Back in 2012, Brisbane band The Cairos put out a well-received EP called Colours Like Features, but they took their time following it up with an album.
The band’s frontman Alistar Richardson says they wrote over 100 songs before settling on the ten that would make the final cut for that album, Dream Of Reason. Even after recording it, they’re still writing new ones. “There’s probably been 100 now since the album’s been written as well,” he says. “It’s constant, we just always write music.”
Dream Of Reason’s producer Nick DiDia, who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Rage Against The Machine, had plenty of work sifting through those songs to help them decide which were their best. “It was very good of him,” Richardson says. “He listened to all the demos, which would have been a very daunting prospect for someone to do. So he also came up with his idea of what he thought our best sound was, and how we could come up with an album that really flowed. Luckily his ideas were really similar to ours. I think we all wanted an album that sounded a bit more mature and a bit more – I guess ‘dark’. Not necessarily dark as in ‘evil’ dark, but just a bit more mature.”
They’ve succeeded there. Where in the past their sound stayed firmly within the bounds of catchy, upbeat indie pop-rock, Dream Of Reason includes songs like ‘Insane’, a yearning piano ballad worthy of Eels, ‘Fear Of Madness’, which continues the theme of fragile mental health, and a conclusion called ‘Perspective’ that’s a tale of heartbreak more downtempo and bleak than anything else they’ve done.
“All of us love melancholy music, we always have,” says Richardson. “We love pop music as well, but I think there’s something really powerful in melancholy music that a lot of people really relate to. A lot of our favourite albums are those albums you can listen to, not just in a car driving along, but you can listen to in your headphones in bed, you can really take it in. Having something like that where you can really listen to it, go through the whole thing and feel a little bit more involved with the lyrics, was definitely one of the ideas.”
Those melancholy cuts are contrasted with tracks like ‘Good Day’, a song cheerful enough to do Ice Cube proud – all stress-free adventure and enjoyment. “‘Good Day’ is kind of meant to be, ‘We’re still here, we’re gonna keep doing this.’ And ‘Good Day’ is more of a ‘we as a band’ song, an encouragement. Everything’s all right, we’ll keep on doing it. I guess it is a bit of a journey, just not intentionally one we were writing.”
Although ‘Good Day’ slots easily into The Cairos’ live show, the more downbeat new songs will be a trickier fit. “We haven’t done ‘Perspective’ or ‘Insane’ yet, maybe for club shows they weren’t too appropriate, but we’ll nut them out on the album tour,” Richardson says.
Touring with pop-soul band The Holidays recently wasn’t the ideal environment for testing an acoustic ballad about tragedy. Like the album, The Cairos’ new shows will have to find a way to mature. “If you’re in a club environment, if you start to play the acoustic really quiet and there’s two verses of quiet, and if you can just hear people talking and yelling and stuff, it’s not really gonna work. It’s got to be your own show where people are watching, I think, for us to pull that off.”