Friday, March 2, 2012

Caustic Casanova Interview - February 17th

Interview with Caustic Casanova: Francis, Michael, Stephanie by David Hintz at the Velvet Lounge prior to the show.

I have seen this local trio for a few years now and have chatted with them a bit before. They have a great individual style that really comes together brilliantly in their new album (reviewed here a few weeks back as well). Do try and catch one of their shows and pick up their album if you like things heavy, metal-tinged, psychedelic, a bit progressive, and with a twisted original approach.
David - I'd like to do more interviews like the kind you read by Jack Rabid in The Big Takeover. I just love his interviews as opposed to major magazines where there is skepticism, but they just talk about music, so we'll take it that way.

Michael - Yeah, he sends us emails and actually they are going to review our CD.

Francis - Yes, and he's big on getting people to buy ads. He says it includes everything. It's only $25 for a quarter page or whatever

D - So anyway on to Caustic Casanova. Your album is out and I enjoy it quite a bit. I expected it to be good and it turned out to be better. Did you enjoy the recording of it? I mean J. Robbins is certainly a key figure here and I think he knows his way in the studio.

M - I think it was a very special experience. We were very excited to get there and get to work. I think it went much more smooth than we could have ever imagined. Not only does he know his way around the studio backwards and forwards, but he's truly a very very nice person. On the first day I was particularly nervous, quite frankly working with a figure like that, but he made us comfortable those first two hours.

F - He produced like one of my five favorite albums of all-time, Robot/Hive Exodus (by Clutch) in 2005. So I was beyond excited. We are genuinely, not like best friends, but we consider each other friends. That's a pretty thing to come out of a working relationship of any kind. We are going to go visit him on Sunday, drop off CDs and chat.

Stephanie - I mean I was really sad about leaving. You go into the studio and its hard work. You are in there for 12 hours a day, a week at a time. But I was genuinely sad about leaving. It was that good an experience.

D - Great.

M - The thing is we have only had experience doing things ourselves before. This was fun as we had never done anything before, but later it is just laborious. We did an ep/album in college with a guy who did not know what he was doing. Then we did one in like four days which is our other CD which is good and we are proud of it, but in four days in a guy's basement, so you just can't put a price on having someone who really knows what they are doing and is one of the best people out there based on my ears with the drum sound he gets. So it was just awesome as he got the perfect tone, knowing we had never been in a studio before, knowing that we were good enough. He did make sure we did the best we could do without being mean about it or anything. He wouldn't accept bad or subpar performances, but it was in a real collegial way.

S - He just added to whatever we were doing. He was never trying to influence us to do this--this sounds better, I want you guys to do this. Do what you want, you are the band.

F - He would say Michael likes this sound, so why don't we get out these five pedals and connect them together and see what that sounds like. Here's a good example of what a cool guy he was. For one of our (shorter) songs, "Your Spirit Festooned on the Bedposts", which is like a minute and half solo guitar piece; J. Robbins gets out this Leslie speaker which is like a refrigerator. We learn how it works while we dust it off and we spend like two hours setting up that for a minute and a half piece. Over two weeks, that is the kind of detail that makes it sonically polished.

D - Yeah that's good, because you had the songs written before you went in, which is not always the case. So you had the songs and sounds in mind? Or did the studio allow you to reshape your ideas?

F - Yeah, it would be like our ideas but he would how best to get them.

D - What are the most amount of guitars going at one time?

F - There is like a LOT on there.

D - Like the Sex Pistol had something like 35 guitars going at once at times.

F - Yeah, well all rhythm tracks are double tracks at a bare minimum. I think, though that the most that are going on most of the time is three probably. I mean, Michael is a really good guitar player, so you might think there are two guitars that are sonically compatible, but there is not. He's really good at using echo and retaining a note that works with another note.

D - Yes, I pick that up live.

M - I think there's one part in "the Space Needle" where there's three different guitar parts going and the double tracked rhythm.

D - Yeah, I didn't sense anything too crazy going on.

F- Yeah we didn't want to get too away from the live sound. Something where there were three incredible lines he'd like to do, but there's not way there's 25 guitars. And any time anyone says that, it's nonsense anyways. Like Billy Corgan using 100 guitars on one Smashing Pumpkins track. I mean, it sounds like three guitars. It just makes it worse to me if you are saying you used 50 guitars to sound like 3. We used one of J. Robbins' Beartone guitars.  What did you use?

M - I used a single coil, I used my Explorer, I used the Beartone for a couple things.

D - The songwriting... I am curious about that. Do you write together, add parts.

M - There's no easy answer. We have different approaches. Some songs come in that are... Francis will come in with a song that is pretty well written, like structured and then I will build around some and Stephanie and I will figure out how the two of us can build around that. And then there is some songs that we sort of jam out.

F - It's like you know, writing is weird. I love the way we do it and that is why I love being in this band. It is because I could say I wrote the song, but that is not what the song really is. When you are a three-piece and you are required to put in a performance. I think we all take pride that we are good musicians. If Michael writes a song or I write one... what might the legal definition of who writes it--like if he comes in with four riffs and a melody or the lyrics or something. But that's not to me what writing is. I wouldn't want to take credit for that, I don't either of us would.

