CAUSTIC CASANOVA DISCUSS NORTH DAKOTA’S INSPIRATION FOR NEW ALBUM ‘GLASS ENCLOSED NERVE CENTER’, THE MEANINGS BEHIND THE TRACKS + MORE!

CAUSTIC CASANOVA DISCUSS NORTH DAKOTA’S INSPIRATION FOR NEW ALBUM ‘GLASS ENCLOSED NERVE CENTER’, THE MEANINGS BEHIND THE TRACKS + MORE!

Caustic Casanova are a Prog-Punk-Psych-Sludge band who formed in 2005 from Washington, D.C.. The band is made up of vocalist & drummer Stefanie Zaenker, guitarist Andrew Yonki, guitarist Jake Kimberly, and vocalist & bassist Francis Beringer. The band recently released their full-length, five track album, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center, through Magnetic Eye Records on October 7, 2022. The album was engineered and co-produced by J. Robbins at Magpie Cage in Baltimore, Maryland. Caustic Casanova also co-produced the album. It was mixed by Andrew Schneider at Acre Audio in Patterson, New York, and mastered by Dan Coutant at Sun Room Audio in Cornwall, New York.

In our interview with Francis he shared some of his most favorite bands, which include The Melvins, Wolves In The Throne Room, Rush, and more. His first favorite band when he first got into Music was AC/DC, “that kind of Sleaze Rock was super empowering to me as a kid because I was really, really shy, really nerdy. That stupid, masculine bullshit kind of Rock with that amazing Groove just gave me confidence to not take everything so seriously… It’s such great party Music, it’s all about drinking and dicks. When you’ve never had a drink and when you feel you’ll never feel the touch of a woman for your entire Life when you’re 13, AC/DC is a cool, cool band to listen to and to feel cool.”

He also shares that he felt very empowered growing up listening to Pantera and Rush, “Rush is still my favorite band, a lot of that Music I felt was speaking so intensely to me, there were a lot of themes about teenage alienation in a lot of Rush’s Music, but it was really smart and really appeals to a kid that’s like ‘well I want to be cool, but I’m smart, I’m really intellectual. That’s really the enduring power of Rush, is that they were able to speak to so many different types of people.”

The story about the album name Glass Enclosed Nerve Center stems from growing up in a home where his parents would always listen to WTOP News rather than Music. Francis says, “that was the soundtrack to my Life.” …And it’s this weird thing, that was their headquarters. And I always thought that was this cool sounding thing and it makes me think about Washington DC, looking in and looking out in a glass building.” After going through a nerve disease that caused his extremities to go numb and seeing neurologist after neurologist, he took it as a definite sign to name the album, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center.

The album Artwork was created by Artist Scott Partridge. If you look closely enough to the bones within the Artwork, it is in the shape of the city of Washington, D.C. and also features the State bird of North Dakota, the western bluebird. Francis commented, “The way that Washington, D.C. affects so much of our country and so much of the world, it’s so self-enclosed living here. This is part of what I was talking about with you on my trip to North Dakota, you know it’s so far away living in Washington D.C., but you know some rule that some guy can’t use the stream going into his farm, that’s a huge deal, that what is being done in Washington D.C., impacts this guy’s ability for his cows to do what he really wants to do on his own land.”

“That kind of thing really stuck with me with, like everyone looking in on Washington D.C.. I’d rather have birds than people, because I love birds and there are so many, birds on all of our Art, going back years, so I thought I’d keep with the bird theme. Plus, all the birds have different meanings in there.”

Glass Enclosed Nerve Center begins with a song titled Anubis Rex. It starts out with a very upbeat sixties Psychedelic Punk Rock riff and beat, which soon morphs into a heavier, sludgier sound with a twang of Country before Francis and Stefanie begin marching to the beat with their vocals. Francis put together the beginning of the song and then left the entire middle section open for the rest of the band to do whatever they wanted to with it.  “I really like happy sounding Heavy Metal riffs and it’s not necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but I really like that kind of thing, so when I stumble upon a really cool series of riffs that are like heavy, but happy, and in a Major key, I really like that kind of thing.”

