Casa Loma: But Can We Sell It?
Think of any successful band that you can. Literally any. That band, at some point in time, went through a career-shifting transition in which they ditched the tried-and-true model of recording one take in a tin-roofed garage, and embraced the cold walls of the official recording studio. There’s no denying that strong production yields strong music, but every now and then, you come across a band that – even though they sound like they were recorded with a lukewarm bottle of flat Pepsi – just click. And next up in that cycle? Casa Loma. You’ve never heard of Casa Loma, but if you have a soft spot for fuzzy garage demos, they’re going to be the next artist to wind up in your ‘Most Played’ folder. We jumped on Skype with all four members – Jake Edwards (vocals, guitar), Adrian Anthony (guitar), Peter Logan (drums) and Sean Kerkhof (bass) – to learn a little bit more about what could be your next favourite band to jam out and get all emo to. Start practicing your “I listened to them before they were cool” variations.
Behind every great band is an even greater origin story. What’s yours?
Jake: I was in a long-distance relationship with someone and it went tits up real quick, and then I was sort of like, “Oh, okay!” And I was really bummed out for a really long time. I had this acoustic guitar that belonged to my dad, and I was listening to a lot of Empire! Empire!, Mineral, American Football, that kind of stuff, and I was just like, “Alright cool, I’m going to start writing songs”. I came up with some stuff under the name KC Inca, and I wrote like that for about two years before I met Adrian at uni, and he pointed me over to Peter and Sean.
Being a band in 2015 is an odd concept because pretty much anybody can do it, but at the same time, you still need to have that drive and passion to take it seriously, as it seems Casa Loma are. What made you all want to pick up an instrument and pursue music?
Sean: I started to get into music when I was 15/16, and I had a friend who played bass, he liked Red Hot Chili Peppers and he showed me all of these cool basslines, and I was like, “Ah yeah, that would be cool to play.” I wanted to have another hobby after high school, so after the HSC, I bought myself a bass guitar and started teaching myself how to play.
Peter: Well, I’ve been playing drums for the better part of 16 years. I was always tapping shit when I was a kid, always tapping along to songs – I annoyed my parents to fucking hell. Although, I wanted to play the violin… My parents decided not to take me seriously. My sister was the musical one – she picked up, like, three instruments and did not pursue any of them. Eventually I finally annoyed them enough, they bought me a drum kit, and the rest is history!
Adrian: It was 2002 when I first decided to pick up a guitar. I took lessons and didn’t like it at first, but then I got a good teacher and I was like, “Y’know what, I actually like guitar,” so I started actually showing up to my lessons.
Jake: Didn’t you once play “Sweet Child of Mine” at a talent show?
Adrian: [sheepishly] Yes… And “Stairway to Heaven”.
Jake: [laughs] That’s even better!
Adrian: You see, I went to school in Bali, this international school where there was, like, 200 kids from kindy to high school. My graduating class was like eight people, so it was pretty easy for me to get an award!
Your sound is great – I think Jake summed it up pretty well on Facebook as “emo twinkle nonsense/COOL STUFF!!” But further than that, how would you describe the musical stylings of Casa Loma?
Jake: Post-rock? Sort of?
Sean: I didn’t even know ‘emo’ was a genre before I met Jake.
Jake: Well, you did, but you thought it was My Chemical Romance, and shit… Sean, what are you into?
All: [laughs furiously].
Jake: One thing that I really like about this is, y’know, when I was writing all these songs, it was just me. It was me and my own discipline, or my way writing things, I suppose. And then as soon as I took these songs to these guys, the first ever practice that we had, it was like, “WOAH! This is so much bigger and so much better than I thought it could be.”
Admittedly, you’re just starting off, and you need to sort of get people paying attention to you. So to put it simply, why should we give a shit about Casa Loma?
Sean: We have a brown guy.
Jake: We’re diverse! …No, don’t publish that. I think we’re doing things in a way that other people aren’t. Which I guess is kind of counter-intuitive to say – I mean, nobody wants to say, “Yeah, we sound like every other band.”
Peter: I like to think we’re creating music that we would enjoy listening to, even if it wasn’t us.
Jake: Honestly, at the end of the day if nobody gives a shit but a handful of select people, but they’re real into it, I would count that as a win. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s like… I just want to make stuff, and as long as somebody likes it, I’m into it.
Adrian: At the end of the day, if I can drive around and listen to our stuff, I’m already happy.
So you guys released a two-track demo a little while back called ‘Into First’. Let’s talk about the creative process behind that – what was it like putting those songs together?
Peter: Ahhhh, “Aquaphobia”, man.
