Hardcore Band Capra Are ‘In Transmission’: Tyler Harper on Aggression, Vinyl & Guitars (INTERVIEW)

Louisiana-based Hardcore band Capra have been building an album out of blood, sweat, and tears for several years, but the roots of the album reach further back into each member’s musical history and their sense of energy in coming together in a new lineup that affirms each of their goals. With the album complete in 2019, they were talking to labels as the pandemic hit, requiring greater patience. But this also resulted in the positive outcome of several new songs added to In Transmission, an album title that reflects their long process towards release, and in being picked up by Blacklight Media/Metal Blade for the album’s distribution. Now, singles “The Locust Preacher” and “Samuraiah Carey” are out, with a video for “Locust Preacher” and we can look forward to another single/video tied to the album’s release date of April 23rd.

The high-energy album tackles a number of interesting ideas and themes ranging from horror tradition to real-life terrors, and you’re very likely to feel the extra “aggression” coming off the songs that were written and recorded during quarantine, the bonus additions to In Transmission granted by the pandemic experience. I spoke with guitarist Tyler Harper about the band’s underlying ethos, vinyl, and guitars, and got some extra notes from vocalist and lyricist Crow Lotus on some key tracks from In Transmission, too. 

Hannah Means-Shannon: I heard that this has been a long road for In Transmission and that the process of writing over several years has been instilled in this album. 

Tyler Harper: Yes, it was about four years in the making, since we finished it in 2019. We went through lineup changes and the only two original members of the band are Jeremy [Randazzo], the drummer, and myself. Then we started talking to Metal Blade in early 2020, and that was when we decided to hold off on the album, then the pandemic hit and we didn’t get signed until July of 2020. So that pushed everything back, but it was worth the wait. 

HMS: Given that several members of the band have had a varied musical backgrounds and have had to keep going through it all, did that help you see this album through or was it just extra frustrating? 

TH: At first it was frustrating, but then we just did what we do, which is keep writing music. We actually went back into the studio once the album was finished, and we recorded three additional songs that will be a part of this album. So it was both frustrating and it helped us, since we got to put some more songs that we feel passionate about on this album.

HMS: The single and video are out for “The Locust Preacher”. I have to ask if you knew that 2021 was a locust year.

TH: That’s very interesting. Now that you say that, I think I did see an article about them hitting the East Coast of the US. I was trying to see if they would be in Louisiana where we are, but I’m not sure. I actually named this song after a character in a video game who I found interesting. He comes out at night and eats people. We just ran with it. This was a song that I already had going in 2018 when Crow Lotus joined the band, and this was the first song that we got to work on with her. It’s a very special song to us because it’s the first song with this lineup of the band that got finished in its entirety. I already had the song named, but she wanted to do a song about her struggles with sleep paralysis, and it kind of fit in well. It came to be the monster of the song that it is. 

HMS: That’s a great combination of horror themes and real-life horror. As for the video, I love the liveplay sections with the street art on the walls. That came together really well and the lighting is great. But the scripted part of the video really brings together horror themes like we were just discussing.

TH: We just wanted to put something very dark together. We wanted to actually show what it’s like to go through sleep paralysis. On the performance side, we found a really cool location and decided to use that, but I hope we translated sleep paralysis in the video also, from a sense of being held down to the room kind of spinning. And things happening quickly. We also wanted it to portray a sense of chaos and convey what it’s like at one of our performances with a lot of raw energy where we absolutely feel hurt, ourselves, after every show. 

HMS: I’m not sure that’s a great thing for you, physically, but I’m sure fans appreciate it.

TH: It won’t be good later, in the future, but it’s a transformation. When we get on stage, we let go of all of our internal struggles, battles, and worries, and things begin to feel blank, like a clear mind. We lose ourselves to our music. It’s a wonderful feeling.

HMS: That’s a great description. Has making live play videos or livestreaming been a good stop gap for not being able to play live for fans?

TH: We did that for “Locust Preacher” in early January, and it was actually around 33 degrees outside. It was really cold, but we knocked it out in about two days. It’s rare for us to do livestreams. We did one for Metal Injection’s “Slay at Home Fest”. It was fun, but it’s kind of not our way of doing things. We have to feed off the crowd and we like social interaction when we play. It’s hard to do what we do and transfer our energy without people being there in person.