M - We just try to be open minded, if someone brings in the idea, to try and build upon it.

F - When we were in college, there was a lot more of a 'this is the song' that Michael and I would come in with, you know. But every year, we've grown together, which is why it so fun writing now as we're writing a new record now. It's so fun to do because now it's all three of us have come so much closer that now we all know that anything we can do, like we can instrumentally do it.
D - So it has always been the three of you and how long have you been playing?

M - Fran and I started playing in 2004, the two of us working on songs.

S - I joined in the spring of 2005.

F - We had a different drummer for one day. And we were called the Casanovas then. But we met Stephanie the next winter, a burgeoning medium known as facebook had just started (laughter) and we were searching at William & Mary and their were only five people who had 'drummer' as an interest and she was the first person we contacted.

S - And the timing was just perfect because about 2-3 weeks after that drumming was no longer an interest of mine. So had it had not been there, they would have never found me.

F - We had a friend of ours play drums and all he could do was play snare drum. We couldn't believe he told us he could play drums. We were so desperate for just anyone.

S - Well, thanks. (laughter).

F - So she just came in and went (snare shot-high hat sound). We went fine, you're in, you're the drummer. Like if you can just do a little beat for half a second, that's fine.

S - And I have learned tremendous amount since then. I am the quintessential self-taught drummer. I took drum lessons one summer from a really good drummer, but that amounted to about five lessons and so I just played whenever I could. But being in this band has increased my abilities exponentially.

D - I would agree that you are good musicians and you can probably push each other upward because of that.

S - And we have just an amazing amount of chemistry being together for like seven years. That plays into the song writing aspect, too, where someone can say that's cool, keep going.

D - Now it has taken a while to put this record out and you have put it out yourselves, correct?

F - Yeah, we have a little label ourselves and we would like to try to put out other band's albums. There are cool bands we know of that we would like to try to organize.

D - It can be done, it's hard but still possible.

F - I think it can be done if you really believe. Did you see us play with a band called Disco Machine Gun?

D - Yes.

F - I really believe in that guy.

D - They were very good.

F - I would put my neck out for that band to work up CDs, mail them wherever because I have a passion for them.

D - Yeah, I just reviewed his Bottle Rocket ep which was very good, along with some other music. They are very, very good. You can really hear it on their records in addition to the live audience. Which is also true of your band now that the record is out. The quality of records that come out independently is just stunning, maybe even more than it used to be.

F - So we sat on the record for a while to see if there was any interest from labels and there was, but there was the label that puts out the Screaming Females (Don Giovanni Records), but they were like you know, we only under incredible circumstances will put out a band not from New Brunswick, New Jersey. And another one was like we can do this in 2013.

M - So it could have been worse.

F - But we are getting it played on college radio now...

D - Yeah, I mean if you do go to a higher level, bands tend to go to a public relations person as opposed to a label perhaps.

F - We did not really want to use a small label because we were probably going to do more work than they would and then it also took so long because we had delays with the art work, etc. The cover work was done by Michael's girlfriend who is a wonderful artist and the layout and the rest of the packaging was done by a woman named Mackie Osborne, who is Buzz Osborne's (Melvins) wife who has done some things for Tool and Bad Religion and I think she found the motif we were looking forward. She does a good job with old timey looking stuff. When you approach someone with 'I don't have a lot of money' and they give you an incredible discount on their services, then it can take you five or six months. You get unanswered emails... But we are happy with it. We had it mastered by Bob Weston of Shellac. That is another thing that took time. And we had production delays where the CD got made incorrectly.

M - Everything that went wrong...

S - Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong.

M - Post the wonderful experience at the J. Robbins studio.

D - Yeah, we're getting more on the business side of things...

M - Yeah, like Fran just said, every single step of the way something came up, whether it was just us being low on the totem pole, or actual manufacturing problems. We still are awaiting the vinyl version which had problems with the lacquer. We were going to have that ready for the show, but hopefully for the next one.

D - Well, that was my next question.

F - That'll be cool, I'll send you one. Do you like vinyl?

D - That's a difficult question actually. Yes and no. I like to hold it and look at it, but I tend to play it once, record it and never touch it again because I hate scratches and pops so much. People talk about the warmth of the sound, but they wouldn't hear that on many of my old records (laughter). You see, I live in a condo and have over 2,000 records stuffed in every corner, so I kind of like it, but...

M - It is cool art.

D - It's funny, because I'm glad it is around and young people are picking up on it, I mean do you guys buy vinyl?

All - Yes.

F - I like to get downloads for IPODs, CDs, but I also like to have vinyl for the artwork. It is an art form.

D - That is the thing that people missed with it over the years, it's that big thing that you can hold and look at the art, because your art work is quite good...

M - I absolutely love that element of it.

F - Our vinyl release will have some things different than the CD, so it is a cool package.

D - Yeah, one music magazine will ask you 'are you vinyl, CD or MP3?' And it is all the above really.

