RIP Casey: The Loving End Of An Era

On 1st December, followers and fans of Welsh quintet Casey were delivered information that was tough to swallow:

“The time has come to say that although there are aspects of the band we all still love dearly, we have to be honest with ourselves, and admit that now is the right time to draw Casey to a close.”

With this beautiful and respectful announcement, it was clearly undeniable: Casey were coming to an end. I had curiosities about the decision, even after the honest statement, and Casey’s frontman Tom Weaver was kindly obliging in sharing some of the behind-the-scenes thinking. Our interview:

I am wondering if this closing of a chapter crept up slowly and gradually, or whether there was a moment of ‘doneness’ for yourself and the band?

The conversation actually started with me declaring that after a final headline tour I would be stepping away from the band. We already knew at that point that Liam wouldn’t be joining us on the Never Say Die Tour due to a health issue he needed to take care of, and it shortly thereafter came to light that Max would only be playing a handful of the shows too for personal reasons, so I felt it wouldn’t be fitting to bow out on that note.

By that time, however, which would have been early October last year, I’d personally come to the conclusion that my time with music was nearing a close. And further on from that, after a little more back and for, the rest of the guys decided that not only would it not feel particularly appropriate to have another person singing the lyrics I’d written, but there were also a few other obstacles arising that perhaps would have been surmountable in isolation, but in the grander scheme of things made the split more rational.

The conclusion of the band, or at least my involvement with it, was always something I’d envisioned though. When we first started writing music together and playing shows in 2015, I’d already told the guys that the moment it felt inauthentic, I’d walk away from it. Popularity and financial gain were always totally irrelevant, it was an exercise in emotional investment from the outset.

And further to that, I feel like the decision was both gradual and instantaneous, in the same way a candle will flicker for a while before finally snuffing out. Shortly after our headline tour in April, I started to feel a departure from the investment I’d always placed in the band. It waxed and waned over the summer, then by the time mid-September rolled around my mind was made up. I don’t think there was a particular morning I woke up with an epiphany of leaving, but I’m sure it could be narrowed down to a week or two.

Where I Go When I Am Sleeping comes across as a release of thoughts and experiences from exceptionally challenging moments. Do you feel like the album’s honesty was part of this factor of having evolved from the ‘angry, conflicted man’ you mention in the statement, or is it just time passing and other healing experiences?

I feel like WIGWIAS was still, at least in part, a product of frustration on my behalf. A lot of the experiences I talk about on the album were being discussed from a place of anger and futility. There were, however, a lot more opportunities for the reprieve of acceptance and personal growth to shine through.

With Love Is Not Enough, I was angry that it took me so long to acknowledge the toxicity of my situation, and how I was blind to the impact it was having on my relationships with others. Then with WIGWIAS, I was frustrated that regardless of trying to help myself I was still experiencing difficulties that were beyond my control. However, in addition to that I allowed myself the praise that I was still trying, and if that was all I could do then I’d have to consider it as a personal victory.

The various events described on WIGWIAS span just over 10 years, with the most recent of them being February 2017, but I think writing the closing statement to “Wound” (which was the final piece written for the album) really put everything into perspective and made peace with it. Then by the time the album came out, and we’d toured it across Europe, it was evident to me that I’d internally laid that anger and frustration to rest.

If you think back to early music making for yourself and Liam Torrance, you shared in our previous interview that you felt your earlier lyrical content was ‘rubbish’ because you didn’t have anything of meaning to say. Does it feel like progressive dark/challenging times kind of became entrenched with the Casey entity? As that was where it seemed to work for you?

I think Jeremy Bolm covered this topic better than I ever could on the song “To Write Content”. Writing about hardship has always come far more naturally than writing about a plateau of contentment, especially when a standard of song writing has been previously set. I feel like if I was at place in my life where I regularly experienced euphoria, then Casey would continue as I documented it. But trying to describe a feeling of being happy with getting by just doesn’t interest me at all, and I can’t imagine it would make for particularly compelling reading haha. Casey was never intentionally destined to discuss the darkest of my experiences, but that’s what’s always felt most comfortable and the most creatively fulfilling. I suppose some people would say that I’ve had my fair share of bad luck, I’ve encountered a lot of medical difficulties and I’ve endured emotional hardship on more than one occasion, but without that I wouldn’t have had the muse to create Casey, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the emotional effervescence to write in the flamboyant way I do.

Further on that same thought, does it feel like without those dark and challenging themes that it’s ‘just not Casey anymore’?