HMS: Yes, a lot of Metal, Punk, and Garage fans feel the same. 

TH: We have a few more videos coming in the future, though. 

HMS: I heard that for those last three songs added to the album, you had to go and record your parts separately in the studio due to Covid. What was that like? I’m gathering that’s not at all normal for you.

TH: It’s not at all normal for us. We are a close family, and we like to go into the studio as a time to really hash the songs out. We all put an ear on it. It felt weird to go in solo and just record the songs how we had been playing them with no extra critique. When you listen to those three songs, though, it absolutely shows a different side of us than would have been released had those songs not been part of the album. I think it got a little bit more thrashy. We were already stuck in quarantine and having feelings about how the world was shifting. 

There’s a bit more aggression in those songs, I think, at least for us. Our first few songs are definitely party songs that are fast and aggressive, but I think you can pick up on almost a sense of anger starting with “Mutt”. Both “Deadbeat Assailant” and “Transfiguration” are very aggressive. I know that in “Deadbeat Assailant”, Crow’s vocals don’t stop. She has so much to say. That’s where we were with all our shows cancelled, staying home, having lost our jobs. But that did give us a lot more time to write music.

HMS: I’m so sorry to hear that. It’s impressive that you all were able to bring something positive out of that. Did those new songs get treated differently in terms of production because you were recording them in this more layered way? 

TH: No, we recorded them the way we usually record because I won’t do any record guitar layers that I can’t play live. I typically play the same part on two or three tracks, and we usually layer that together, but I won’t do anything that one guitar player can’t pull off.

HMS: There’s a lot of wisdom in that!

TH: We want to be as raw and in-your-face as possible. We don’t want to muddy things up. I just went in and recorded guitars, then Jeremy came in and did bass, and drums, and vocals. And that’s what you’re hearing.

HMS: I’m a big fan of old school Thrash, and those bands have many of the same feelings about performing live and recording. It’s all about the music and the fan interaction.

TH: Absolutely. I grew up on Punk Rock. I was listening to Minor Threat, Black Flag, and bands like that. You’ll never hear anything on their albums that they won’t do live. That’s been ingrained in my musicianship.

HMS: I feel like it’s an interesting contract with the audience to be authentic, with no sugar-coating.

TH: I feel like Metal, Hardcore, and Punk all share the same sentiment when it comes to writing music, when you really get down to the OG genres, not the subgenres that spiral out of them. I was asked the other day I was asked what genre I would use to describe our music, and I usually just say, “Rock ‘n Roll” or “Hardcore”, but I found out that there is now a subgenre of Metal and Hardcore called “Metallic Hardcore”, like a hybrid. Which is interesting, though I don’t know a lot about these subgenres.

HMS: It seems like there’s a breaking down of genre specifics right now due to the crossing over of genres in multiple combinations. This is probably linked to how much more music people can listen to via digital platforms. If a subgenre is developing, I tend to wait to see if they solidify and get more interested if they last awhile.

TH: Totally. I feel the same way.

HMS: To talk about the songs on the album a little more what do you think the main musical influences are “Torture Ship”? What were some of the goals for the song when you went into record in the studio?

TH: At the time of writing this one, I was going through some rocky relationship problems and having trouble sleeping. I was listening to a lot of Oathbreaker and Gouge Away, so I’d have to say those two bands really inspired the way I wrote the riffs. I wanted it to be fast, aggressive, to the point, and a punch to the gut. The goal was to capture that raw emotion and feelings I was going through while writing that first riff that starts the song. 

HMS: Regarding the lyrics, can you tell us a little more about the idea that “the future is now”?

Tyler Harper & Crow Lotus: The world is ever growing and changing, and we are now living in a system that, in many different aspects feels almost like something out of an old sci-fi novel. You have to be strong to survive. 

HMS: On “Deadbeat Assailant”, I know this was one of the songs recorded during lockdown, with each band member having to track separately. What makes this a song that works well with the other songs on In Transmission?

TH: I believe this was the first song we wrote while learning that the world was shutting down. This track has a bit of everything that the album has to offer and so much more. It’s relentless. The music and the vocals are constant throughout the entire track. I really think it captures how we all felt knowing that the world was changing. 