The biggest inspiration for how the song all came together was having a Thin Lizzy style section in the song. Francis initially wanted Howard Parker, who used the Country pedal steel, to do it on a different song, but instead he did it on Anubis Rex. The band thought it sounded so awesome, especially with the pedal steel they used, “The pedal steel is such a beautiful instrument in country and so few people play it, we’re so blessed to have him do some guest spots. And if it sounds like someone weeping, it’s like such an intensely emotional instrument. To have it in Heavy Metal or Hard Rock is really rare and I think it really did something cool there.”

It was also the first song they had written with Jake when he joined the band as the second guitar player, “I was like, ‘this is the perfect opportunity, we’ve never had two guitar players, let’s do the Thin Lizzy thing’, so I was like, ‘You guys do Thin Lizzy in the middle of it with the harmonized guitars, and that was kind of the instruction, and they came up with that over a really simple thing and then, I had already written the ending.”

On a trip to North Dakota, Francis went to a lot of the Native American sites around the state, and saw a graffitied rock that said, “Mandan Woman Never Dies” and thought that would be an amazing opening line for the song. “That’s another cool thing about going to North Dakota, that a lot of people don’t go to. It’s that you can learn and experience from a place at a different level, if it’s not super visited and not a lot of people know about what’s going on there. And that’s sort of what that song is about.”

The beginning of Lodestar, which is the second track, has a very apparent Industrial sound that may remind some people of Nine Inch Nails, partly because Stefanie played with a broken cymbal on the beginning of the track, which made it sound very choked off.  “It was kind of a decision like “I don’t know should we do this or not?” and she decided to go with the broken cymbal, and it has this very, the drumming in the beginning has this very machine-like sound because of that.”

There is also a guitar noise you hear at the very beginning, “it’s the Rainbow Machine pedal, it’s a particular guitar pedal that makes these insane noises, and people always go up and look, and are like “What is he doing up there?!?” It’s just this one really bizarre pedal. So, if you want to make that noise, go get the Rainbow Machine, by EarthQuaker devices.”

A Bailar Con Cuarentena is the first song Francis ever wrote where all of the lyrics came first. For a while, he and Stefanie had worked the song out with bass and drums, however Stefanie thought it sounded too “dancy” and not heavy enough, “I was like “No, it’s gonna be good, just stick with me on this”, and I never really do that, but for this one I insisted, and I was like “No, we’re gonna go through with this to the end and if everyone hates it, then we can just junk it at the end.” But it turned out great.”

The lyrics Francis wrote was before the pandemic and seemed to fit thematically with what was going on then, “it was just like a coincidence, and then I thought, “This is too weird, some of these lines are just so perfect for this time, that I wrote them before.” Then, I got rid of everything that wasn’t fitting in that theme. It didn’t start that way, so when I finished it, I just decided to make it the quarantine song. Initially it was going to be a ‘Baila Con Tiburón‘, ‘Dancing with a Shark‘, and I don’t even remember what that was going to be about, why I was going to call it that but, it turned out really cool. I know every band did a song about the pandemic or the quarantine so it’s not super creative but hard not to address when you’re sitting inside for a year and a half waiting on your album.”

Caustic Casanova worked with Jase Harper for the animation of the video. Jase is someone Francis met on MySpace who lives in Australia and has never met in person, “We’ve done a lot of Guatemalan themed stuff because Stefanie is from Guatemala, so we’ve had a bunch of posters of the pyramids in Peten, Guatemala, featuring animals that are in Guatemala so there’s a Quetzal, which is the national bird of Guatemala, it’s green with a crazy long tail. That’s in a lot of our stuff, it’s like a symbol of our band, on the last three albums, it’s on the Art in some way.

The video also features plague doctors inspired from when the bubonic plague was going on in Europe, “those guys would wear those huge bird masks, and they would put fruit, spices and garlic in the nose so that when they were going to deal with the dying people and all the horrible smells so they could not have to smell it. And we had done a sticker, and some posters with these cartoon plague doctors, so they’re in there.

Andrew, their other guitarist who lives in Albany, New York, is not always part of their live shows since the rest of the band resides around the Maryland & DC area. However, they thought it would be cool to have Andrew be part of the video playing the characters of a Sun and Moon God, “Our record label wanted us to have some imagery of just me, Jake and Stephanie playing because so many of our tours have been just three piece and people get really confused cause all of the pictures are four and they’re always asking where the other guy is. This video allowed us to get some imagery that is just the three of us too, while incorporating that story and all this colorful stuff. It doesn’t have too much thought to it though, it’s just kind of wacky and bizarre.”

Shrouded Coconut is the fourth track on the album. It is the second longest at 9 minutes and 37 seconds. It starts off with some riffs that give off a hint of something you’d hear in a Mathcore song with an upbeat swing to it. If you close your eyes while listening to the track, it’s a song you’d surf along to in the Tropics for the first three minutes before realizing you’re actually riding on a creeping tidal wave. Nearing the four-minute mark of the song, the vocals kick in, with a grungier, sludgier, and angrier guitar undertone. The rest of the song keeps the duality of the vibe of upbeat and harsh until the last two minutes where it gets extremely heavy and sludgy, like you’ve just fallen off your surfboard and are trying to outswim the shark that snuck up behind you while also trying to keep your head above water and fighting the tidal wave at the same time, and you’re desperately swimming your hardest back to land, wherever stable ground may be emerging at that very moment. …. It’s quite the trip to listen to when you haven’t had any substances, fungi, or plants, mind you.

The song title comes from the band giving each other Black Metal nicknames, they were calling Jake “The Fresh Young Coconut”, who has been in the band for two and a half years, but was around twenty-two at the time, “we were always calling him The Fresh Young Coconut, cause we had bought a coconut, I think at an Asian market that said “Fresh Young Coconut” and we were just calling him that, then we were calling him The Shrouded Coconut when we were doing our Black Metal nicknames.” Francis continued, “And then that was sort of the temporary name for that song for a while and we just liked it, and then the lyrics are kind of about something to do with… willful ignorance, I’ll put it that way.”

The fifth and final track on the album is titled Bull Moose Against The SkyThe song spans over twenty-two minutes long. It starts with an acapella vocal melody inspired from a Northern Irish pub song, where Francis saw the Smithsonian Folkways at the National Mall in D.C., which highlights some cultures throughout the world. The year he went, they were featuring Northern Ireland, “they had the people doing unaccompanied solo singing. And I remember, I bought a CD and there were a couple of songs that just really stuck out with me, and I don’t know, I just had this idea, one day I’m going to use that melody for something, and then, we were building a 21 minutes one, and I thought “Well, I don’t feel like I’ve told the whole story enough, so why not make it 22 minutes and add this first minute of a cappella singing, the whole thing is ridiculous anyway, if people are going to hate it, then I thought, “Well, let them hate it more, I’ll put a cappella singing at the beginning.”

 

Francis sings about a “Dakota town” which happens to be Medora, a very small town on the Western side of North Dakota, “the song is about Theodore Roosevelt, and sort of like the 1912 presidential election, like his post-presidency. And so, the first a cappella thing is about him saying that… After his wife died, he went to North Dakota to live as a rancher and try to be this rich kid from New York, trying to be this anonymous ranch handout in the Dakota Territory, and he always said, that’s what made him sort of what he was living for a couple of years in that really hard Life. And so that’s sort of like, him having a flashback to his time doing that before he’s thrust into 1912, and it’s a lot to take in. So, I made sure the lyric sheet for both the CD and the vinyl has a lot of explanation for what’s going on so people can follow it along with sort of like a program to the whole twenty-two- minute song, so it makes sense to people.”

 

Caustic Casanova has definite plans to play it live in front of a crowd sometime, “we just have to teach someone all the keyboard parts and get a keyboard player to do it truly the right way and then get the country guy, Howard Parker who played pedal steels, Stefanie plays Country drums in his band sometimes. I don’t know how we’ll get pedal steel loud enough over three blaring stacks of amps but, I’m sure we can figure it out. And we have definite plans to do a big show where we play the whole thing with all of the parts and all with the pedal steel and the keyboards, so, we’ll definitely do it.”

 

Photography by Shane K. Gardner

Interview conducted by Fernando Parra aka numb3rblack and Jenna Williams ‘The Scream Queen’

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