Interview: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – Natural Light

We are very pleased to announce TSOI’s first official interview. We look forward to this becoming a regular feature. This interview, conducted a month or so ago, is with Owen, the throbbing brain in formaldehyde, of one of TSOI’s very favorite bands.

March 10 saw the release of a Casiotone for the Painfully Alone singles compilation. A full length of new material is also slated to be released on April 7th, so CFTPA have been mighty busy as of late and therefore we are fortunate to get some CTFTPA to TSOI squawk-time.

TSOI: What are your thoughts on The Sound Of Indie? You are sited by TSOI as the American representative of the most notable world-spanning Tetrarchy since the days of Diocletian. (See April 08th, 2008 Cut Copy post.) Has being bestowed such an epithet changed how you go about your daily life?

I just walk around feeling flattered all day long.

TSOI: The other member of the Tetrarchy are The Legends, Cut Copy, Hot Chip, (and probably should include Ladytron and Ruby Isles as well, but then it wouldn’t be a Tetrarchy now would it?). Are you into any of these bands?

I’ve heard a Hot Chip song that I thought was pretty catchy. I don’t know what it was called but it had a really good vocal melody, I thought.

TSOI: Even though you use keyboards I wouldn’t necessarily assume, in your case, that your major influences are New Wave bands like New Order or Kraftwerk or other often sited electronic bands. Being an old-timer of sorts, nearly every new bands that comes about, I can pretty quickly suss out their influences but not so much with Ctftpa, which in my book, is impressive and laudable. So, the question: What were your favorite bands and what bands influenced you so that I can say “Casiotone are largely derived from _________________, ___________, and _____________ with a touch of _______________ thrown-in for good measure?

I recently got really excited about Kraftwerk again. They were a really important band for me when I was younger and I kind of put them away for a while, but over the last few months, I’ve been listening to their records all of the time all over again. I recently started digitizing some of my record collection and re-investigating some of my favorite old LPs and 45s, and it has made for a really sweet and nostalgic time around my apartment. I have a great deal of fondness for New Order as well, but I haven’t digitally re-discovered any of those old records yet. There is an awful lot of music that has inspired and informed my music, in both positive and negative ways. I feel pretty shitty about comparing my music to other people’s music, though, I kind of think that’s for other people to do, but I will say that YES I like Kraftwerk very very much. I think their music is really heavy, and lately I have been especially interested in really heavy feeling music.

TSOI: The most downloaded track from TheSoundofIndie is a Duran Duran video. Duran Duran of course features probably the most famous keyboard player ever – who has probably done the most to bring the keyboard player out of the role of anonymous factotum to dude with wicked-cool potential. I am , of course, speaking of Nick Rhodes. Any thoughts on Nick Rhodes? If you dig Nick Rhodes as much as we do, why don’t you wear a cape?

I’ve never owned any of Duran Duran’s records, but when I was in high school, my friend Marc got really into their first album and we did a lot of driving around the San Francisco peninsula listening to Hungry Like The Wolf and Her Name Is Rio or whatever pretty loud. That was a good time. I’ve never thought very much about Nick Rhodes, though, and I haven’t worn a cape since I was Superman for Halloween when I was 8 or so. I guess I’m just not that into capes!

TSOI: Any word on the new album? You mentioned the story of bicycle riding bandit at a show earlier this year. I hear ‘concept album’ potential here. If so give us the scoop and elaborate.

The new album is almost done. I still have a few vocal bits to record and then there is some general mixing to take care of. I wouldn’t call it a concept record, but there are definitely some major themes happening, not unlike some of my previous albums. There are a lot of stories about families and children and there are a few songs about bank robberies. I’m of the belief that explaining the various literary devices used kind of takes the magic and discovery out of the experience of listening, so I’d rather not say too much about it, other than that there are some bank robberies and some moms and dads and it’s probably a little more adult feeling than my previous albums. I used to work at a movie theater with a dude who I found out later also robbed banks, and there is a song that is very overtly about him in there.

TSOI: I was recently shocked to learn that Belle and Sebastian were created as a project for a music course. At a show several years ago, I recall that you met members of The Rapture during music coursework in California. How did the courses inform ctftpa? Would you recommend aspiring bands take music coursework and get a bit of an infusion of the academic?

I took a few music classes at San Francisco State University, but nothing too heavy or theoretical. I took a totally basic piano class where I learned some really rudimentary theory, and that was the first time I ever had any real awareness of what a chord was or what the names of any of the notes were. I wrote some of my first ever music for piano that semester. I met Luke from The Rapture in a history of rock n’ roll class the following semester, and by that time, I had recorded some of the very first Casiotone songs and I was playing shows and stuff. I don’t think there is or was anything particularly academic about my music, though. I mean I never got a grade for any of my songs or anything.

TSOI: One of my favorite pop music tropes is name checking cities and their local sites, like you do with St Paul and Nashville, both places I have spent some time. Do you care to comment on the name/site-checking rock-n-roll conceit? What do you make of those cities and do you become a part of a local scene or are you touring to the extent that you are not the product or member of a musical scene?

I always enjoyed songs about specific cities, because I think being able to look at a map and make a musical connection to a place is just a nice feeling. I like the way songs can feel like souvenirs. Some of my songs about places are about specific people from those places, and some are just totally pure speculation. And no I don’t really feel like I’m part of any specific scene. I love the city where I live and the place itself has certainly been an influence on my music, but I don’t know how much that has to do with other people in Chicago’s different bands. I don’t hang out with that many musicians, and the friendships I do have with other local musicians aren’t really based on music. We talk about food and movies and our cats and stuff. Music has always been a pretty personal thing for me, and I think especially because I mostly just play music on my own, I’m used to internalizing a lot of those band-y kinds of conversations. Also, I think touring so much just gets me burned out about talking about music all of the time, so when I get home, it’s nice to think about other things.

Here’s a track from the forthcoming Vs. Children which is released two weeks from today.

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Download: Castiotone for the Painfully Alone – Natural Light

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