HMS: Do you see a difference or development in sound on this song, given that it’s a more recent composition, compared to earlier work for Capra?

TH: In certain aspects, yes. This song was meant to pummel you from start to finish with no breaks. As for sound, we’re never going to stay the same. We’re constantly evolving and trying to out-do ourselves, but we also write how we feel. There will be songs in the future that are less chaotic and there will be songs that are absolutely insane. We try not to limit ourselves to one sound or structure. 

HMS: What were some of the ideas behind the lyrics on this one?

Tyler Harper & Crow Lotus: The idea was to write from the perspective of someone being pursued by a mindless attacker. Many people have this idea that everyone who sets out to harm other people has some sort of elaborate agenda, but sometimes it’s just completely spontaneous and meaningless. 

HMS: I notice that In Transmission is coming out in a number of vinyl variants. How do you feel about vinyl?

TH: We pushed hard for vinyl. Since we’ve become a band and have been recording, our fans have asked for only vinyl. We had an album before this one with a previous vocalist and we did CDs, but they just don’t sell well to our crowd these days. I’m a huge vinyl collector, so I pushed hard for vinyl. We got three variants, which is very cool.

HMS: They look great. I collect vinyl, too. A few people I’ve spoken to really like listening to Punk and Metal on original release, older records. What do you think about how Punk and Metal sound on vinyl, whether old or new?

TH: It depends. I think the regular, standard black vinyl sounds better than any kind of colored variant. I love the sound of a record. I can’t describe it any more than that. It’s not like listening on Spotify or on CD. There’s something about it that feels real. It feels like the way that music was intended to be heard.

HMS: The texture to it is unique, and that might be a byproduct of the breakdown of the vinyl, but it’s special.

TH: Absolutely. It’s almost closer to hearing a band perform live than it is on a digital version.

HMS: Do you have any cool older records or rereleases in these genres?

TH: I have a ton. I have every Fugazi album. I have a bunch of Minor Threat. I actually just order a rerelease of Canada Songs from Daughters, out for the first time in 17 years. I have a bunch of Converge. I have a lot of Punk and Hardcore and the typical older stuff like Black Sabbath or Metallica. I buy a lot online. This last year has killed me. My latest addiction is guitars.

HMS: Everyone has gone over to online shopping. Tell us about something you’ve bought recently. 

TH: I bought a new Gibson SG. It’s red. You can see it in the “Locust Preacher” video. There’s another coming up from a company called GCI, made by Kurt Ballou of Converge. He’s about to release another batch, but I’m ready to buy it. 

HMS: I guess guitars are lasting longer since you can’t play them in live performance. But eventually you’ll get to destroy them in public.

TH: That’s right. They are sitting in their cases right now, waiting.

HMS: What other types of music have you and Jeremy worked with in bands before Capra?

TH: We have been in about nine different bands together. We did pretty instrumental music at one point, then in a band called Wildfires, we did music kind of similar to Capra, and we were in a Doom band called Severer. But with Capra, it’s like we’ve gone back to our roots and it’s like we’re kids all over again, into the music that we really enjoy. It’s a release for all of us. Jeremy and I are both sober, having struggled with addiction and drinking, and all that. This is our outlet. This is what we’ve shifted our focus towards. 

HMS: It sounds kind of like a restart, as well, to reclaim things.

TH: It was absolutely a fresh start for us. 

HMS: You sell a Dune-style band t-shirt. How much should I read into that? Are you all big sci-fi and fantasy nerds too? 

TH: We are a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy nerds for sure. We might have some more sci-fi type designs in the near future. Our Dune shirt does very well. People love it. We just reprinted the orange. The first time we put it up, it sold out. That was designed by my good friend James Woodard who plays in a band called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. He does all of their own merch designs too.

HMS: The images on the new album and merch include a figure who easily could be from fantasy or sci-fi. Can you tell me about that design?

TH: The album cover has a girl with aluminum foil wrapped around her eyes. That was designed by another friend of mine, Ben Fruit. I met him on a Facebook fan group for Every Time I Die. I sent him some music and he sent me that design. We immediately asked him if we could use the design for our album artwork and we’re going to work with him for a while. It was kind of reminiscent of artwork by Jacob Bannon from Converge. We wanted something in that style, something that looked the part of what you’re about to hear. I think it does it justice.

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