Monday, March 9, 2015

SXSW Showcase: Something Sneaky

Chris Casserly picked me up the other night before going to a friend's birthday party in Brighton.  The plan was for the two of us to get some food, drink some beers then head over to the pre game and then some bar somewhere in Boston.  I had one more item in mind for the evening: asking questions.  
I hate boring people, always have and always will.  Chris isn't boring.  Chris plays bass in Something Sneaky, a band who is about to go on their first real tour, including a gig at the musical shitshow that is SXSW in Texas.  I guess you could say times are pretty exciting for him.  Chris was excited to show me another local band called Pile, who was pretty damn good.  We were picked up a pizza, got beers and made it to his apartment in Quincy and immediately started talking about bands we both like such as FIDLAR and the Pixies, some bands we recommended to each other like Bass Drum of Death and Wavves, and whether or not good rock music still exists. After telling me about a record store called Cheapo Records and a label called Bob Records, I finished eating pizza, took out my handy dandy notebook (shoutout to Blue's Clues) and asked if he was ready to do this.  He was.

I had been meaning to interview Chris and the rest of Something Sneaky for a while now.  Along with Chris are Justin Iacovino, his brother Jeremy and Jesse George, and together they make some pretty damn good music.  It's always nice when you support your friends if they have a band and play shows, but it is even nicer when they are actually good at what they do. With music on Spotify and iTunes, newly made t-shirts to be sold, and a tour going on, it is good to be a member of Something Sneaky, and I felt that this was the perfect time to stop procrastinating and actually show them some love on the interwebs as they will be gaining more fans along the way of this tour.  

This current journey started when they won a battle of the bands contest a few months ago over at the Middle East in Cambridge.  It was on the same stage that bands like Brand New, You Blew It! and Bass Drum of Death have played over the recent years that they won a slot on the SXSW bill.  I asked Chris about that first.  He kind of shook his head in a little bit of leftover disbelief before telling me they were surprised.

"We were shocked at first, but fucking pumped.  We were so excited to win an opportunity like this, but at the same time we were also like 'shit, what do we do next?'" he said, noting that as great as it is that they got the slot at SXSW, they still had to figure out how to get to the Lone Star state, and had to take advantage while on the road, playing shows in various cities on the trip down south.  One thing I could tell right away from Chris was just how excited he was for this journey.

"We're going into it knowing it's gonna be a small stage, so we're not getting our hopes up.  Just getting this opportunity to play and got on a real tour is basically like a musical bucket list type of thing.  I think it also proves our commitment to this.  We're not exactly looking to get discovered, but we kinda want to get feedback from different crowds and see how they receive us when we play shows." was his response when I asked him what their mindset was going into this tour.  He continued by saying "it won't matter if we play for 5 or 50 or 500 people, we will all be able to say later in life that we did this awesome thing in our lives, and that in itself is pretty fucking cool."
"That'll be a story for the grandkids"  I said.
"Exactly!  I can tell them that grandpa took 2 weeks off of work, went on tour with my best friends to go play music, travel around and drink some fucking beers."  He exclaimed.  Looks like his grandkids are in for some great stories in the future.

I asked him if he was nervous at all going into it.  He explained to me how he's been playing over 10 years in various bands or with friends, and that right now it's not so much about being nervous about messing up in front of people, but more about the desire to sound good when it counts most, and to give the crowd their best show possible.  
"Honestly, the most nerve-racking thing might be figuring out where the fuck we're going to park the van in various cities." he quipped with a smile.  Sometimes, it really is the little things in life.

I asked Chris how he would describe Something Sneaky's music, and he calls he said they describe themselves on their website as "90's influenced, basement infused rock" which is honestly one of the best descriptions I've heard of any band.  He calls it their mission statement, and then furthers that statement by saying that some of their songs "can be kinda groovy in a way, and some can be songs that you know that we're not fucking around on".  It was at this point that I realized this was my favorite interview for the blog ever.  Chris continued on describing themselves, saying that they are proud of their roots playing music in basements at parties.
"We're proud of the Basement EP we made, because it is what it sounds like: fast and loud songs that we literally played in a basement." he then adds that they might feel most comfortable playing basement parties because it feels homey and "people give you beers, it's great!"

