David Chastain has always been searching for a place to call home.
On the verge of moving to Portland, Ore., Chastain ended a major chapter in the story of Shipwreck Karpathos, his swelling instrumental post-rock band that’s been around for over half a decade.
Like the loud, massive band he fronts, Chastain wanted his tenure in Indianapolis to go out with a bang. So with their one final show, the band hosted an all-day, 12-band show at the Irving Theater, which also helped celebrate the release of their debut 60-minute concept album, Bring Down the Sky.
By 9:45 last Saturday night, right before they began their final set, Chastain properly greeted the crowd, saying what everybody was already thinking.
“I’m going to start a pool right now to see how long it takes me to cry,” he said.
He got to the second song without crying.
Chastian spent a portion of his young adult life split between Indiana and California. During this time, he began writing songs on his guitar. In late 2009, Shipwreck Karpathos formed, but, in its early stages, began as a pop punk band. Over the years, he evolved the sound into its current post-rock form.
Shipwreck Karpathos became the home he was looking for, he said.
With Chastain at the center of the band’s writing, it has gone through several lineup changes. Eventually, the band landed on fellow guitarists Robby Klingerman and Joel Tucker, bassist Nick Arbogast, and drummer Jake Watson.
The band is named after a photograph by Steve McCurry of a ship-breaking yard.
“The picture really stuck with us, and after talking to Travis [Harvey, owner of Muncie’s Village Green Records] about it I did some research,” Chastain writes on the band's website. “These grounds take on and destroy a lot of these ships every year. And what’s crazy about it is that these massive vessels are completely dismantled over a long period of time by just a few guys and a handful of very simple tools. And that’s kind of how this band felt to us.”
While his bandmates agreed that Shipwreck Karpathos is very much Chastain’s musical baby, the band, like most bands, became a group effort. The day before their last show, they practiced in a small Fountain Square living room, starting and stopping, and giving each other plenty of suggestions, cues and some oh-so necessary comic relief.
“This is just a great day,” Klingerman said. “We’re all here. With this practice, given how long it’s been, this has been a fucking great Friday."
After a nearly four-hour practice, the band stuck around to package CDs of Bring Down the Sky,
which were given out to everyone who attended their final show. Recorded by Austin Wooten at In Color Studios, the seven-track album features the entire lineup, with additional bass parts recorded by original member Ian Duvall.
Bring Down the Sky
is a concept album based on a story Chastain wrote himself. Originally to be the score of an animated film, the album tells the futuristic tale of an airship pilot and his first mate who return to their home of Circle City, only to find it destroyed. What follows is their epic journey to stop the forces that caused the chaos.
“If you want the analogy version of it, it’s basically about trying to find home, whatever that looks like for you," he said.
The album, which Chastain said took him about four years to write, became a bigger hassle to record than they anticipated.
“We thought it’d be done in a month,” he said.
After starting the tracking process this past January, the band was only able to be in the studio once a week due to schedule conflicts. Six months later, the album was finally done.
After the years of writing and months of recording, members of the band said there are still little parts they are not happy with.
“It doesn’t sound bad,” Chastain said. “There are just things no one but us will notice that we have issues with.”
Watson said this nit-picky mindset, though important, is an indication of their progression as a band.
“What artist is ever 100 percent happy with their project?" he said.
Totally happy or not, totally prepared or not, their last show was the following day.
While the day was about Shipwreck Karpathos, other ripples of goodbyes floated through the air. Grammaw, a solo singer-songwriter, also made this her her last Indianapolis show before moving to Chicago. Wounded Knee, an Indianapolis screamo band, called this their second-to-last show as well. (Editor's note: Jaeger's band House Olympics also held a slot on the show.)
Rooted in small DIY punk shows, Chastain and the rest of the band were used to playing 20-30 minute sets. But that doesn’t suffice for a farewell show. With a nine-song set list, Arbogast said they had to pace themselves.
The band, sporting dress shirts and skinny ties, played for well over an hour, with an awestruck audience held rapt throughout. With three guitars and numerous effects pedals, waves of sonic layers and overtones hit the audience, full of friends, family, and fellow musicians.
Although there's easy comparisons to Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, and Russian Circles, Shipwreck Karpathos carved out their own niche in the post rock realm. Some songs were ambient and timeless; others fast-paced and driving. Chastain created a slew of sounds using his pedals, and various toys including a violin bow and an EBow. This band proves that post rock can be more than delay pedals and crescendos.
Eventually, it became time for the band’s last song, and hearts were heavy and full.
“I love every one of you here,” Chastain said between tears and the crowd’s cheering. “Thank you all so much for coming.”
Playing one of the first songs they ever wrote, the band concluded the night by abruptly ending the shortest song of their set (a measly four minutes), putting down their instruments and tackling Chastain in what may have been the world record for the longest group hug to take place on a stage.
With Chastain moving to Portland and Klingerman moving to Florida, the remaining members of Shipwreck Karpathos plan to either start a new band or continue other musical efforts.
For Chastain, he said he’s making the big move with his wife Whitney in a couple weeks. Searching for home once again, he said he still isn’t sure what he will be doing for work. But he knows Shipwreck Karpathos will live on.
Planning to briefly strip it down to a solo ambient project, Chastain said he will continue writing and putting out more music once he gets settled in Portland. He said he already has plans to release three EPs, each of which will sound completely different from each other.
Although he mentioned several times that he absolutely hates the idea of replacing Robby, Joel, Nick and Jake, he plans to rebuild the band with new musicians in Portland. Regardless of where his project takes him, he said the Indianapolis chapter will likely be his favorite. But that won’t stop him from continuing the journey.
“I’m going to do Shipwreck until the day I die,” he said.