This is definitely something that would cross my mind occasionally after the release of WIGWIAS. I don’t necessarily think that Casey would be dependent on the writer’s sorrow, but certainly on the superlative of what they were feeling. In the same way that David Bowie’s Blackstar was a very self-aware documentation of his impending passing, it’s not necessarily grounded in sadness, but still reaches the superlative of his experience. That’s why I can’t imagine that complacency would make an interesting focal point for a Casey record.

As a side note to the entity and identity of Casey: I’m curious as to how Casey would appear to you if it were a living breathing person or creature?

I can’t image what single entity would embody Casey. In truth I’d like to think, as a collective, it’s merely an extension of the members. Because it’s always been so hyper-personal and even self-contained in a sense, it’s a perfect reflection of those that have had most personal input toward it, which would be the five of us.

To what extent do you feel that listener/fan expectations come into the identity of Casey? As in, does it feel like you couldn’t branch into something very different because of what you are known as sounding and feeling like?

As a creative project I don’t feel like fan perspective has ever played a role. We’ve never sat together and considered what we think fans would like to hear, it’s always been entirely self-serving in the sense that we’re our worst and only critics. Brad (Wood) gave a lot of his perspective and insight when making WIGWIAS, but even then, it was the band that had the final say in what would fly.

However, if we were to become conscious of the fan expectancy during our writing process, I don’t believe a great deal would change. Since the beginning of Casey we’ve tried to exercise a flexibility with our sound that prevents us from being tied to a single genre or demographic, and that extends into the band name, the artwork we chose, the original press releases we would write. We wanted everything to remain as ambiguous as possible because once you start really treading down a path with certainty, it’s difficult divert to another. As a result of that, the Casey fanbase has always been incredibly receptive to variations in our sound. Obviously we’ve received the occasional sideways remark or dull criticism, but again, Casey has always been self-serving, so they were largely ignored.

I love the honesty that has come into your announcement, with openness toward the possibility of future projects. Does creativity creep in and find you? Or maybe a lack of that has inspired this deliberate ending too..

To be honest I’ve never been an overly creative individual, in the sense that I couldn’t just sit down and begin to write lyrics without purpose. Well, actually that’s not necessarily true, I could definitely open a Word document and just jot something down that rhymed, but it wouldn’t fulfil me in anyway and therefore I would never do it. The bulk of the lyrics for both Casey records were written in the studio, while recording the albums. I remember how stressed Brad was getting during the WIGWIAS recording process because even up as far as Day 8 (out of 13) in the studio I’d barely written more than about 3 songs. I’d be sitting in the lounge trying to speed run Half Life 2, and he’d come in during recording breaks to check on me. Every single time he’d ask for an update on the lyrics and I’d just say “yeah I’m gonna start them in a bit”, but “in a bit” would never come haha.

Then when the instrumental recording was drawing to a close I locked myself in my room and wrote the whole thing in about 3 sittings. Inspiration has never been something I’ve been particularly short of, but motivation and investment are finite resources for me. If I can get myself into the right frame of mind, and I’m wholly invested in a project, I can write however much I need to. Getting me into that place, however, is something that takes a lot of emotional investment.

You mention the mentally challenging situation of having to take on the emotional investment of something that isn’t authentic to you anymore. Do you feel this is a common situation that plagues bands, in particular vocalists often? It would be a balancing act between authenticity and self-safety.

I’d say that would be entirely dependent on the vocalist. I know plenty of singers who will frequently perform songs that they have absolutely no attachment to, it’s just a job to them, and they take that very literally. Then on the other hand I know performers who can’t bring themselves to perform particular cuts from their back catalogue because the emotional weight attached to them is too great.

It’s always a disappointment for me when a band traverses from an exceptionally emotional record, or a record written from a place of intellectual complexity, into using a far less refined and more generic palette. I suppose that’s what it came down to for me. I know exactly what I’m capable of lyrically; when I’m truly invested in a theme or tangent, I know how captivating the product can be. I don’t think I could ever forgive myself for writing purely through obligation, to deliver songs that a sub-standard to my capacity.

Perhaps a dumb question, but are there similar emotional impacts for non-vocalist musicians also? They go along with you on the journey but also sharing some decidedly heart-wrenching pieces of music.

I would absolutely imagine so, but again I feel it depends on your motivations. If you’re writing music purely to make money, and you’re able to keep yourself emotionally detached from your art, then I don’t feel there would be any moral conflict in writing garbage, providing its garbage that sells. There would definitely be musicians who couldn’t do that to themselves though, whether it’s a case that they’re notably invested in their music, or whether it’s a matter of pride in again showcasing anything that doesn’t live up to their potential.

