In Session: The Cast Before the Break
ALBANY – While never serving as an advocate for the pandemic – it’s left and continues to leave a lot of wreckage and rancor in its destructive path – it has indeed created opportunities that would otherwise be left for naught. This was certainly the case for The Cast Before The Break with their latest release, Where We Are Now. Coming out March 11th, it was ten years in the making (you read that correctly!). The band, over the course of the pandemic, got together virtually, and finally released what they’d started. Fans of the genres of post-rock, indie, and alternative – let alone fans of the band – should be ecstatic they did. Rife with fierce moments of musicality, stunning forays into arrangements, and tones, this album was a BEAST to listen to.
From the start to its finish, I found myself wanting more and more from the band. Almost exemplified throughout the record was their tendencies to make something that would normally be considered a long song, seem incredibly short, such as the opening track, “Friends of Mine.” A panoply of sounds, and wonderful effects, such as the distorted drum outro on “Shy Away,” track seven, Where We Are Now contained nuggets of musical information that could easily result in a listener finding something new to glom on to with each subsequent listen. As soon as “Hindsight,” the closing track concluded, the beginning of the record was almost begging to be started once more. A song flush with well-timed ebbs and flows of energy, it contained a very effective outro. Just stunningly terrific.
Throughout, the almost essence of a musical suite pervaded each track. In this sense, though it didn’t really contain a classical component to it, in terms of musical phrasings and sounds, the ethos was most assuredly there. On top of this, the often-blistering guitar work – along with the consistent and driving force of the bass and drums that never failed to serve as a lynchpin that ought not be reckoned – turned an already amazing record into this particular listener’s recent favorites. I was able to sit down with the majority of the band and discuss not only the record, but the stories, and road that led to such a release. It was such a pleasure to get to know the band. A seemingly group of chill dudes with one hell of a musical statement. What follows is said conversation. To support the release, please follow the links at the end of the article!
Lucas Garrett: Thank you so much, you guys, for taking the time to sit down. Why don’t you introduce and tell us a bit about yourself?
Jeremy Carter: I’m Jeremy Carter. I play guitar in the band. I guess we’ve been doing it for fifteen years?
TJ Foster: Fifteen years ago, we started writing. I’m TJ Foster. We all met at college at SUNY Oneonta. I’ve been writing music since I was 13, let’s say? I’ve been writing good music since I was 32. Haha. This is what I love to do, and I know this is what these guys love to do.
Ryan Crosby: I’m Ryan Crosby. I play drums. I joined the band in 2008, I think, after the first release. So, I was on Still. I’ve been playing drums since… God, I don’t even know; it’s got a large number in it, now. But, it’s been fun getting back into it with these guys and really starting to dive back in to the creative process with a group of people. It’s been fun getting to do that again.
LG: For sure. Now, I know that you guys were in the process of making Where We Are Now for a while. Things happened; life happened, and it got shelved. What happened there, and what made you say, “I want to finish this off?”
TF: Every couple of years, or so – at least for me, personally – I would always dig this out and put on the instrumentals. For a creative exercise, I’d sing over them, or whatever. These were always songs that I wanted to finish; knew should’ve been finished. I know all the guys felt the same way.
We’re all kind of spread out, first of all –Jordan (Stewart) and I are here in Albany, these two guys are in Rochester, and our bass player’s in California. It’s not the easiest thing to get in a room together, but once the pandemic hit; we were all kind of isolated; this and that, it opened up a lot of lines of communication. It was a lot easier to talk to people and do these things. Being 2021, it was also a lot easier to send recordings back and forth. We got to finish this from a distance.
JC: Maybe this sounds conceited, but I feel like we all knew we were sitting on these tracks that we started ten years ago that we felt were the best we’d ever done. There was always this lingering cloud, “Man, this is never going to see the light of day.” I remember TJ posting a bunch of unreleased demos, a couple of years ago, on Soundcloud. The demo of “Hindsight” was one of those; I remember listening back to that, reaching out to TJ and Jordan, and saying, “Can we at least do that?” Once we started getting into it, we were halfway done and it blossomed into us doing the whole thing.
RC: I had kind of an opposite experience with it – my stuff’s been done for ten years. For me, it’s like that meme of the guy with a stick poking the dead thing. “Hey, guys, can we do this?” Haha.