On the future goals for Something Sneaky, Chris says "ideally it'd be great to just play music as a full time thing, but in order to do that we might have to change our sound to appease certain people, which is tough.  Making money at basement shows isn't great.  It kinda all depends on how many people walk through the door, but you just gotta play for them, and yourself too."  As a music lover, I have to agree with this statement.  I personally feel that it is tough to be yourself and be successful with your music, mostly due to the corporate greed with record labels and radio stations only playing the same successful artists who are starting to sound similar to each other these days.  My advice: support small bands.  The music is better.

We got an Uber that took us to Brighton.  It was an eventful ride with a nice man in a turban who seemed pretty lost, especially when Chris told him to take the Mass Pike and he somehow completely missed it.  After this shaky Uber ride we restocked on beers and made our way to celebrate our friend Lauren's birthday.  When I arrived, Justin was in attendance and Jesse showed up a few minutes later (I only had the honor to hang with 3/4's of Something Sneaky that night, Jeremy was off doing his own thing according to Chris).  One thing I noticed right away was that Justin and Jesse were just as excited as Chris was when I talk about the tour.  It was so incredibly refreshing to see people my age look so genuinely amped about something.  Maybe it was a sort of stamp of approval to them.  I think about it now and this is a weird age: lots of 20 somethings working jobs they hate, not making enough, dealing with loans and payments and what have you.  It's nice seeing something go right for a bunch of good guys with talent.

After listening to them update each other on things like booking opening bands for shows and a dickhead bar owner in New Orleans who wasn't very helpful to them, I asked Chris about the need to get their name out there.  While he said at first that it would be helpful, he also said not being hugely popular has some nice things to it.
"One good thing about not being that popular is that no one cares about what you say yet, like when we did a couple of radio interviews in the past.  You know, there ain't nothing wrong with rocking out on stage and just being natural to different crowds who haven't seen or heard of you before."

When I ask about the writing process and style, Chris immediately credits lead guitarist Jesse George with his classical guitar background and his affinity to Justin (singer/guitar) is the lyrical mastermind, and gets things going when writing songs.
"Justin usually starts with lyrics and a riff first, and after he shows us we work with it.  Sometimes the lyrics change drastically as the song grows, and sometimes they just work out themselves."

After having more drinks I asked the three of them who their influences are.  Without hesitation Justin went first.
"Definitely Built to Spill and Pavement" he said, which made me realize right away some of that influences in some of their songs, especially on the Basement EP.

Chris went second and said "The Rolling Stones and Pinback.  Also this band called Heatmiser who are pretty sick."

Jesse needed some time to ponder that one and finally told me "Lady GaGa" which I would say perfectly describes their music and got some laughs from all of us in the cramped kitchen.  It was in this moment that I could tell just how close these guys are and that they have quite the journey together.  Going on the road in a van to play music could potentially be the start of a successful career for these guys.  They've certainly got the talent and the drive, and while they may just be happy to be here, they ought to be proud of what they've accomplished.  As I said before, this blogpost isn't just me supporting a band because I know the guys in it, this is a blogpost to help promote them because I legitimately enjoy their music and I think they have a future.  I have a feeling they'll be just fine.

Something Sneaky recently played a show at Trash Bar in Brooklyn, and they have Lousville, Nashville, New Orleans, SXSW in Austin, then as they work their way back home they hit DC and Philly, all starting the 14th.  It's certainly a good time to be these guys, and I hope and bet that they will flourish on this journey.  What Chris said earlier about them being natural on stage and having a desire to play their best possible for whatever crowd is in front of them gives me faith that they're gonna be just fine.  Check these guys out people.  You'll be glad you did.

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