Written by: Paul Gleason
For Caustic Casanova, the time is now. The Washington, D.C.-based trio – Francis Beringer on bass and vocals, Stefanie Zaenker on drums and vocals, and Andrew Yonki on guitar – are set to release their first album on Retro Futurist on September 25, 2015.
With the addition of Yonki on guitar and Beringer and Zaenker’s new approach to vocals, the as-yet untitled LP promises to be their best work yet – and that’s saying something. The band’s previous album, Someday You Will Be Proven Correct, was one of the finest records of 2012, simply reveling in an eclectic brew of punk, metal, and psychedelic space rock. It was excitement incarnate.
Caustic Casanova’s recent 7-inch – Pantheon: Volume 1 – hints at their new sound. But, with musicians as talented and creative as Beringer, Zaenker, and Yonki, who knows what thrills await on their Retro Futurist debut?
All three members of Caustic Casanova sat down with SEM to discuss the band’s past, present, and future, as well as to preview their forthcoming work.
SE: How would you describe Caustic Casanova’s sound? It’s very eclectic…but one of the influences I hear is Dischord Records’ punk.
FB: I think it’s pretty common for us to be described as sounding like Dischord Records-era D.C. punk because you hear “D.C.” and people get that in their heads right away. And we’re sort of a rock trio that can be really lean and mean and sometimes really out there. There’s certainly a lot of that going on with octaves, like in Fugazi and in a lot of the other bands that were influenced by them. I’m personally not very influenced by that stuff in my writing – but maybe in aesthetic. But it’s always a compliment to hear, and I love it when people say it. It’s an honor to be compared to those bands and that sound, even though I probably hear it less than a lot of people.
SZ: Yeah, I wouldn’t say that I hear it too much. I think typically we like to describe our sound as eclectic heavy rock.
SE: Andrew, do you have anything to say about that?
AY: Yeah, living in D.C. for 10 years – and with Francis being a lifelong resident of the D.C. area – I think it’s not impossible to mistake the influence of the Dischord scene overall. Honestly, one of the reasons I moved to D.C. was my romanticized view of the D.C. hardcore punk scene. It was still happening at the time but just with different bands. When there’s such a strongly entrenched sound and aesthetic in the city, you’re going to hear a lot of it. You’re kind of immersed in this sonic culture, and even if it’s not intentional. It’s like when I watch the Fugazi documentary, and I see them performing their improvisational jams. We definitely have an element of that in us because our band dynamic is so strong. It’s kind of that idea that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and I think we have a lot of that going on with what we do, but sonically it’s not intentional, even though it definitely seeps through
FB: Andrew’s response made me think that what Fugazi had was a really strong, tight rhythm section – and for songwriting that allows for a lot of guitar freedom and playfulness and creativity over the top of that. That’s what I think people are hearing, even though I’m coming at it from a lot more of a vague, “classic rock” and blues perspective a lot of the times when I’m writing. But we all write songs and basically say, “Andrew, do the craziest stuff that you can think of over the top of it.” It comes out as seeming really post-punk in a lot of ways.
SE: What really struck me when listening to your music is that the three of you come off as individual personalities with individual influences that really mesh together well as a band. And I think Fugazi had that same thing. Would each one of you talk about the musicians who inspire you?
SZ: You’re definitely on to something there. All three of us share a passion for heavy music in general. And we all really like a lot of progressive rock, progressive metal, and post-rock. But all three of us grew up listening to different styles of music. I remember that the biggest impact on me was the first real show I ever went to: the band Thursday, in Richmond. I think Denali opened. It was actually on my 16th birthday, and it was just so loud and heavy. It was a pretty small venue, pretty intimate…and they have a pretty big sound. And I just remember being so struck by that and how passionate Geoff Rickley was, and to this day, Thursday remains one of my favorite bands. That was really when I was like, “Oh yeah, I could really see myself being a musician.” And I was already a musician. I grew up playing in bands in elementary school, middle school, and high school. I played trumpet and drums, so I was already on that side of things, but I started going to shows and buying records and stuff in high school. I like a lot of the heavy stuff. I also like a lot of eclectic indie rock. Metric, Minus the Bear, Thursday, and Denali are probably my four favorite bands.
