. I’m just excited to get on to the next one and keep writing songs and to have the headspace.

BT: This is a very unofficial interview, but it was very cool to see [your full band set] last night! Great stuff there was a lot of people there.

Caleb: It was fun yeah I didn’t expect it, especially since we were running at the same time as The Ergs! and, I think, Captain, We’re Sinking. A bunch of old legends. It was very kind of people to show up. It feels good.

BT: Which does bring me to the fact that you tour like an animal. What’s that like?

Caleb: It’s a wild time. I was talking to our drummer Josh the other day. He and Danny are not just “backing members” that have helped flesh out the band. Their involvement allowed us to tour, which thus allowed us to figure out how to be a band and to figure out what we wanted from being a band in general. So, a lot of touring was just learning how to fly while in the air and just trying to refine what we were doing and how we were doing it. So we toured for years before we even wrote new songs. So yeah, touring is wild! We haven’t toured full band since March, and its November now.

BT: Yeah, it was a lot of you doing your own thing.

Caleb: Yeah I did a solo tour right around this time last year. It was the first one I ever intended upon doing and the only one I ever planned because I just wanted to get out and do solo sets and figure out what that was about. Then this year when we played South By [South West] our drummer got sick so I had to finish the tour solo, then in April I did a solo tour with Koji, then in August I did another solo tour with Pinegrove. So, I just got asked and circumstantially wound up doing these things a bunch. But all that aside we just took a long break from touring the first actual break in three years. It’s been an interesting thing; I think we’re going to have a different perspective on touring now, hopefully, smarter. I live for it, man. I’m so ready to get back on the road; it’s where most of my formative memories have been formed over the past several years, it’s where I’ve met all of my friends, it’s where I met you. It’s been a really good time.

BT: All right, this brings me to my sillier questions.

Caleb: You can go there if you want to (laughs).

BT: OK, well we had talked a couple of years ago about how we’re both “rogue Catholic boys,” and that’s all I have written down. No question mark. It’s just an interesting dynamic in the punk community, I think.

Caleb: Yeah! There was a time when it was an antagonizing thing; I related to it in a way that I think was pretentious. It was a punk way of relating to things. I was warring with myself and warring against a false idea that, I think, may have originally been a good thing. Now that I’ve been separated from the context of belief for so long I’ve allowed myself to approach it in a way that’s direct and free and without mitigating factors, so it’s become a lot more of a pleasant thing. I don’t have anyone telling me what to believe. I have a community of people around me that I can practice my beliefs with, see what works, what’s breaking, and what can stand on two legs. I don’t feel plagued by it now. I realize that it’s kind of a lens through which I see the world and whether that lens is based on myth or not, I don’t necessarily know that it matters. They’re stories that we tell ourselves to make sense of the world, and it roughly makes sense to me.

BT: I just find that it helps me love better.

Caleb: Exactly! Yes, absolutely. That’s all I want to do is just be able to treat other people better. I hesitate to classify it this way – in a pretty liberal group of believing people at home. In a weird way – this is a conversation I just had recently, so I’m willing even to go there – like we just said, belief and all of those good things help me love people better and see people as whole stories, balanced good and bad halves. It just helps me see people as whole beings. Sex, in particular, has become invigorated by that belief. “I guess, sometimes a Godless universe would have you believe you’re just fucking flesh but when you think about that you’re having sex with a whole human being – a person’s story, a person’s emotions, their own subjective view of the world – it becomes much more enthralling.”

BT: That’s quite lovely.

Caleb: Yeah absolutely! That’s of course only one way of connecting with a person, but it’s a really cool thing.

BT: Probably one of the more popular ways.

Caleb: Yeah absolutely! Allowing myself to greet religion and belief in a way that gives me elbow room to swing around and see what I think about things, allows me to apply it in places that in a church context would be uncomfortable and weird. So just like try to apply it to liberal politics and sex and see what sticks, see what works!

BT: I think that wonderfully shows through your music. Caleb, I’m going hug you live.

Caleb: I love you, Mike. Thank you so much.

Last modified: November 17, 2016