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Allston Pudding - Interview

Written by Lightfoot Kingsbeard | Allston Pudding.

dig boston 2012 0301 casey desmondSeveral weeks ago I had the pleasure of sitting down for an interview with Boston based musician Casey Desmond. We met at ohdeergod, a studio filled with musical instruments (mainly keyboards) and framed artwork that had been done by Casey and by her friend and artist, Tofu Squirrel. Both the environment and Casey's personality were warm and welcoming. We discussed several topics such as androgyny, her adolescent punk phase, her sister who is in Streight Angular, and Facebook etiquette. This is what transpired.

-Lightfoot Kingsbeard

For someone who has never listened to your music, how would you describe it?

I think for the majority of the listeners they would immediately think pop electro. But if you're type of person who likes to listen to production, then it's kind of an experimental synth pop.

Because of your parents you've grown up around music. Would you say that you make music because of your parents influence, or do you feel like you were born to make music?

I think their lifestyle was very influential on me. But also there are genes because everyone in my family is into the arts. My parents introduced me to a lot of their favorite music. I didn't really listen to what all the kids around me were listening to. I listened to what my parents listened to and I fell in love with it. I'm still a big fan of those artists today.

Who were some of those artists? Who influenced you growing up?

First and most important is probably, and there is actually a tie, but for different reasons, Peter Gabriel, who I still listen to today. Behind you is this giant collage portrait of him because I love him. And also there is David Bowie. They both have strengths I'm obsessed with.

Do you take some of your style from David Bowie?

Yeah. I don't think I take his style. I love his space look, his glam rock look. All throughout high school I was punky, but I was glam-punky just because I was so into David Bowie and his lifestyle and I think that androgyny is kind of sexy in rock and roll.

You had the red hair back then too?

Well, when I was in sixth grade, I was in Catholic school and I colored my hair red. I got in trouble with my school and my mom got really mad. I almost got kicked off my soccer team and stuff like that. All throughout high school I would cut and color my hair and shave the sides. Then I eventually decided that red is forever.

You were on NBC's The Voice. That's what most people talk about when it comes to you. I've read several of your interviews/reviews and you're almost always introduced as "Casey Desmond: As seen on The Voice." It seems as if it is almost what defines you as an artist. On most shows like that when most people don't succeed they leave the stage sobbing in defeat. You seem to have used this experience as a stepping stone. You seem to view it as a positive.

Yeah, if I made a big mistake on T.V. or they had given me a terrible review then I could see how it would have been hurtful to my career, but that didn't happen. They weren't out to make anyone look bad. They were just there to show off people with different talents and I put my best foot forward and put on a good performance. There were six million people watching during my last show, so right there is a positive, it was awesome exposure. Like I said, they weren't there to make anyone look bad, it was all about singers.

I'm not judging you at all for this, but The Voice kind of lies in mainstream territory. Is mainstream an area you would like to end up in or are you looking to remain independent?

It doesn't matter honestly. I don't think "ok, I need to have a record label," but if a record label understood my vision and wanted to help that would be amazing. I wouldn't turn that away for anything. But at the same time, do I want to be a cookie cutter girl? Absolutely not. I don't even think that's possible. I think I would just curl up and die.

You are pretty ambitious and proactive when it comes to your career. How many hours would you say you put in on any given week?

Every second. I've actually been trying to take more "Casey" time. Of all the hobbies that I have in my life and all the stuff I do in my career, they all kind of mesh into one, so I need to separate them. So I'm taking time to write stuff that has nothing to do with releases. It's just for fun. I also want to spend some more time drawing which is what I went to school for before I dropped out to do music.

How much college did you complete before you dropped out?

I went to college for a year and a half but when I was in high school I did about a half a years worth of credits.

Where did you go?

Lesley University.

So you make all your own outfits, and do your own hair and make-up, correct?

Well, I do all of my own outfits. I make everything by hand. I have help along the way with make-up and hair. I can do my own hair and make-up. I do it before shows and stuff. Jessie (points to Jessie) is actually my make-up artist. I've worked with some really great hair artist. Mari Joe is a very talented hair artist. She can make sculptures out of hair. So on videos I've collaborated with her. With some live performances I have had awesome help as well. As far as the outfits go... that's me.

Is fashion something you learned in school or did you pick it up on your own?

It's just something that I wanted to do so I started picking up on it. I've actually had no training at all. I'm hoping I can put aside some time in my life to learn some technical stuff so my work can become even stronger.

Can you see yourself ever doing fashion professionally?

Yeah that's kind of like a little dream of mine. I actually want music and fashion to go together. I don't want to separate them.

