Interview: Deal Casino

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One year ago I walked into an empty rehearsal room at Lakehouse Recording Studios in Asbury Park where the boys of Deal Casino were waiting for me to interview them. The band was still pretty new to the iconic Asbury music scene, having just rented their first ‘band apartment’ in the city. The guys were extremely humble, and modest about their music. No boasts, no bravado — just a passionate honesty about the music they created for (at the time) their new EP entitled Heck.

Nearly a year later when I rang the boys up for our second interview, their status in the scene is so much different. They’re no longer the new kid in the town. In the span of one year, the name ‘Deal Casino’ became synonymous with royalty in the famed city-by-the-sea. The band’s sometimes outlandish wardrobe, their onstage swagger, and most importantly their excellent music have taken them from the proverbial outhouse to the penthouse. This band has toiled, worked, hustled, and played their asses off and has become a band that is something special in this scene.

However, the same humbleness, modest, and that same passionate honesty about themselves as a band and their music is still very apparent. The band is not satisfied with being the kings of one scene, they’re looking to keep working, hustling, expanding, and making new fans outside of the town that Bruce built. It’s both refreshing and exciting to see a band that could easily rest on their laurels and wait for success to come to them is excited to go out there and become ‘the new kid in town’ in other scenes in the Northeast.

In our interview we spoke at length with Deal Casino about the new EP, NIKA which drops today, major label aspirations and much more.

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A year ago, I sat in The Lakehouse with you guys, and I believe you guys just moved into your Asbury apartment and were doing a Sunday spot at The Saint. A year later, how has the journey of Deal Casino gone? Has everything gone according to plan?

Everything has gone according to plan so far. Now that we have a new spot, we have some new people listening in. The Saint was a really good spot, but it was more just for us, it didn’t matter if one person was there or a hundred, it was really all about us getting better. So we are really excited about all of that, we’ve played in Asbury Park for a year now. We are trying to get into New York City, and trying to get away from playing here so much, besides the residency Sundays at the Asbury Yacht Club.

Your name carries weight with it, you mention it to others bands or people in the scene and they say, ‘Those guys are important, that’s a good band.’ The reception to you guys has been very warm, is that a misconception on my behalf, or has Asbury fully embraced you as you would hope?

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Asbury really kind of embraced us a lot. And that’s a really good thing, especially if you are the new kid in town. You are trying to get all of your stuff together, and you aren’t really sure of your self yet, so that type of reassurance really helps a lot. A lot of bands get that, and they like that and try to stay a local band. So feeling that is really cool, but at the same time you can’t get used to those comments. So when we play in New York City, all these people kind of show up and we have to do it all over again. They will stand there with their arms crossed and kind of be like, “show us what you got.” So it’s not like Asbury where people will come and say, ‘Oh we know all of your songs and we will sing along.’ New York makes you feel like you have to keep moving because there are a lot more people to play to.

Is that difficult? Is it difficult to fight the urge to just stay in Asbury?

You feel it and it’s kind of a fear. There are bands that have done that, and we can look at that and say we don’t want to do that. You overwork to not do that; you get away from it which is a good thing if you always think about it. So we are always trying to think about things that we can do that are a little more thought out. So if we do a show here (in Asbury), we won’t do a show here more than once a month, besides the residency. But the residency is more of a practice for us, we aren’t trying to sell out the Yacht Club, that’s more of a show for us. Besides playing shows here, we are trying to get into other parts like Philly and New York, we are just trying to do the same amount of work we did to get into Asbury.

When you guys came down here, you were the new guys in town but made it here in Asbury. Does that give you a sense of confidence when trying to make it in New York or Philly? Do you think you can apply that same amount of hard work, theory, and other devices to make it in New York or Philly?

For sure. The only thing that really makes it difficult is that you have these new people, who are waiting for you to impress them. You have to do that all over again, but your show has improved so much that you are ready for it. You don’t notice that until you are actually playing. It’s still pretty intimating though when you go over there because of the people, because the people there still have that sense of waiting for you to impress them and the Asbury people really don’t have that.

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I saw you guys perform at the Asbury Music Awards last year, and I thought you guys had arrived, and you had star quality to you. You were extremely comfortable with yourself and your stage presence. Is that something you found in the last year, or do you feel you just turned the volume up on something that was already there?

No, we’ve always had a certain presence on stage. We’ve been playing shows together on stage since like middle school, so I think there’s been that certain connection between us all. We feel like we have learned to put on a better performance, and now we are all just really comfortable on stage.

You have the new EP coming out, can you tell us about the recording process and if it was different for you guys than the first time?

The only difference was that we did it to tape, so when we tracked vocals it was pretty cool because we went into our own room and sang each of our parts, and on the other ones we just did it separately. Still the two differences were the tape and the four of us tracking our vocals at the same time. The energy really was there with that because it really had a live feel to it.

Where did you guys record it?

Lakehouse Recording Studios.

In terms of writing for this one, did you feel it was a similar thought pattern, or a whole new source for this material lyrical wise from the first one?

Lyrical content..it’s the same in terms of a group effort. For the song writing itself, all our other EP’s we’ve been jamming on the songs for a long time, these songs were more fresh in a way because we had only been playing them for a month instead of like a year.

Did you feel it added to the way you sang and performed the new material since this was more new instead of something you guys had played for a long time?

We weren’t forcing ourselves to play a certain way. We were more open to the idea of changing parts and rewriting stuff in the studio. One of the songs we read was actually a whole lot of it changed in the studio, it wasn’t as structured it was more free.

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So that lack of structure in some respects gave the record more of a fluid sense?

It’s lucky we’ve been playing for so long that we can be comfortable with each other and trust that everyone know how to make a song sound how we wan it to sound.

How do you feel this record is different from the previous record?

It sounds more like Deal Casino. It sounds more like each of our different personalities in the band. We are always tweaking our personal tone and what we sound like, and this is the first one where we really thought out what we each wanted everything to sound like. Sonically, it sounds more original in a way.

Would you mind expanding on that a little bit?

With all four of us, every time we’ve gone into the recording process we come out sounding exactly like we did when we play live. Which is a good thing, because if you, as a band, don’t sound on your record exactly like you do when you play live that weirds some people out. So many bands do that where they sound so different than they did in their show. There will be added parts and sound like they have twelve different guitars going on at once and you just kind of think you know that wasn’t in the show. That’s a fine thing to do, but we want to make sure we stick to anything we can do live we can do in the studio. We just try and make sure it sounds raw and stick to the ’70s and ’60s sound of recording.

Are their major label aspirtations for you guys?

The key is we don’t know about what a label would have to offer right now for us. Every label is different in a sense that they have different ways of going about it. There’s a thousand different ways about going about it, in a sense of there are indie labels, and other different genre labels. Right now the answer is no, we aren’t going after a label at all. We just don’t know enough really yet, so we want to just gain the experience, breaking it into New York and Philly and such, and just accept ourselves as a band and we are just growing into a band that we want to be instead of a band that a label may want us to be.

Christmas time comes this year, and you can open up a present for the band and it is the accomplishment that you want as a band and something that you want to achieve, what would it be?

The main thing is we want to be able to play in the City, and accomplish what we have accomplished here but in the city or even half of what we have accomplished here.

Deal Casino releases their new EP, NIKA today, click here to listen. They play the Asbury Lanes tonight for the NIKA record release party, with dollys, Deaf Rhino and Smalltalk. Click here for tickets.

https://soundcloud.com/dealcasinonj
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Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be seven years old in 2016 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He currently works as a project manager in the telecom world, and is a freelance writer for NJ.com. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites