- by Nate Hennon
Caskitt is a three-piece punk band from San Diego. Before you judge their music based on their location and band structure, Caskitt is a not your typical punk band. Don't believe me, let their drummer/vocalist Matt Caskitt (aka Punk Rock's Dave Clark) expand on the band and their latest full-length "Old Fires New Frontier", out now via La Escalera Records.
PRT: First of all, I love the new album, "Old Fires New Frontier". Almost every song clocks in at about 3 minutes. Even though the songs are heavy, they have a lot of pop sensibility. Was this balance intentional?
Matt: Thank you so much! Yeah, I'm a huge sucker for pop music. Not necessarily Justin Beiber or Selena Gomez (although Steffen definitely is), but more like the pop songs that ruled the airwaves back in the 70s, 80s, & 90s. For example, I'm a big Tom Petty fan, and I always loved how his songs got right to the point. To quote the famous Heartbreaker "Don't bore us, get to the chorus."
PRT: The melody on songs like "Blinders" and "Villains" is intensely infectious. How do you maintain this intensity during a live performance?
Matt: Staying well hydrated and careful timing. Playing in bars/clubs, it's easy to drink a few beers or cocktails to loosen you up and calm the nerves. But I learned my lesson in Tijuana, Mexico a couple years ago. I was slamming these 32 oz. beers before our set and was severely dehydrated after we played. I'll occasionally drink a beer during our set, but water is key. And on the subject of timing: we don't put anything on the record we can't pull off live. The live show is in mind when we write. Steffen and Jesse will take over a line here and there, as well as sing their own harmonies, and that helps immensely. But water, lots and lots of water.
PRT: On your last record, "This Machine Kills Sadness", your songs were just as urgent as the newer stuff, but a little more light-hearted. How did things differ for "Old Fires New Frontier"?
Matt: TMKS was and is a very important album to me/us. Those songs were pouring out of me way before we recorded them. TMKS was lyrically introspective so they dealt with personal issues and things I'd gone through. It was my way of coping and working through the past. The theme of that record was sad, poignant songs over poppy melodies and rhythms. For Old Fires New Frontier, we wanted to write a more aggressive album and I wanted to give my perspective on more social and political issues that happen around us. So we went into it with an aggressive approach and didn't hold anything back musically or lyrically. We put a lot more thought into this record.
PRT: The 'Caskitt sound' is a mixture of a bunch of different punk eras and scenes. Who have been your greatest influences?
Matt: We're pretty all over the place. It's subjective to our own instruments. For me, I always looked up to and emulated progressive punk rock drummers like Dave Raun of Lagwagon, Jordy of Propagandhi, and Stewart Copeland of The Police. Vocally, I gravitate toward Chris of Propagandhi, Thomas of Strike Anywhere, and Nuno of A Wilhelm Scream (to name a few). Steffen pulls his guitar influences from bands like American Football, AFI, and a lot of black metal that I don't know. Jesse is a huge fan of Rancid, AFI, Anti-Flag, and really anything where the bass cuts through the mix and becomes more melodic. We pull a lot from so many genres but you get the idea.
PRT: I saw you guys just played Awesome Fest in San Diego, who was the band you were most excited to see and who put on the most surprising show?
Matt: If I could list them all, I would. The organizers of Awesome Fest do a spectacular job of bringing in all sorts of punk acts so each band has something unique that you need to see. But I was most excited to see all our friends' bands. We play with or have played with about half of AF bands so it's great to see all our friends just kill it. My favorite set of AF10 was definitely Bad Cop Bad Cop. They are just the best band and individuals that to watch them just own their set was incredible. They put on an unforgettable show every time. Xoxo.
PRT: As a mediocre musician, I am fascinated with anyone who can play and sing let alone when this is the drummer in the band. Was this the plan from the beginning or did this evolve over time?
Matt: For Caskitt? Yes. For my musical 'career' (if you can call it that)? No. I've been playing drums for close to 20 years. That is super weird to say, but it's true. Damn. Anyway, I have played for lots of bands in 20 years. No one really name-worthy but a lot of bands and artists. Punk, metal, hardcore, rock, acoustic, pop, funk, jazz, whatever. I really cut my teeth for 15 years playing with lots of people and styles that its not unnatural for me to be behind the kit. I'm confident when I sit there. Now, with a mic in my face and 30-45 min of singing on top of it? Not so confident every night. But there came a point at the end of 2012, when I figured, "fuck it" might as well see if i can do it and if people like it. Luckily I have an incredible guitar player who just "gets me". Sure that's cliche, but Steffen is a musician's musician. The fact he's so modest is really only to my advantage because he could leave and go play for Steve Vai's band if he wanted. But he's been my writing partner for Caskitt since day one and we know how each other work very well.
PRT: Because you are a "punk rock unicorn" (a singing drummer), does this dynamic free up the guitar, Steffen, and the bass, Jesse, to focus more on playing or would they be this badass if they sang too?
Matt: They definitely pull their weight on vocals and backups. And with us only being a 3 piece band, they have a lot of space to fill on their instruments. Steffen pretty much plays 2 guitar parts on one guitar (how?) and Jesse is not only locking in with me rhythmically, he's locking in with Steffen as well as dancing around on the frets of his bass making Matt Freeman's bass lines elementary. Plus, we decided for OFNF that all the songs, lyrically, would be primarily sung by me. But who knows, maybe on the next record they take over on song or two. I'd love the break mid-set.
PRT: One last drummer-singer centered question, but it is a two-parter. Who would you like to see in a drum-off and who should duet: Phil Collins, Don Henley, Ringo Starr or Karen Carpenter?
Matt: If Karen was alive, I'd be tweeting at her like crazy hoping for a duet with me and her. She was incredible. But Phil Collins and Ringo would bring the house down. Don Henley is useless without Joe Walsh. Steffen is my Joe Walsh. Ringo is so underrated it's a crime. And Phil Collins is a prog-rock innovator. I'd pay stupid money to see an "In The Air Tonight"/ "Octopuses Garden" mashup.
PRT: Since "Old Fires New Frontier" is out, what's next for Caskitt?
Matt: Tour. We're not writing another record til our van, Loretta, has 50,000 more miles on the odometer. And we really want to play in Europe, Australia, and Asia. I guess, See ya soon planet earth. :)