Although Berkeley-via-Philly musician Dan Casey is best known for his funky electronic performances as Yalls, he has been making music under various monikers since 2003. From Lemons are Louder Than Rocks, to Yalls, to Steezy Ray Vibes and other secret underground projects, Dan is never afraid to explore new styles.
You may have become familiar with Steezy Ray Vibes after a demo for the single “Empty City” was quietly released on Soundcloud a month ago. Buzz began to build around the blogs, and the project deservedly caught the attention of The Fader and other major tastemakers. Dan recently released the second Steezy Ray Vibes track, “Time Stands Still,” which maintains the melodic, acoustic songwriting style of the previous demo.
We caught up with Dan Casey via email to discuss the past, present, and future of his recording projects. He explains the inspiration behind his latest experiment, Steezy Ray Vibes, and reveals which other East Bay (or Easy Bay, if you will) musicians are involved in the project. Hint: he recently released a Yalls remix of “Middle Waves” by Some Ember.
TBB: Hey Dan. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. How’s life in the Easy Bay?
Dan Casey: I love life in the Easy Bay. It’s sort of the place I’ve always wanted to end up. I’m surrounded by friends — who are also like minded musicians, but have their own diverse sounds and goals. It’s an incredibly supportive environment.
TBB: I believe you started your first official musical endeavor called Lemons Are Louder Than Rocks when you were still living in New Jersey back in 2003. How did this project eventually evolve into Yalls?
DC: Lemons was my first band, which i started in 2003 as a home recording project. It eventually grew to be a full band in Philly by the time I left for California in 2007. Once I was out here for a bit I got into different styles of music and production and eventually started Yalls, which was more about exploring new sounds. I kept elements of traditional songwriting but got way more into loops, beats, and remixes.
TBB: Your latest project, Steezy Ray Vibes, reveals an acoustic side of your songwriting talent that has only been hinted at through your previous material. What inspired you to launch this particular project?
DC: I’ve been a guitarist most of my life, electronic music is actually new to me. After I moved to California, but before I started Yalls, I was very much into American primitive style acoustic playing ala John Fahey. I spent a lot of time developing a style, but kind of set it aside when Yalls came about. I’ve been wanting to return to my guitar for a while and I just began working out some new songs. The new songs I was writing kind of inspired the project, but I can’t say exactly why I started it. An unknown vibe, perhaps.
TBB: Do you find it difficult to work on several projects simultaneously, or do you feel that having multiple outlets of artistic expression helps keep you organized? Do you feel that it’s important to reinvent your musical identity to explore new sounds?
DC: I would find it difficult to have only one project. A new project is an open book and it allows you and the listeners to start from scratch, which is important if you truly feel you have something new and different than your previous project. I don’t think its so much about the sounds as is about the process and spirit of the project. Yalls is about impulse, exploration and repetition… Steezy is about refinement and cohesion. There are more projects, too.
TBB: You currently have two songs released as Steezy Ray Vibes, neither of which sound like they were written overnight. How long have you been working on these types of songs before you came up with the idea to start recording under the SRV moniker?
DC: I’ve been working on these songs and sounds for a long time. Some of the chord changes and melodies have been floating around my head for a few years now, I just for whatever reason never realized them. I hadn’t realized it but I’ve been building up to this project for a bit.
TBB: What are your plans for the near future of Steezy Ray Vibes, and who else is currently involved with this project?
DC: I am currently working on writing and recording songs at home. I’m also building a live band with my good friends and fellow Oakland musicians Adam Myatt (James & Evander) and Dylan Travis (Some Ember), which is sounding great. No hard plans for a show or a release just yet, but those things are definitely at the top of my list. We are also planning a video for “Empty City,” which Dylan is writing and directing.