Great Caesar, a chamber rock band with a touch of soul, has had quite a week. Last Friday, they performed on Audiotree in Chicago before playing at Uncommon Ground in Edgewater. Earlier this week, they were in Iowa where John-Michael Parker, frontman for Great Caesar and National Dream Director for the education initiative The Future Project, guest lectured for David Gould’s Life Design course at the University of Iowa. The band rocked at the Mill in Iowa City on Wednesday evening.
Tonight, Great Caesar is back home in Brooklyn and playing at the Knitting Factory (8pm, 361 Metropolitan Ave., $12). The show will feature all of the songs from their anthemic upcoming, Jackson’s Big Sky, which will be released on March 25. Using Parker’s work with The Future Project as a lens, I asked him some questions about Great Caesar.
Parker has been involved in The Future Project, an education initiative, since it began with the mission to “work with schools to unlock the limitless potential of every young person in this country.” For three years, he served as a Dream Director, “part social entrepreneur, part community organizer, part transformative coach…to guide students and school communities through The Dreamer’s Journey—the process of discovering a dream that lights you on fire and building a Future Project that brings it to life.” During this time he had less flexibility to travel and play shows with Great Caesar, a band he and Adam Glaser formed when they were in high school in Madison, CT.
Now serving as the National Dream Director, Parker has more flexibility to work remotely and splits his time between The Future Project and Great Caesar. “I have such a deep love and sense of responsibility for the work we do,” Parker says about The Future Project, “so even if my “work” becomes full-time Great Caesar over these next few years (which is what we’re working toward), I’ll always have a eye on (and a foot in) The Future Project.”
GP: What is Great Caesar’s wildest dream?
John-Michael: To make music that is still being listened to in 100 years.
GP: What does Great Caesar care about?
John-Michael: While we’ve tried to make our music in support of (and in the context of) “issues” we care about in all sorts of ways over the years, I think the truest and most important thing to say here is that we care about people being true to themselves and to the people they love, and we try to make music that puts people in a heart and a head space to do so.
GP: What does Great Caesar look like unleashed?
John-Michael: Passionate, joyful, in-tune (and attuned to one another), and sharing the thread with the audience. I think about a show we played at SxSW last year, which was like our 13th show down there and just one of the million shows happening along 6th street that night, but somehow by the end of the set the room was packed and we played one of the greatest shows of our lives. Everyone in that room was on a higher level — I don’t know how else to say it — and it felt like every note and every word and every beat mattered.
GP: Who are Great Caesar’s dream directors and coaches? How have they influenced Great Caesar’s trajectory?
John-Michael: Our greatest Dream Director in this most recent phase has been a dear friend named Mikhael Tara Garver — she’s a brilliant artist and immersive theater director who worked really closely with us over the past year to help us find ways to bring the essential ideas in our music to all facets of our performance, from our live show to our merch to the meta-experience of what she likes to call “joining the GC journey”. Since the first show Mikhael saw of ours she’s always believed in great things for us, and has pushed us in huge ways to get there.
When I think about coaches, or folks who have put in the time to support us along our growth, I think about some of our greatest fans, going all the way back to buddies from high school. The other person I’ve got to shout-out here is a guy named Dave Gould. He’s a professor at the University of Iowa who we met in Vegas, and over the past year has shown us generosity and kindness that no-one outside of our parents has. He’s extraordinary, and we’re all so grateful to him.
Great Caesar, John-Michael Parker (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Mike Farrell (lead guitar), Adam Glaser (bass), Tom Sikes (trumpet, backing vocals), Niki Morrissette (harmony vocals), Tom Stephens (drums), performs tonight at the Knitting Factory (361 Metropolitan Ave.) at 8pm. Tickets are $12. Follow Great Caesar on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.