M - Definitely.

S - My parents still have a huge record player from the 60s, so the next time I go home, if I ever buy vinyl, I can play it.

D - Ah, ok, is it like one of those big console things?

S - Yeah, it's like the size of this table.

D - That's the sort of thing I started with.

S - I mean that has me covered, and I do like the art like mentioned.

D - I would like you to discuss the music that inspired you earlier on, and as a younger (than me) band, I am interested in how you discover things going back before 'your time'.

S - I actually just recently started getting into that (older material). I know these guys have gotten into it longer than I have.

F - I did not get into music at all until I was 16. I had not interest at all, although I listened to embarrassing things (laughter). I had no interest until I saw AC/DC play. I had never really listened to their songs before. I didn't actually know them. My parents listened to music and my friends were into Nirvana in like 3rd or 4th grade, but I did not really have the musical upbringing.

D - So you did not play anything at that point.

F - I did not play anything then, but I heard it and I thought that's really cool. I really like that, it's awesome and I just became obsessed with AC/DC. I was on their message board at all times and then I got obsessed with classic rock, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, basically the hard rock. Then I heard Rush for the first time, I thought that was really cool. I am not sure you really know at the time what a bass was, although I guess I did, but once I heard Geddy Lee, I thought that was really cool, And nobody really plays the bass, everybody plays guitar, so I'll play that and my parents thought it was a good idea. I got one when I was a senior, didn't know how to play it for a while and then just kind of kicked around by myself for a while and then I played in sort of a death metal band for a couple of summers and then Michael and I started playing while we were in college, kind of messing around in a little jam band. We were friends, much better friends now, but he kind of inspired me to do it more, take it more seriously and ever since then I don't go a day without playing.
D - OK, sounds good, Michael?

M - I guess everyone has stages, but for me the part about going back and discovering stuff... if it is going back aways, that comes from listening to stuff with my Dad. I started listening to things like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young from my Dad and then even when I was really little, he would get early U2 at a very small age. So for me, I was interested in music since I was very young, but I could not perceive playing it. But when I got to be a teenager I got introduced to things like the Smiths, the Cure and then once those things were n place, for me, it's now like a scavenger hunt to find out things I'm not familiar with. It's so idiosyncratic from band to band. You'll read a review and it will compare a band that you know and like to X band and you then seek it out and you may like it as much, so you connect the dots.

D - That brings me to your mention of Disco Machine Gun. Do you network with other bands through social media or do you meet them one by one as you play with them at a show?

S - Definitely, social media is used. It started with Myspace until that go not really usable. But things like Twitter we use a lot--Michael does most of our Twitter. We'll consistently get 5-10 new followers a day by just constantly putting our stuff out there. And then the way we got shows, in the beginning a lot, was staying in touch via email and now Facebook.

F - Yeah, I mean the Internet does involve a lot of social media. It's nice that now Facebook, formerly Myspace, that  every band has the page that looks pretty much the same and that you can find email addresses. It is a very efficient way of connecting. If everyone had a web site, that would be fine, too, but not everyone has a website. But we are only close with bands that we have played with.

M - The bands that I know where I feel connected with are the bands I've seen live and have followed like the bands we've played with and was smitten after seeing them live.

S - It just depends on whether we choose to stay in touch with bands, that we would like to play with.

D - Yeah, I have seen with you other good bands that you have set up to play with. I say the same thing about a band like the Mostly Dead. So you have a good ear to get  good bands with you on the bill.

F - We do have impeccable taste (laughter)

D - What about playing out now. Are you going to try to get more out of town shows.

F - South by Southwest. We are doing that in March and we are doing that with Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie if you know that showcase they have.

D - Yes.

F - And we just had that offered.

S - Two or three weeks ago.

F - Yeah, and that's a lot to do, so we're scrambling around and trying to get other shows. So far we have another show in San Antonio, one in Houston, a radio interview in San Antonio...

M - KSYM in San Antonio

F - College radio, they were really positive about our record. Then potentially, we might play in Nashville or Alabama, or Atlanta or Charlotte, hopefully one or two of those. Some people are really positive and a lot of people, while others... But some people are really helpful. So we're gonna do that in March and there might be some shows in April.. Philly, New York, Disco Machine Gun and us may do some show trades.

D - Is New York the furthest north you've played?

F - We've played Northampton, MA.

D - Cool, I have friends there...

M - It's not expensive in east coast, so we cover from Atlanta, Georgia to Northampton.  But now we'll go out to Texas.

F - What I would really like to do is go to Chicago, maybe Cleveland, Chicago, even if that's it. I have some cousins that follow us out there and I would love to get out there.

D - Great music town (where I used to live). I used to know bands from there.

S - Big Black.

D - I go on to tell a long story about John Haggerty, Santiago Durango,  the recent SLF show, and all my various connections in Chicago... Articles of Faith, Effigies, Steve Bjorklund, etc.

We talk further about how they all have a great time playing together and can't imagine doing anything else. I said then and say now that it is quite evident that these three can create great music together and the positive attitudes are evident.

No comments: