Great Caesar and the GoGetters performed on Friday, April 3 in Alumni Hall for WQAQ’s Spring Concert. The band shared the stage with Manchester Orchestra, Cut Off Your Hands, and Bear Hands. Mike Farrell, a Quinnipiac student and guitarist for the band spoke with The Chronicle about the band’s formation and their recent achievements.
Farrell is fairly new to the band, unlike the other members. The band started with John-Michael Parker, Adam Glaser and Sean Andrew playing in a jazz trio with sax, bass and drums. Then, Tom Sikes was added on guitar and trumpet a year or so later. Soon after, the band began leaning toward playing rock music instead of jazz, so Andy Calderon was added to play sax while Parker took the microphone as singer for the band. Two years later, Farrell was asked to fill in on guitar for a show. He knew the guys because they attended the same high school.
“I actually hated a lot of the old Great Caesar songs,” Farrell said. “I played a few shows with them and just started becoming a regular fixture, which was iffy at first, as we had to throw a second, sometimes third guitar part into songs that didn’t necessarily need them. It started making more sense as we wrote new songs and Tom started playing trumpet full-time.”
Once Parker went away to school, he met Stephen Chen, an alto sax player. He filled in for Andy for a few shows and eventually ended up rewriting a bunch of horn parts and coming up with these crazy ideas for new songs and we all decided he was a pretty important asset to have.”
Great Caesar and the GoGetters’ sound can be classified as jazzy rock. Farrell mentions that it is often difficult to be a rock band with a horn section, and not ultimately be labeled as ska. Yet, being classified as jazzy rock has stuck. The band considers The Beatles, Muse and Brand New as influences, but they find themselves a diverse group, overall. The band works to create an original sound, using their past influences, yet not imitating anything they have heard before.
“We can start writing a song that sounds like a John Mayer or Mad Caddies B-side and by the time we’re finished you probably won’t be able to pick those influences out,” Farrell said.
Furthermore, Farrell’s favorite song to perform is “Youthenized.” He said that the sound is more guitar-based than the rest of their music, and gets the crowd moving.
“There’s been a few shows in recent memory that the crowd sang the intro louder that John did,” he said. “‘Everyone is a VIP to Someone’ is also particularly awesome because none of the parts I play are that difficult so I can have a lot more fun with it.”
The band also plays a few covers, such as “I Want You Back,” “Let’s Get It On” and “Hey Jude.”
Farrell also spoke of his favorite personal experiences with the band. Minus the Bear and Kevin Devine are two of his favorite artists of all time, and he had the wonderful opportunity to open for both of them last year in Alumni Hall in front of a sold out crowd. Even opening for Manchester Orchestra at WQAQ’s Spring Concert seemed to be surreal. However, the band loves to play with musicians that are their friends. Great Caesar and the GoGetters played over the summer with the band Doctor Rocktopus and the Nunks. Their music styles are similar even though they are still in high school. Farrell calls them their “little brother band.”
In terms of the music-making process, Farrell said a member of the band will usually come to practice with a clear-cut idea of what they have in mind, running through it together a couple times before making drastic changes or setting anything in stone. Band members John or Stephen will usually create the piano or guitar parts “as a skeleton that everything else is built off of.”
As far as moving ahead, the band recently filmed a video for “Everyone is a VIP to Someone” at Yale. One of Parker’s friends, Matt Bakal, did the entire production, filming the band playing in a basement.
“It looks unbelievable, it should be out in a few weeks,” Farell said.
The band is also finishing up their first EP (extended play), which they recorded over the summer. Farrell believes the EP should be officially out over the summer.
Farrell’s favorite memory with the band is their two week tour of the Northeast they went on last summer. The guys booked and financed the entire venture themselves.
“I can’t tell you how unreal it is to be sitting in a coffee shop in Vermont and know the next day I’m going to be in New York or Philly or D.C.,” Farrell said.
Although the band is reaching new levels of success, they still find challenges to overcome every day. For the most part having seven guys at six different colleges makes it difficult to get together when everyone is leading diverse and busy lives. Yet, the band is working to keep it together, only preparing for bigger things to come their way.