What got you interested in music?
Casey K: That is hard to say. A lot of people grew up in a house where there was only music but I didn't, there was very little music. The defining moment was when - I kind of figured everything out on my own, musically, so I didn't grow up listening to The Beatles, I kind of discovered stuff along the way - the first band that I really connected with when I was super young was Green Day. I was at a friend's house and we were watching their music videos and, of course, I was a fanatic so I'd seen all of them ten ways to the sun, and I was showing them to him and we were watching the video for this song "Waiting" and there was a close-up of him playing the guitar and I was like, 'hang on, what's different about him, why can he play guitar and I can't?'. I was like, 'I can do that, I just need to get a guitar and then I could learn how to play these songs,' and then something clicked and then I was like, 'wait, I could write my own songs'. So, it was just this definitive moment at 9, 10 years old I was like, well, that's what I'm going to do for the rest of my life and, here I am.
Do you have a favorite Green Day song?
Green Day is definitely not my favorite band anymore, they were just the first thing where I was like, this is fast and this is cool and, honestly, I didn't understand much about punk, at all - or music really - so they were kind of just there. It was right when American Idiot came out, but my favorite Green Day song I think would probably still be "Waiting", just because of the sentiment that goes along with it.
Which artists and bands are you influenced by?
When I was 11 or 12 my mom got me an iPod for Christmas and it was one of those things that I didn't ask for, it was never even a thought, and it was the biggest one they had at the time, like 30 GB. Of course, I had no music, we didn't really have a computer, we had a crappy one that my dad left behind, but we didn't have anything good. So, we went to my uncle's house - my uncle was kind of the hip, cool uncle - so he flipped up his iTunes and he scrolled through and he was like, 'what about The Beatles,' and I would be like, 'I don't know,' and he'd be like, 'yeah, you want Beatles,' and so he loaded up my iPod with all this stuff that I'd never heard. Over the next three years it was like, I'd be on the bus going to school and I could scroll the wheel and stumble upon something that would change my life, just 'cause it was all right there waiting.
I remember the next band that I really got into was Red Hot Chili Peppers. My uncle gave me all their music because I didn't really have the means to get all of their music otherwise because you couldn't pirate it - pirating's bad, don't do that - but you couldn't pirate it, I certainly couldn't download anything, so having that music all there was really the catalyst for discovering stuff. So, Red Hot Chili Peppers was next, I mean, I'm scratching my head with an arm that has their tattoo on it, so they're pretty influential, I would say. Then, after that, of course Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins - I would say Smashing Pumpkins is probably the overall, arcing, greatest influence - and then Radiohead. It's not like these are underground bands at all, but definitely I'm like, 'how do they do that?' and then I try to do that and it doesn't really work that well, but I try.
Who's your favorite artist of the moment?
I am a fan of a gentleman named Will Toledo who is a few years older than me, he is in a band called Car Seat Headrest. I came across him by accident on Bandcamp about a year ago and I was blown away. It was totally lo-fi, recorded in a basement like I've been doing for years, and so it sounded like absolute crap, but there was just something, I was like, 'wow, this kid's got a really cool way of looking at things and this kid's going places,' so I emailed him and we were talking back and forth and, flash forward a year, and at the end of August they announced that they're signing to Matador Records and this and that and they just put out an album called Teens of Style. It's kind of weird because it's like the first person I knew who's in this limelight roll; I would say that I've been closely following him and his rise.
How would you describe your sound?
I always saw alternative when anybody asks, because that gives me the freedom to do whatever I want and I'm not going to get pigeonholed, I can do something different. It would be like, if Green Day put out anything electronic tomorrow, it'd be like, why are you doing that? So, I can pretty much do whatever I want, and I think on this album I have covered enough ground that anything I do in the future is not going to be that crazy, because there's stuff that's heavily electronic and then there's stuff that's kind of acoustic-y and then there's stuff that's pretty heavy and there's everything in between. I would say that it's basically all styles of music - because I'm never trying to fit into one thing - but everything is done with a rock sensibility. So with the song structure and the way I write words, I'm not writing about being in a club, I'm not writing about having too much money, going to have to set it on fire, I'm writing about things that are real to me and, I think, real to a lot of people, so there's that rock alternative sensibility in the lyrics and then in the song structure that then is applied to any palate that I want, basically. So, alternative, [laughs] which I know doesn't narrow anything down, that's the best way to put it.
Could you sum up the album in one sentence?
I think the one sentence that I would sum it up with would be the title, which is I Gave You the Moon But You Wanted the Stars; nothing is ever enough.
What inspired your single, "The Boy With the Thousand-Mile Stare"?
I take a lot of stuff from books and movies and TV shows and stuff people say, friends and things like that, and I'm very open to the fact that - unless you live in a cabin in the woods and you're isolated - you're not completely unique, you're not independent of the world around you. Some people like to pretend that they were born in this big bang, separate from everything else, and they're kind of in their own world, but I'm very open to the fact that there's plenty of art around and I think your job is to kind of take from that and figure out your own meaning in everything. So, I take pretty liberally from other things - not, like, plagiarize - but I'll read a line somewhere and I'll be like, 'wow, that's cool,' and I'll find a way to apply that idea.
So, the book was A Hologram For The King by Dave Eggers and there was a little passage about the main character - he's not a failure, but he's disappointed his kids and he's middle age, mid-life crisis - and he was having a flashback talking about how he was at a high school reunion and he, I guess, walked up to somebody and the person described him as having a thousand mile stare, like he was always kind of looking somewhere else. I had just never heard it phrased like that and so I wrote it down and I immediately reworded it as 'the boy with the thousand mile stare'.
Like, two months later I just felt like saying something one night and I was like, 'I want a song that says this,' and I just kind of felt, where I was, it reminded me of the Avril Lavigne cover for the album Let Go, where she's standing in the street and everyone's zipping around her. I was like, that's how I freaking feel, man, everything is flying around me, everybody else is in labs discovering cures for cancers and people I went to high school with are doing this and that, and I'm like, yeah, I work in a kitchen and make music, what does that mean? So, it's kind of just me traveling down that line of thought and the name just seemed like a perfect fit; I was like, that's me, I'm always, kind of, wishing I was somewhere else.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
One, the old cliché , you're not alone, but I think that's really true. Some of your favorite music is probably your favorite music because you're listening to it and, maybe it's Coldplay, with a song like "Fix You", and what he's saying resonates with you and, in a basic human sense, it makes you feel like, okay, there's someone else out there like that. Obviously, Chris Martin is a much more handsome, well-off, fortunate man than I am, but he still has these fears and these worries and these concerns and he still wants to do right.
So, I think that my M.O. has always been, one, to kind of give a voice and give words to things that maybe other people can't, because - I don't want to say that I'm great at doing that because I'm not wildly successful, yet - but I think I have a way with putting words to stuff that other people can't. Just, give a voice to the voiceless type of thing. Two, it's not like I'm out here in the Peace Corp - this isn't a heal the world type of thing - there's always selfish motives and I think, for me, it's just to take everything that I've experienced and gone through and, rather than - like my father and his father before him - rather than turn it into negativity and anger and hate, to try to take everything shitty and find the silver lining and find a way to make something out of that and leave something behind, rather than leave people behind.