The Indianapolis-based rock trio Cairo Jag are this month’s featured Small Studio Sessions artist. The group is gaining notoriety for a pounding, hard-edged sound -- music they describe as "heavy psych". WFYI’s Kyle Long spoke with Cairo Jag, and the band shared some of their musical and cultural influences.
Kyle Long, WFYI: Each of you are from disparate locations within the state of Indiana. Tell me about where each of you come from.
Curt Turner: I’m from Greenfield, which is about 25 minutes east of Indy.
Long: The boyhood home of James Whitcomb Riley.
Turner: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been to that house. I see it every day.
Joe Wise: I’m from Bargersville, Indiana.
Nolan Schockman: I’m from Evansville, Indiana.
Long: There have been a lot of very radical and heavy bands that have come out of the Midwest. In Michigan, you have the MC5, and The Stooges. Ohio has the Dead Boys, and crazy bands like Pere Ubu. What do you think it is about the Midwest, or the environment of the rural landscape of America, that produces heavy, aggressive, and volatile bands?
Turner: I know what you're saying.
Schockman: All those bands have a bit of rowdiness to them. I don't know how it got cultivated here.
Turner: Obviously, with bands like the MC5, there were riots in Detroit, and all the cultural revolution stuff. So that was a hostile environment for a while.
Long: You’re talking about the MC5 responding to that moment of chaos in Detroit – did the social unrest that unfolded in Indianapolis in the aftermath of the George Floyd murder influence your work?
Turner: We went to some of the protests. We were writing this EP right around that time, too. Yeah, there was definitely a strange air going.
Long: Curt, are you the primary lyricist for the group?
Turner: Yeah, for the most part.
Long: I want to ask about the band’s lyrics, which often paint a very dark landscape. Are you writing abstractly? Are you writing about Indianapolis? Tell us about your lyrics.
Turner: Both – sometimes they're absolutely about nothing, but then sometimes there's purpose, like “New Winds” specifically. Thinking about it now, it is reflective of the stuff that was happening with the riots and the protests.
Long: On your Bandcamp page, the band is described as “heavy psych”. I think everyone has a different definition of what psychedelic music is. Do you guys have a definition of psychedelic music that you could share with us?
Wise: I think with this new record, the nature of us just kind of going off in jamming and staying away from the song is where our psychedelic feature comes in.
Turner: We are heavy, you know, some of our stuff can get pretty hard and abrasive. But at the same time, to me, it's still psychedelic. Like you said, it's a very elusive word that can be put onto anything. A lot of things are psychedelic.