Jake: That was a piece of shit. Alright, so “Aquaphobia”. It took us weeks, and weeks, and weeks, and weeks, to just get to a point where we sounded halfway decent. I think we got there, but it’s like…
Sean: It was just the transitions of that song.
Jake: I think we went for a sneaky kebab midway through practice, and then we came back and we just smashed it out, and it was perfect.
How did production go? Did you guys hop into a studio and buckle down with a producer, or was it kind of a DIY set-up sort of thing?
Jake: It’s a rehearsal demo, through and through. We have our instruments mic’d and everything like that, but aside from that, we pretty much just recorded our rehearsal. And it wasn’t mixed, either, it was just… Put together.
The rawness and sort of garage-y sound to the songs that you’ve released so far – that is, for some reason, something that a lot of bands pursue artistically, on purpose. Is that something you’re into, or is the gravelly sound purely because you don’t have an actual legitimate set-up?
Adrian: I mean, I don’t want things to be super squeaky-clean, but this was just the quality of how things turned out.
Jake: It was a product of circumstance. And it’s a demo, so it’s like, whatever. This is the idea of what we want to do.
So do you have any plans at this stage to step into a studio and chuck out some professional recordings?
Sean: We recorded two songs in a proper recording studio with a friend of ours, and we’ll hopefully be releasing them very soon. Those will be much better quality.
Jake: We think they sound pretty good! We’ll be releasing those as singles.
You guys have a song on this demo called “Tom Selleck”… Wh… Just… Why?
Jake: The names of the songs mean literally nothing. You could look at them as, like, this stupid poser sort of…
Adrian: Actually, “Tom Selleck” has more to do with what the song actually is. You can be like, “Hey, that sounds cool… Cool like Tom Selleck!”
Jake: [laughing] No, it doesn’t.
Peter: I thought that name came up because it was called something else that sounded similar, and one of us misheard it.
Jake: It was called “But Can We Sell It?”, and I was sitting downstairs with you [Peter], we were talking about it and I said, “So yeah, it’s called ‘But Can We Sell It?’,” and Adrian was like, “I’m sorry, did you just say ‘Tom Selleck’?” And I was like, “…Yes. Absolutely! I said ‘Tom Selleck’, that’s what it’s called now!”
Adrian: See, I never knew this. I was always in the dark on this. I’m just finding out now.
Adrian: Do you not understand how I would not understand?
If you could open for any band, who would it be, and why is it American Football?
All: [laughs at Jake, who’s wearing an American Football shirt]
Peter: The Flaming Lips, and because!
Jake: You’re such a prick, Matt! [laughs] Hotelier are playing in December, which I’m actually super stoked about. I was talking to Adrian, and I was like, “Hey, how do we do this? How do we get to open for these guys?” But yeah, it’s totally American Football. Like, look at the Casa Loma logo; I don’t know if you noticed this, but it’s totally the same house.
What’s one big thing that you’re hoping to achieve as a band in 2016 – do you think within a year, you might see yourselves on a label or playing bigger shows?
Peter: I’d like to be doing opening shows.
Jake: I’d like to be in talks with a label, that would be really cool.
Sean: We could play at The Metro… I’ve always wanted to play at The Metro!
Adrian: I just want to be writing more material. That’s the thing that really excited me, just writing more stuff.
Jake: I like writing as well, but I’m so painful. The amount I procrastinate is ridiculous, so it’s like, “Oh, okay, instead of doing anything productive today, I’m gonna drop into a new tuning and try to write a song!” And that works out more often than it doesn’t.
It’s important that you guys like writing, because yeah, you need songs. How many do you have in the arsenal so far?
Jake: I think, like, seven or eight.
Sean: Songs just suddenly appear.
Peter: The last song we wrote was us trying to figure out what cover to do, and we ended up just writing our own song.
Jake: That’s actually completely true! We were trying to work on a cover of “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand… Which, as it turns out, is a reeeeeeally boring song to play! Like, I think the song is really cool – this is not a critique of the writing abilities of Franz Ferdinand – but trying to cover that… I think it was just you and me [points to Adrian].
Adrian: Yeah, everyone else had fucked off to get drinks or something.
Jake: They came back to us just halfway through writing a brand new song. I was sat down, just pumping out some lyrics that I already had, just sort of sitting there re-working Ferdinand, and it was like, “Hey, this is a new song!”
Let’s wrap up here, but before we go, what’s one thing that we absolutely MUST know about Casa Loma?
Peter: We all like to have sneaky kebabs.
Jake: We’re kebab-rock.
Adrian: That sounds vaguely racist…
Into First is out now independently.