Q&A: Great Caesar Talks about high school talent shows, dream bills, surprise publicity, and more



Great Caesar started making music together back in high school, performing at weddings and local talent shows before finally taking it to the road. The band became wildly popular with the outstanding success of “Don’t Ask Me Why.” Band members Tom Sikes, Mike Farrell, and John-Michael Parker took some time to chat with us about the band’s history and what you have to look forward to on December 5th.

Tell us a bit about how you came together and started making music. Was your first meeting (or band practice) particularly noteworthy? Do people ever greet the band with “Hail, Caesar” or something equally awkward?
Tom Sikes: Ha… we don’t hear too much of that, but we do get “Caesar” spelled wrong on marquees and show fliers pretty much everywhere we play. Too many vowels. But, to answer to the first part of your question, we were 15 year-old classmates when we started playing together, mostly at weddings and high school talent shows, so we weren’t too worried about our marketability. We stuck it out though, and started taking our music careers more seriously after moving to New York together in 2010. That’s when we wrote our most recent EP and singles, started playing longer tours and getting a little more momentum.

You guys turned heads in 2014 with your video for “Don’t Ask Me Why.” Can you tell us a bit about what that did for you guys as a band? What were the reactions like? Did the publicity surprise you?
TS: It’s interesting — the Don’t Ask Me Why video was definitely a big moment for us, and the publicity was really exciting and gratifying, especially from groups like GLAAD and people like Russell Simmons who have done way, way more significant work for the kinds of causes we were trying to support with the project. But at the same time, we found that a lot of the response was sort of outside the music world, if that makes sense — like the project was more of a social justice short film than a music video. And at the time, that’s what we had really set out to create, so we were incredibly proud of it. Ultimately, Don’t Ask Me Why helped our music reach a lot of new people and hopefully make a difference, if only in the smallest way, but touring, playing festivals and finding other ways to perform for people as often as we can has always been the best kind of publicity for us.

LPR’s On The Rise series was created to help further support local acts around NYC. Who have you guys seen recently that you’ve rather enjoyed and think our readers should check out?
Mike Farrell: I’m excited for whatever Pavo Pavo’s going to put out next. I saw them play a show recently with Landlady, who were debuting a bunch of new material, and both their upcoming records are going to be really great. I also just saw a guy named Edward Korft, he’s basically a one-man sadboy band. He has this insane video projection, it was like every song was his own music video, but then he’s writhing around on the floor singing about putting in minimal effort and starting a band with just his laptop and it’s all subverting millennial culture in a clever way. I’d never seen anything like it.

Tell me a bit about your dream bill(s). Who do you think should tour together? Who are you itching to tour with?
MF: We played a show with Rubblebucket once, it would make me so unbelievably happy to tour with them and see their show every night. I’d love to tour with Kiev for the same reason. But an impossible dream bill would definitely be Dark Side-era Pink Floyd with Tame Impala opening. Maybe Kiev 1st of 3. I think my brain would melt.

Life, of course, exists outside of New York. Are there any other cities you guys look forward to touring in?
MF: I’m pretty excited to get back to Austin, TX. We were there for SXSW and, while I’m not naive enough to think that I got any sense of what the city is actually like, it feels like a place I can agree with on principle. There’s a culture of respect for music and for food that’s unlike anywhere I’ve ever been, and I can totally get down with that.

New York’s an interesting place for musicians, artists, and creatives these days. You’ve probably heard Patti Smith’s take on it before. In a talk at Cooper Union, she said: “New York has closed itself off to the young and the struggling. But there are other cities. Detroit. Poughkeepsie… New York City has been taken away from you… So my advice is: Find a new city.” Do you guys feel this way? Is there another city that’s calling your name?
Jean-Michael Parker: Well, we’re still here, right? I mean, there are many folks across this city who are truly struggling and for whom this “closing off” has extraordinarily high stakes — to say nothing explicitly of the gentrification and socio-economic and racial factors underlying this observation — and it is our privilege that keeps us from really feeling that struggle. But let me not get too far off book here… The musicians in Great Caesar, like many musicians and artists in and around this scene, are lucky enough to find a way to make rent and make art — if that weren’t the case, I’m sure I would have a different answer here. I think that at the end of the day, New York City still calls to us most loudly, and that’s why we’re motivated to find a way to make it work. Having said that, I can totally understand the folks who choose to leave here — whatever the mix of economic, social, and lifestyle reasoning that went into that decision — and head to Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Oakland… I guess you’ll have to check in again with us in a few years and see if we’re still around 🙂


What can we expect in 2016?
JMP: Well, we’re hard at work on a few releases for early 2016, from a single to a music video to a full EP, so keep an eye out for those in the new year! We’ll be hitting the road in the spring to support that, and hopefully making our way all the way to LA again. By the end of the year we’d like to have our first full-length in the works — but a lot of that will depend on how the next releases are received, so keep an ear out and let us know what you think!

And last but not least, tell our readers in 140 characters or less just why they should come out to see you on 12.05.
Great Caesar will get you moving, thinking, and singing along, and leave you with some tunes that will keep you going for days to come.
Stop by on December 5th and Great Caesar perform #LiveatLPR with Haybaby and Stolen Jars, as part of LPR’s On The Rise series.
post by b.s.