AY: I’ve actually been a music fan for as long as I can remember. I remember being three years old, hearing “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones, and thinking that riff was the coolest fucking thinking I’d ever heard in my life. A couple years later – this is kind of embarrassing to admit – the song that made me want to start playing guitar, at least subconsciously, was “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams. That sound set something up in my path. And I became a music fan. Reckless by Bryan Adams was the first tape I ever owned. I think I was like six years old listening to that stuff, and it just grew and grew. By the time I was seven, I had seen the music video for “Heart Shaped Box” by Nirvana – which, by the way, if you were seven years old when you watched that, how would you not turned out screwed up? (Laughter). And it just snowballed form there.
The alternative scene was big in 1993 and 1994, so I latched onto that. In 1995 I started obsessively listening to the local alternative station, just waiting for the next song that had louder more intense guitar, more aggressive structures. I heard so many of those bands then. Metallica put out Load in 1996, and I was like, “I’ve always heard about Metallica. I need to know about them.” And I just kept chasing the heaviest and loudest stuff I could find. I didn’t know what punk rock was, but I really wanted to know. So I got into Green Day and Nirvana. But once I heard Metallica, all I wanted to hear was more heavy metal. It really came to a head when I discovered college radio when I was 13. I grew up in the New York-New Jersey area, and we were in listening range of WSOU at Seton Hall University. One song that I heard was “Trapped in a Corner” by the death metal band, Death. And soon as I heard what he was doing on guitar with that, that’s when I began practicing obsessively. Just to play that song.
I thought metal was this kind of very structured thing. You play it fast, you have the double bass drums, you have the pretty standard song format…and then, when I was a freshman in college, a guy who lived in my building played me ISIS’s Panopticon, and that completely redefined what heavy metal, and heavy music in general, could be to me. It wasn’t just about playing this overwhelming storm of riffs and leads. It was about building atmosphere, creating tension, and using dynamics to absolutely wonderful effect. Take a song like “In Fiction.” It starts out so minimally, with a synth line and a bassline – and the song builds and builds, until there’s this one big crushing gigantic riff in the middle. That’s one of the most influential songs on me as a guitar player. I love building that tension, creating that atmosphere, and then bringing it all home with just a massive riff.
And I’m glad to say that I keep hearing heavy bands or punk bands that reignite my inspiration every time. Like it could be hearing a new album by an established band or just seeing friends’ bands in D.C., if they’re really really good. A lot of people would find this weird, but another one of my biggest influences is early U2 – the guitar playing. I just love what The Edge was doing with echo-based guitar effects. So, when I combine all of that, I somehow spit out something coherent with my guitar.
FB: At first I didn’t really give a crap about music and didn’t listen to it any more than any other kid. Then, randomly, one summer I heard AC/DC. And something just changed in my brain, and I thought I really liked music a lot. I’m really into that riff on “Back in Black.” I started researching. I didn’t know anything. My parents didn’t listen to music, and it wasn’t a friend group thing. I just became really obsessed with classic rock in high school and college. And I got into just about everything since then – post-punk, heavy metal, death metal, and stoner rock, as well as post-metal, post-rock, indie rock, all of it. The classic bass for me always will remain Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. I listen to that stuff still like every week all the time. It’s hard not to if you love Black Sabbath. It’s hard to be not influenced by them, especially as a bass player.
SZ: How have you not mentioned Rush?
FB: And Rush too, although Rush is hard to be influenced by. I just love that band. That band made me want to play bass. When I discovered all that stuff, I don’t think I knew the difference between the bass and guitar, really. But when I figured out that Geddy Lee was doing all that stuff on bass, it made me want to play bass. But it’s hard for me to draw influence from specific Rush songs because they’re just so irreplicably weird – which I don’t think they get enough credit for.
SE: What attracted each one of you to your instruments?
FB: I just had an idea that I wanted to play an instrument. And I always liked drums, and I still really like drums. I play drums a little bit. But I could write songs, sing them, and be like Geddy Lee when I figured out who he was. I didn’t really know many bass players before him. But after that I started to get into a lot of bass players. But I trace it back to just being in love with Rush when I was in high school and then just picking that, sticking with it, and basically writing from the beginning.
SZ: For me, it started off in a recorder club in fourth grade. Ever since I joined the recorder club, I knew I was going to be into music. My parents listened to a lot of music while I was growing up. And neither of them are American, so it’s not the traditional bands like The Beatles that people in my parents’ generation grew up on here. It was a lot of different Guatemalan artists. My dad was really into classical music and certain German and Austrian composers.
So I grew up playing instruments. I started playing jazz trumpet in middle school, and then around seventh grade, I went to an assembly somewhere and saw this kid that was probably three or four years older then me playing in the jazz band on the drum set. He just absolutely killed it and was just moving around; his arms were flailing around, and he just seemed so into it.
My mom got me lessons one summer with this really amazing drummer, who ended up playing the drummer on One Life to Live, that soap opera. After that, I’m like, “I have to play the drums.” So I kept on playing the drums all through high school. I also played snare drum in marching band. Essentially, I would just play the drums whenever I got the chance, if I was at a friend’s house or whether I was in the band room on breaks on before jazz band practice or after jazz band practice.
I got infinitely infinitely better through playing with Caustic Casanova, when I joined the band in college in 2005. I love drumming because it’s so physical. I’ve always played sports and enjoyed sweating and being active and moving around – and playing drums is obviously a very physical instrument. It allows me a really good of relief. I love playing when I’m stressed out; it just releases endorphins in me that make me feel good afterwards. (Laughter).
AY: I was always attracted to big distorted guitar noise. I think when I was nine years old I decided that I didn’t want to play any sports. So, being in elementary school or whatever, you still have to have something to do that goes beyond go to school, do your homework, play with your friends, etc. So my mother asked me if I wanted to take guitar lessons. And my mother, who was always listening to classic rock and albums like Led Zeppelin II in the car, was taking piano lessons at this place, and, apparently, they were getting a guy who taught guitar. And I’m like, “You mean like electric guitar?” I was really excited. I thought I was playing electric guitar. But she said, “No, you’ll be starting with the acoustic.” And I’m like, “What the hell is the acoustic? You mean the wussy guitar?” And then she said, “Not the wussy guitar. Are The Eagles wussy?” (In the voice of “The Dude” Lebowski) “I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man.”
I started off with the acoustic guitar when I was 10 years old, with this guy named Rex. And I didn’t really like taking lessons because we started using the absolute beginner book. And it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or not; nobody wants to learn that shit. When you’re 10 years old, you don’t want to know why the third fret is on the highest string is a G and anything like that. I just wanted to learn Green Day. But I’ve had like five or six teachers through the years, but here’s what kept me attracted to the guitar when Rex’s lessons were boring. I went to a guitar shop-lesson’s studio and walked in, and there’s all these guitars hanging on the wall. And the first guitar that I remember seeing was this shiny black, pointy, and weird Flying V guitar, a Randy Rhodes model. It also had skulls on it. I was 10 years old, and I’d never heard of death metal at this point. But I saw this guitar with skulls and lightening bolts on it, and I just walked right up to it and stared at it until I had to take my lessons. It was just seeing all these really cool-looking electric guitars. The electric guitar is such a sweet looking thing. I had the desire to someday play a really sweet electric guitar like that and play those loud distorted riffs, so I stuck with it. I wanted to emulate the sounds on the songs that I was hearing on the radio. To me there is no sound more incredible then the distorted guitar playing a really cool riff or a really cool lead. That’s been the driving force behind everything I’ve done since I got my first electric just – to keep going at it and to emulate and make a mark on somebody else the way that a band like Sponge made on me when I was 11.
SE: When did Caustic Casanova get started? Have there been multiple members – or other members who are not in the band anymore?
SZ: Just one other member. That was our old guitar player. He was in the band from the beginning, until 2012. It’s been a bizarre kind of history, I guess. We’ve had a few hiatuses. I guess Francis was the founding member, so I’ll let him talk about the beginning.
FB: In 2005, my friend – our old guitar player, Michael – and I were in college at William & Mary, and we started this band. He and I were just dicking around, writing some songs, as college kids do. I saw nothing in it more than just having fun in college, really, and we looked for a drummer. We had a drummer for one practice who left school, and I was looking for a drummer and didn’t know how to go about that.
There was a new thing at that time called Facebook that had just come out, and I reluctantly joined it and typed in drumming as an interest and three people came up. We contacted all three of them. One was Stefanie; she was the first person to show up and in just five seconds, I asked her to play something and she played a cool drumbeat. That was fine, and so I was like, “Okay, you can be the drummer” in the first five seconds. And that was 10 years ago, and we’re still sitting next to each other to this day. So we played a lot in college and recorded some very inspired but poorly made CDRs of material that we still go back to and play sometimes, some of which I would like to rerecord. Then I went to law school after I graduated, and for three years, we were in this weird place where we didn’t play very much. There was one year, 2010, when Michael, Stefanie, and I stayed in D.C. together. That was a very a productive year; we wrote a lot of the material for Someday You Will Be Proven Correct at that time.
SE: Was Andrew in the band at that point?
FB: No, it’s always been a trio. Michael was the previous guitarist. And we wrote a lot of that material then. He moved to Boston, and then we began another long-distance relationship. The band became, in my opinion, very good and very serious around that time. We were getting older and, you know, everybody has loved ones, lives, jobs, and all that. But we decided that after a while, Michael just couldn’t commit to doing what we needed to be a very successful band – which was tour all the time and play in D.C. as often as possible. He was living somewhere else, so it didn’t work out. He decided to get his Ph.D. in Illinois, effectively meaning we couldn’t do anything as a band. So Stefanie and I decided to honor all the work we’d done on Someday You Will Be Proven Correct, the great record we had literally just put out in February of 2012. I mean we were riding on this high, and we had just played SXSW on our first long tour. It was, to me and I think to Stefanie as well, stupid to quit the band or start something new when we just created the best thing we’d ever done. So we decided to get a new guitar player and see if it was even possible to continue the Caustic Casanova sound. And we had written all these songs from pure boredom when Michael was not around. Stefanie and I had been jamming; we even played as Caustic Casanova Lite: a bass-and-drums duo for three shows.
SE: How did that go?
FB: Everybody liked it and said, “You guys could totally hack it as a bass-and-drums duo.”
SZ: Death from Above 1979. (Laughter).
FB: We had auditions and probably had 10, 11 people come through who were all interested in being in the band. Andrew had been a fan and a friend for a long time, and I had played drums with just him. Sometimes, we would just get a case of beer, and I would play drums, he would play guitar, and we would just mess around. So I knew he was really talented. Stefanie knew him from his old punk band, which didn’t really show off his skills as a versatile soundscaper and tone artist. After three or four “auditions,” we decided that Andrew was the person for the job. Once we had him, we were going to expect a sort of balls-to-the-wall, come-what-may commitment level that said that we were doing this and there was nothing that was going to be in the way of this and that this had to be your sort of number one priority in life. He agreed to that, and it’s just amazing how well it’s turned out. I couldn’t have predicted how well everything has gone as far as recording the new record, live performances, and the gelling of the band. You know, it’s just better than ever, and obviously a lot of that has to do with Andrew.
SE: Andrew, what do you think you add to the older material that you didn’t originally record?
AY: A different perspective. The old band I used to be in was very much like a punk band. It was a lot more about attacking the guitar and being just really aggressive. I think there’s much more of a fervent punk rock kind of intensity that wasn’t necessarily not there but not as prominent. My influences are a lot louder than the previous guitar player’s influences were, and so I’d like to think that I bring an additional layer of anger or intensity. I like to up the speed.
One of the first things that I recorded with them was a reworking of a song from an even older Caustic Casanova album. It was my favorite song of theirs. It’s kind of a simple punk rock tune, but it’s not as fast as we do it now. I basically do a total Johnny Ramone on that song. It’s all down-pick, just blasting away. Basically, my arm gets a workout any time I play that song.
SE: What song is it?
FB: “Glossolalia.” It’s on Imminent Eminence. We rerecorded that song for our 7-inch, Pantheon: Volume 1, which we’re selling right now. It’s the first thing that went out in the Retro Futurist subscription packages. We want to go back and, as a project over the coming years, tackle more and more of the old material because I think it’s really good and it’s been so great to have Andrew play. So far, we only do four old songs out of all the material that we play.
SE: What songs are they?
FB: “Glossolalia” – and I think it’s a different song now from the guitar perspective – “Short Commute, Live Forever,” “Infinite Happiness” and “Snake in the Grass.” They’re all fairly simple, straight-ahead rockers. We are going to continue to add more; he and I have already worked on adding another one of our old songs.
SE: That’s exciting!
FB: There’s not a crazy amount of room, but he takes over. There’s a specific different lead in one in the verses on “Short Commute” that he does and that I’ve changed the vocal melody to match, and I think it’s way cooler. The guitar solo from “Snake in the Grass” is very different. He changes it up every night, so it’s a different kind of weird thing. Which is fun. I like things being different live every night. “Glossolalia” was a one note, cool punk rock song when it was first recorded in 2007. Now, it’s got dueling, spacey leads and another really cool melody that I play against vocally, changing the vocals a little bit. It’s just way better.
SE: How often do you guys tour?
SZ: Since Andrew has been in the band, we embarked on one really long tour from D.C. to Seattle. That was about four-weeks long. And we do mini-tours, kind of up and down the East Coast from time to time. Two-to-three dates, like Philly to New York or something like that. This was our second long tour that’s taken us as far north and west as Chicago and as south as St. Petersburg. But as Francis was saying earlier, this is the priority for our band. I guess Andrew is really the only one with a nine-to-five job, and he’s just been very dedicated to the band. He doesn’t take extra vacation. He sort of saves his days up for our tour.
SE: Do you think that touring is essential to your success and maybe why you got signed to Retro Futurist?
SZ: I think that unless you get really really lucky, you have to just tour all the time, in order to be seen and get fans. It’s been a very very long and slow process for this band, but now I think we’re at the point where we’ll play in a new city and you now people have kind of heard of us.
In terms of getting signed to Retro Futurist, it wasn’t even on a tour we were playing. We played with Kylesa in Springfield, VA last October. Springfield is basically in our area. It was just a show that we played one night, and we saw that Kylesa was coming through. We all love Kylesa. They’re a big influence on us, and we all just loved that band for a very long time. And after hopping on the bill, they saw us play, really liked our stuff, and asked us if we had anyone to work with on our next release. We said, “No,” and they said that they were interested in helping us out. So that’s how that came about.
FB: What Stef said about getting lucky is I think really apt, and what I don’t think a lot of people who aren’t musicians realize is why touring is essential. To me anyway, touring is a numbers’ game. The number of times that you are putting yourself out there is how you get lucky – if that makes any sense. We could spin our wheels forever. I mean, I think we are a great band, and I think we’ve been very unlucky compared to a lot of other bands that I know that I feel like just aren’t as good and that have had much more relative success over the years. It’s very difficult to build up a fan base. A lot of that has to do with who your friends are, who you know in your city, what promoters and bartenders you personally know – all of that. We just haven’t been swimming in those connections in a long time. If you tour and if you’re constantly playing, you’ll one day meet somebody that can help you. You’ll one day meet somebody who hooks you up with someone else. I think that if we hadn’t opened up for Kylesa, but we had kept touring, kept playing, kept going…eventually if you’re really good someone will notice, but you have to go out there and you have to keep playing in Nashville in front of two people and not get bummed out by it – and know that you’re good and know that you’re waiting for a good opportunity.
AY: Basically, it comes down to nobody is going to hear you if you’re not making noise. Any time you play, anytime you make noise, you’re demanding that people listen. So we’re basically just going to show up in any town that’ll have us and just make a shitload of noise, and people will gravitate towards it. If they don’t, we’ll just turn it up louder.
SZ: And we all really love touring, so that makes it easy. It’s never like, “Aw man, we have to go out on a five-week tour,” and one of us is like, “God, that’s so long; I like my bed.” None of us are like that at all. We are all really flexible; we are all really excited about touring, and that just makes it.
AY: I’m a better person on tour. Somehow, I sleep better on tour. If I had my druthers, tomorrow I would sublet my room in my house, put my shit into storage, and just stay on the road indefinitely. I would do that.
SE: Back to Kylesa. What was the interaction like, how did they approach you or you approach them?
FB: They approached us. We played, and then I talked to Phil for a second. I was unloading stuff, and I remember Andrew saying Phil Cope just bought the record and wants to talk to us. I remember him saying to me that we were the best band that they had played with on that entire tour. He also said that he really liked that he felt he knew every song that we played. He felt he knew what they we were about. And I remember purposely picking the set, thinking they’re going to like this. We played five really different songs in a row that all rocked – and it worked! Laura was sick, and she didn’t even watch us, but we gave her the record because she’s one of my favorite musicians of all time and a great hero of the band. And she then wrote us later, telling us how great the record was. And, yep, Phil straight up offered to put out our next record on Retro Futurist that night, just based off on one 30-minute performance.
SZ: I talked to Phil too for a while on stage as I was breaking down my drums – or maybe it was in the parking lot. But he was just very nice, approachable, and real. It didn’t feel like I was talking to this huge rock star whom I basically worship. It just all happened very naturally, and it’s been great.
SE: So what’s the plan going forward? You’ve got the 7-inch. You’re going to make a full album right, and they’re going to put it out?
AY: We have all the instrumentals for the full-length done, I think. I think all that needs to be done is listen to what we have so far, instrumentally speaking, and see if we want to add to the instrumentals. I think there’s like a couple more songs that Francis and Stefanie need to sing, but it’s 95% percent done.
This album is going to be the best thing that I’ve ever done. I didn’t play on Someday You Will Be Proven Correct. But on this album, which we’ve been working on with Jay Robbins, I’ve pushed myself so hard to give the best guitar performances of my life and just laboring, pulling out the best guitar solos I’ve ever done and just trying to get the best, gnarliest guitar tones and clean soundscapes. It was a fun record to make, and my previous recording experiences have been shitty, but this was just a blast to do. We’re looking to put it out in late spring, and then we’re looking forward to touring.
SE: What kind of release will it be? Vinyl? Digital? CD?
FB: It’ll be all. Retro Futurist is now starting to do CD and vinyl, so they are going to do all of it
SE: So what’s the new material like? I know that’s a tough question.
FB: It’s definitely heavy. It’s rock and roll music.
SZ: It’s music. There are songs; there are notes that you’ll hear – sounds. (Laughter).
AY: Some songs are loud; some songs are not so loud. (Laughter). But, in all seriousness, a few of the songs are songs that were from these CDs that Francis and Stefanie recorded as part of the audition process were like the first four songs that I learned with the band. And they run the gamut from tight post-hardcore funk instrumental to this lumbering ripper to this sprawling epic, which follows the flow. It starts out with such a minimal bass, and then it just builds and builds to this gigantic crescendo. So there’s some of that. There are some fast galloping drop tunes, riff fests, and some more straight-up punk-metal inflected songs. There are a couple of songs that we could get away with saying they do have a bit of a pop structure. They have that really kind of catchy, hooky, ear wormy sound – like heavy rock music. It does run the gamut, though, and it was the most challenging music experience of my life. But I think there’s something for everyone there.
SZ: Yeah, it’s going to be very heavy. I think we all think it’s going to be better than Someday You Will Be Proven Correct. It’s definitely a step forward in terms of musicianship and overall vision. One thing that is definitely different from a vocal perspective is Fran and I kind of do kind of co- leads on a couple songs. I’m doing a little bit more backing vocals. In terms of playing that live – we’ve gotten some really great feedback on some of the new songs with that new vocal approach. That’s also been awesome for me, like it’s been a challenge to learn how to play some of the fast drum parts while singing over them. So that’s been exciting, and that’s been challenging. That’s one of the things that stand out in my mind its going to be a departure from the last record.
SE: What about you Francis? What do you think about it?
FB: I was just going to piggyback on what she just said. It’s weird for me to go back, now that she and I have been having this idea of singing like that for a few years. We’ve been executing it in the last year, and I’m really proud of the way that we’ve pulled it off and of being brave enough to take ourselves seriously as real singers who are trying to be on pitch and on key every night. And it’s weird for me to go back to Someday You Will Be Proven Correct and realize she doesn’t really sing that much on the record. It’s just that the parts that she does sing are the parts that people love so much – the choruses, certain choruses, and the back-and-forth vocals on “Snake in the Grass” and the “oohs and ahs” in a few places. But she doesn’t sing a tremendous amount. And she will sing on almost every single song that isn’t an instrumental on this record, and there are two songs on which we are both the lead singer. And to the very casual listener that would be the most striking difference.
The record is probably overall heavier. There’s less of an indie rock influence and more punk and metal. The singing, I think, is much better, and Stefanie’s singing is a huge part of the record. I think it’s just going to be great. There’s something that we’re doing that I can’t think that anyone else is doing, especially when she and I sing together. Somebody at the show last night said the best part of our band was she and I singing together, which I take as a great compliment. Usually people focus on the instrumentation and how wacky all the songs are, with their changes and shifting structures and moods. But the vocals are going to be really cool.
SE: Finally, what’s the songwriting process for you guys?
AY: It varies from song to song. Like I mentioned, Francis and Stefanie had those four songs written already, and I just stepped in and tried to find the best guitar parts for each song. What I go for when I’m doing something like that is I want to bring the hooks. We love big riffs and whatnot, but we also like hooks. We want something that somebody can catch their ear on. So sometimes it goes like that: Francis and Stefanie jam on something, and there’s a structure and I add to.
Or there’s been a couple of songs where I’ve just been like dicking around at home or just screwing around in the practice space, and I’ll accidentally play something cool. I’ll yell at Francis, “Francis, set the recorder! I’m gonna figure something out from this ridiculous thing!” And then we’ll build a song around that. There have been some times where I’ve brought in nearly full songs with just some minor tweaking, and we have a new Caustic Casanova song. And sometimes it just comes from us jamming in the practice space. It really varies song-to-song. There’s no formula. The way it’s been so far has not been like an intentional “I’m going to sit down and write a song” or “we are going to intentionally sit down and write a song.” Everything’s happened really naturally, and that I think is the best way to write songs because if it feels right then it is right.
The way that we work – Francis, Stefanie, and I – is like we know when what we play is going to be good because we all have good taste. So when we play something that is weird, we’re not just going to do it for weirdness’ sake. We always want to push ourselves as musicians and as songwriters, but we’re not going to do something out of weirdness’ sake just to screw with people. At the end of the day, we want to write good songs that people will remember.
FB: Very well put. I don’t feel like we ever have to write. I hear about other bands doing something along the lines of, “Well, let’s write a song” or “We need to write four songs for our record.” It’s never like that with us. I’ve probably got a list of 80 things going on that are about halfway done to 75% of the way done, and I don’t like to bring them to anybody unless I think they’re so awesome and I’m super excited about them. So when I show something to the band and when I bring in something, I’m usually just super excited about it and can’t contain my excitement about how cool it is. So it seems very natural, and it seems organic and never forced.
Another thing that’s different this time around as far in the songwriting is that Stefanie and I are doing all the singing. If Andrew has a series of riffs or if he has a song that’s 90% done, I have to figure something else out for parts that he has written. And that’s been a fun challenge for me and something that I really like: coming up with vocal melodies and lyrical ideas to match ideas that are structured in Andrew’s guitar. Previously on Someday You Will Be Proven Correct and basically every other Caustic Casanova record we released, if Michael wrote the song he sang on it, his word was final on a lot of the details. If I wrote the song or Stefanie and I wrote the song together and we sang on it, our word was final on most of the stuff in that. And now there’s a lot more cross pollination of ideas, and I think it makes an even more cohesive whole.
(Transcription by Cameron Billon; pictures by Allison Mannella, Sarah Coats, Bonnie Beringer, and Francis Beringer.)