April and May will see you touring EU and UK on the ‘It’s Time For Us To Bury Our Love’ tour. I expect these will be intensely emotional shows, giving fans an opportunity to say goodbye however they see fit. What is your outlook about these shows for now? I’d ask if it is daunting to think about a string of sad shows ahead, but maybe it is what you’ve come to expect…

I’ve actually never allowed myself to get too worked up over a series of shows before actually being on the road. It’s probably a product of my colitis, which reacts very badly to stress, but I’m generally quite a placid person, and I keep my expectations low wherever possible. That being said, having both London shows sell out so quickly really took me and the rest of the band by surprise. We knew some of the shows would probably sell out closer to the time, but to have it happen in a matter of days was really humbling.

By this point I’ve grown accustomed to our shows, particularly headline shows, being quite intense emotionally. I’ve sat at the merch table at pretty much every show Casey’s ever done, so I’m used to interacting with fans quite intimately. Sometimes that can be a really wonderful and personal interaction, and other times it can prove to be incredibly intense and sometimes overwhelming. I’m sure that emotions will be running high at the shows, but ultimately, we just want to give people, including ourselves, the opportunity to say goodbye to the band and lay it to rest.

When it comes to Casey’s live shows, what do you suspect will stick with you about them, years from now?

For me personally, Casey shows are always just a dizzy blur. I have a really hard time opening my eyes when I sing, so for the most part I don’t see anything that’s going on around me. I can’t count the number of times people have come up to me after a show and said “oh my God, did you see that kid do that thing?” and I’m just like…no, I didn’t hahah. However, creatively isolating yourself like that, and then having your little bubble perforated by the sound of an audience singing louder than the band, that’s a feeling I think will live with me forever.

Separate to the shows themselves, what have been some really memorable or impactful experiences when touring?

The travelling was always a huge motivating factor for me. I’ve seen so many cities I’d probably never have bothered going to had I not been in a band. The fact that when friends now go travelling across Europe, I can give tourist recommendations on a tonne of cities and towns. I mean, Australia is a perfect example. I’d actually been to Melbourne and briefly to Sydney as a tourist a few years ago, but getting to see so much of the country, getting to swim on the Gold Coast, getting to make friends so many cities all because I’d written some songs in a tiny recording studio in South Wales, 11000 miles away, it pretty ridiculous.

When thinking about memories, what about things such as creating music videos or working with fellow creatives behind the scenes – would love to hear some of the special moments.

Meeting Martyna [Martyna Wisniewska (aka gingerdope)] and allowing our relationship with her to develop very organically was a wonderful thing to witness. Especially in moments of creative doubt, where she may ask us for our opinion or perhaps for any limitations we may have, and for us to place total faith in her really meant a lot to both her and I.

I remember in the final days of the WIGWIAS recording process where we were winding down on tracking and talking to Brad about how we imagined it being mixed or what references we had for the sound of the record, Martin asked me what the plan was for the artwork of the record. I turned to her with absolute confidence and told her that she was responsible for it and could do whatever she saw most appropriate, all she had to do was send us the bill. By this point Martin had been to every show with us for two years, she’d been to some of the writing and practice sessions for the album, stayed at the studio with us for the whole process, and she’s in our main band group chat too so she saw every discussion from start to finish. She knows that record just as well as any of the five of us, so to me it only felt natural that she would be the eyes of the album.

The rest of us aren’t particularly visually creative, Max and Adam are both great artists but in a more tattoo style art sense. When we started working with Martin, I told her that she would have complete creative control over the content she created, and that we may give feedback from time to time, but in the grand scheme of things she was responsible for how the band was presented visually. That’s a role that she really took to heart, and she’s done a more incredible job than any of us could have imagined.

With Casey resting peacefully, do you feel you’ll still be kept busy in the world of music in other ways? Such as helping other bands with merch as you have before, or might you feel free to open up completely new doors?

At this point in time, and to be honest for quite a while now, I’ve been fairly disenchanted with the industry as a whole. So with that in mind, I think I’d like to distance myself from it for a while. I’m not saying I’ll never return to another creative endeavour, or that I wouldn’t help a band out with a third-party role they may need filling. But for the time being at least I have no intention of sticking around. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve been able to go on holiday without checking my phone every 10 minutes, so I think my first goal will be to allow myself to relax a little.

Much love, Casey! 🖤 Thank you, Tom, for such honest sharing. I’m grateful for the memorable experience of witnessing the Casey magic here in Australia on the tour with Belle Haven last year. UK/EU friends can farewell Casey on their final tour in April and May, as well as US fans getting a one-off gig in Chicago!

Photos of Casey @ Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne courtesy of Ethan Zahorodnyj.

Kel Burch

Creator and caretaker of Depth Mag, Kel uses her superpowers of empathy, word-weaving, and feeling everything deeply, to immerse herself in music before returning to reality to write about her experience with it. [Loved the read? Shout Kel a latte.]

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