How did you feel about winning The Boston Phoenix's number one song of 2011?

I felt all warm and gushy inside (laughs). It was quite a surprise. I was happy. It was like Christmas all over again.

That was for "Talking to God." I've listened to it and I know it's not about God, but on that subject, would you consider yourself a spiritual person?

I would say that I'm not a spiritual person. I'm just very imaginative.

You were recently featured in Star Magazine. Did you know you were going to be in it, or did you just stumble across it?

A photographer who shot me at The Mercury Lounge in New York in December told me that the picture he took of me was going to in the magazine. Speaking of The Mercury lounge in New York, when was your last tour and what was it like?

It's been a while because I've been working on so much music, but I used to do short tours, cause they were independent.

Did you stick to the Northeast area?

I've played in L.A. and I've played down the country and over probably about half way and back. I've played in Canada and I've played in London, but that's pretty much it. It's all been self driven. Then I decided to write my next album and scratched pretty much all the songs. I liked them but I wanted to do something else so I wrote like two and a half albums before I got to the collection of songs that are going to be my next album.

When is that coming out?

I don't have a release date but it's coming out very soon.

The spring?

Earlier than that. I'm just going to say very soon.

Did you have a favorite place to play when you were touring?

Not really. I just love to play. I don't really have a favorite place to play. I like to play in big crowds... that freak out.

I see you have a lot of musical toys around the studio. You are stranded on a desert island. You can only bring three of these toys.

I would bring something to record on. I know I would only be recording for myself but I'm obsessed with recording. I would bring my guitar and one of my synthesizers, probably my Casio CZ5000.

Your sister is in Streight Angular.

Yup. My sister Mary Lee.

Do you ever collaborate?

All the time. My sister and I are super close and we have a lot of mutual friends cause we're not too far away in age. She is my photographer (responsible for photo at head of article) and she has also co-written some stuff with me. She co-wrote the storyline and helped me make pretty much half of everything for the music video "Talking to God." I help with Streight Angular's stuff too. I go and help them on the set and I help make props with them. We kind of all work together as this weird little hippie commune.

Are you and your sister ever competitive?

No way. We're so different. The music is really different but we still fit because we have similar aesthetics. We both like psychedelic colors, light shows, and getting people to party.

When I was researching for this interview I did a little Facebook stalking. You seem to have an above average support from your fan base. Would you like to talk about that?

I'm just really open with people and I don't hide myself on Facebook. I have good activity on my page and then I have a profile which used to be personal and then people started adding me so I made it a public profile. My friends and I take pictures and we show people what is going on during the day, like what projects we are working on. I think if you're connecting with people as much as possible you're going to establish friendships. If someone writes to me, unless I'm swamped, I usually respond to them. It's a matter of content. Fans want to get to know your personality so they can better relate to your music. And I'm just obsessed with Facebook (Laughs). I also think you need to keep to yourself. I can't stand when bands take their videos and post them on other people's walls. I've never done that. People post their ads, their videos, and their songs on my wall and go "Hey Casey, I just wanted your fans to hear my music" or something like that. I just don't like it. People don't want a pitch.

You had a New Years Eve show here (Magic Room Gallery). How was that?

It was amazing. It was so much fun. We played with Herra Terra, who is one of my favorite bands out of this area, I think that they're phenomenal and they don't get enough credit. We had DJ Nebulust (Peter Glover) who is our house DJ play. We had Streight Angular play. And then we had a band that is friends with my dad called Pressure System. It was a little bit more proggy than we were but it was really good. They were really talented.

You have a lot of your own artwork around the studio. Do you ever sell your work?

Sometimes. My friend Lizzy is in art world full time and she will invite me to some of the events that she does. (Lizzy, or tofu squirrel, is nominated by the Boston Phoenix for Artist of the year. You can check out her artwork at http://www.tofusquirrel.com/)

If you could open for any artist, who would it be? You can only pick one artist. They can be living or dead.

Well, for dead I would pick Freddie Mercury. For alive... I don't know... there are a lot of artists I would love to play with, but probably David Bowie just because he's David Bowie and he's God.

We already talked about your new album a little bit but I want to ask you how it differs from your previous albums. Did you go in a different direction at all?

Well, my first two albums, one of them is folkier and the other one is a little bit more rock, but they're just basic pop songs. Their style went in and out of folky to rock pop. I wrote them all pretty early in my career, and then I spent a lot of time writing lots of different kinds of music. Like I said, I wrote a couple different albums that were all over the place. Even though they were all over the place I was primarily doing it with electronic instruments, like synthesizers and sampling weird things and using drum loops and eventually it just all became electronic except for my guitar player who is amazing.

 

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