LG: Very nice, I liked that comparison. I think a lot of us as musicians have felt – ever since the pandemic hit; the role of music; the role of people that perform music; the role of people that enjoy music – the almost lopsided relationship. There’s a definite tenuous relationship that I have with music – from loving it one day to saying, “Fuck this, I don’t want to do it ever again.” The pandemic, I feel, has heightened those feelings – good and bad. While it’s allowed us to collaborate and do things, such as you guys with the album, it’s also made things a lot more uncertain. What are your thoughts on the way of the world in terms of how the music is going forward from here? How do you guys feel about that?
RC: This has been a really couple of interesting years, for myself. This record exists over ten years of time. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the current tactic, it probably wouldn’t have happened?
LG: That’s kind of what I mean…
RC: I think for the industry, from the global perspective, it’s a blessing and a curse: anybody at any time can record, which is awesome. But, since anybody can record, it’s kind of flooded. There’s an abundance of input into the marketplace; it’s harder to get your stuff out there. At the same time, it’s allowing for more people to express themselves. At the end of the day, I feel that’s the most important thing. The past two years put me in a spot to learn guitar. That’s something I wanted to do for a long time, and I started writing my own stuff. That wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the current state of things. It’s a good and bad thing – it stinks because some people’s stuff may not get heard by as many people, but more people have access to create.
TF: This kind of happened way back when Napster first came on the scene. People need to adapt. For better or worse, as Ryan said, there’s a flood of music. It’s impacting the way people listen to music, too. It’s more of like a singles game, right? You put out a single every few weeks and that’s kind of what people want.
The three of us, or four of us, maybe – I can’t speak for you – are album purists. We like to listen to a full story from start to finish. It’s not how people consume music, anymore…
LG: One of my favorite albums is Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, so…
LG: That’s a forty-two-minute-long song.
JC: For us, there’s so much thought that goes into the order of the tracks. It seems simple, but… It’s fun to listen to albums and take it in as a whole and hear how they pieced it together; how do the tracks flow? What else is going on in the whole record? I feel that’s what gives it staying power.
LG: Let’s talk about that a bit more, because there was a lot of stuff that made me think, “Wow, that’s pretty damn cool.” In Where We Are Now, you have a chance to hear something new because there’s just so much damned information on that record. The first song, “Friends of Mine,” for example. It has a bunch of movements, and while the song doesn’t have an inherent classical sound to it, where you hear that a lot is in classical music. A lot of various movements throughout one piece. I was very impressed by how you arranged all that, and I think it’s very thematic; very well written, and very well played. I was very impressed by what I heard.
JC: That’s a big compliment.
TF: Yeah, that’s awesome.
RC: Thank you. It’s funny, that first track. My wife texted me today – she texted me a screenshot of it and said, “This is one song?” She was listening all the way through and thought it was three separate tracks. That intro has three different movements within the song. I like long songs; not everybody does. It makes it more palatable for folks that may not normally gravitate towards longer things. I don’t remember if we ever intentionally did it that way, though.
It just felt right; it was one that survived the “chops,” as far as cutting it down and all that.
LG: I’m not one to tell anyone how to make their art. It’s so subjective – we all know that. When you make a seven-minute-long song, and you get to the end of it and think, “I wanna hear that again…” In my view, I can’t say art is good or bad, especially because who the hell am I? But, if you can make seven minutes seem like you want to immediately go back and hit play, then, in my opinion, you have something there.
RC: Thank you, that’s awesome.
JC: It definitely goes through movements and it is a seven-minute song. But, the movements it goes through – at least when we’re playing it and writing it – doesn’t feel like it’s a seven-minute song, to me. When it’s done you don’t feel like you spent seven-and-a-half minutes. It takes you on a bit of a journey, which is cool.
TF: Back then, too, when we were writing, I didn’t pay as much attention to what the length of a song was. Almost like Ryan said, I’d ask, “When does it feel like it should end?” Ten years later – at least speaking for how I write, now – it’s a blessing and a curse. People have shorter attention spans. If a song is broaching on the four- or five-minute mark, I think, “There’s gotta be some cuts here or no one’s going to listen to it start-to-finish.” It sucks that that’s a little voice in the back of your head.
That’s part of the reason I had a lot of fun revisiting all this stuff. It felt more carefree. It was kind of what we did. This is where we thought the songs should go; listening to them back, now, still made sense. Which is great; it captured a nice little moment in time.
