Last month, I had the pleasure of attending Capricornus’ first ever show. The group is somewhat of a local supergroup, with guitarist Josh Gwin, drummer Chris Beal and bassist Bill Melton taking the stage. I had seen all of them in previous groups over the years, and everyone at the venue knew their front-man, the eccentric and exceptionally talented Pauly Cunningham.
Cunningham is probably best known from his time fronting Columbus rock band This Day Forever. After the group went on hiatus he decided to take some time away from playing music, doing work on the audio/visual side of things. In 2015 he felt the itch to start making music again, and called upon Melton to see if he might be interested in collaborating.
“Initially, I just wanted to make cool music and record it,” explains Cunningham. “I had toured from New York to Los Angeles and I was just over it all.”
The group tried out a handful of drummers before plucking Beal out of the fray, and Cunningham says after a handful of practices they decided that adding a second guitarist would give them a little more freedom on stage.
“Adding Josh (Gwin) was huge for us, because it allows me to be more dynamic in my playing but also in my singing,” he said.
As far as their inaugural show, Cunningham said he was initially against it because the band hadn’t actually recorded any material yet.
“We were going to wait and record first, but we just loved the songs so much. When Dustin (Rinehart from Daymare) asked us if we wanted to play with them, we jumped at the opportunity,” he admitted.
“Honestly, it ended up being a glorified dress rehearsal,” he laughingly said. “We had only really practiced eight or nine times as a quartet, so this was our best chance to really tighten things up.”
Cunningham had another admission for the show that wholly shocked me. He said he hadn’t actually written lyrics for any of the seven songs the group played that evening.
“90 percent of what we did was just completely off the cuff,” he explained. “I had some ideas in my head and I had a few choruses written down, but other than that I was just singing what came to mind and what felt good at the time.”
They could’ve fooled me on both of those fronts. They provided a tight, cohesive and melodic set that drew a resounding round of applause from the patrons at The Shrunken Head that evening. Cunningham confessed that he’s never really cared about lyrics as much as making music.
“Rather than having lyrics or song titles, we just ‘named’ the songs after the bands they sounded like,” he revealed. “We had Helmet, Jimmy (for Jimmy Eat World), Social D, etc. The last one didn’t sound like anything, so we called it If You Care.”
We both had a laugh at that one, but the undertone was clear; Cunningham loved the idea of shrouding his band in a foggy enigma. He didn’t talk to the crowd before or during the set, they never said their name. They even dimmed the stage lights before they played, having only massive light towers illuminating each member from the rear.
“About half-way through the show, someone from the crowd asked ‘hey, what are you guys called?’” said Cunningham. “I just laughed. I loved playing in the shadows like that.”
The band is of course named after the constellation, and Cunningham himself is a Capricorn and loves the imagery of a sea goat. He felt it was appropriate, as the band was a three-piece at the beginning, and the constellation has three corner points.
Currently, the band is in the final stages of working on a six song EP, recorded with Joe Viers at Sonic Lounge Studios. Cunningham says he’s worked with a ton of producers and engineers in his time making music, and knew that working with Viers would be a good idea, because the latter is great at capturing things just the way the band wants it to be.
“I don’t want the record to sound like a dry rock record. I want it to be big and ambient. I want everything to be huge.”
As far as the lyrics go, Cunningham says that even now he doesn’t have much of them written out. He says that having the finished musical product gives him more flexibility when it comes time to write the words, which seems like a brilliant tactic as opposed to having a ton of words lined up and nowhere to go with them.
The band doesn’t have a current timetable as far as finishing production goes, and Cunningham says he likes it that way.
“We don’t have expectations to play a lot of shows, make a lot of money, or re-ignite a true 100 percent musical career,” he admits. “I’ve already done that. Like I said, I’ve toured from New York to LA twice over, and the guys have all been in bands that have gone places before. We just want to make great music again.”