LG: I think when you have a record that is almost done, and then don’t do anything with it for ten years – for whatever reason… When you add to what you are now, or “Where We Are Now,” not to be punny, to where you were, I think you get a nice maturation of sound. I don’t know what was recorded back then, versus what was recorded now, but I think it’s really cool when one can do that. How did you feel about that when you were doing this?
TF: I think it was really awesome to approach these songs that we wrote in our twenties when life was a lot different than it is now. We were able to polish them off with more experience, knowledge, and nice equipment!
JC: And musicianship.
TF: To touch on what was recorded now and back then: the whole rhythm sections of the songs are rooted in 2012, 2013. We drew a blueprint to a building back then that we didn’t finish building until ten years later.
LG: Did you find that limiting in any way? If you only had the bones to work with, and you’re like, “Well, these bones are great, but now had I’d make them, now,” was that hard to circumnavigate? Or, was it organic?
TF: I didn’t find it hard, but I think I’m a little closer than maybe the rest of these guys with the songs. I’ve heard these songs a certain way for all these years. To revisit them was like opening a familiar book. On paper, it should’ve been a lot harder than it was.
JC: To TJ’s point, he’s right in that there’s something to say in sitting with the songs for so long. In my head, that’s how they were, and they weren’t going to be any different either way. But, having ten years of playing; ten years of musicianship, coming back to this album, now, I feel like I was able to do things that I flat out wasn’t able to do before. Or, do things that I wouldn’t have thought to do before.
TF: We also got really lucky in the respect that Ryan’s a fucking beast on drums. Everything we did back then was so amazing. We picked the right drummer, you know?
RC: Aw, shucks. It’s a good thing we were good with those bones, though. It’s kind of hard to go back and change all that. I’ve sat on these things forever; I did my thing ten years ago and then that was it. To hear it all come together – the things we were creating ten years ago – and to see it come to fruition… the maturity, and approach differences… It is something we wrote ten years ago, but it’s also something we wrote now. It’s wild to me how it came out. I think I can say for all of us… we’re very proud of… I wouldn’t recommend writing an album this way!
LG: No, for sure. No, no no.
JC: There’d never be any music if everything took ten years to put out.
RC: Haha. But, it worked out for us.
JC: It does have an interesting… I don’t know if continuity is the word. It’s weird to start something ten years ago and think about it one way. Then, ten years of growing and becoming a totally different person and bringing that to the table, and being able to finish it now. It’s blown my mind, too, that we had the title Where We Are Now, then. It makes so much more sense, given a decade later of life experience. It’s been a magical bunch of synchronicities that all lined up just right, I think.
LG: Yeah! Is most of the lead guitar work that I’m hearing, you, Jeremy?
JC: That’s correct.
LG: That’s some pretty fucking amazing work, my man.
JC: Ha, thanks, man.
LG: Actually, everything I heard on that record was amazing.
TF: Thank you so much.
LG: That tremolo picking made me realize I need to start practicing more.
JC: That’s all Jordan!
LG: We’ve covered a lot of fantastic stuff. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?
TF: The record, Where We Are Now, is available now on all the major awesome platforms that pay artists really well… Like Spotify…
JC: I don’t get it
TF: You don’t… Hahahaha. I will say we were lucky enough to get in touch with an awesome label out of New Jersey, called Mint 400 Records. Up until this point, our discography was on a label called Deep Elm, which was really great to us. Going forward with this record, growing as artists and growing as a label, we ended up in different places sonically. But Mint 400 has a fantastic roster and the support they’ve put behind this record has been amazing.
RC: I’m thankful for them. I don’t know if there are too many people or organizations that’d look at a project that started ten years ago, and go, “Yeah, I’ll put my name on that!” I’m very thankful that they did, and gave us the chance to put this out to a wider audience. We are really proud of it and happy to have it out in the wild.
LG: I know that as musicians, we often don’t like to take pride in ourselves, but you guys should really feel proud of it. It’s a fantastic record.
JC: Thank you very much.
RC: Thank you.
TF: Thank you so much. We appreciate you taking the time to do this, man.
JC: Yeah, absolutely. It was fun.
LG: Have a good one and I’ll talk to you another time!
TF: Take care!