Kasey Anderson & The Honkies

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Kasey Anderson & The Honkies

Kasey Anderson is comfortable in his own skin, even if it is uncomfortable to live in at times. Instead of glossing over the fact that all of his relationships have ended in break-ups that have resembled horrific train wrecks, he embraces these episodes. He also just wants to play rock ‘n roll music and is tired of critics trying to pigeonhole his music into a particular genre. All he cares about is being authentic in his life and making sure his music is true, no matter how dark or messed up it might be.

Before he and his band mates step out on tour with The Counting Crows this summer, Kasey took time out to talk about the making of their new album, Let the Bloody Moon Rise, the inspiration behind some of his songs and how much fun he had recording the album with a bunch of musicians he has long admired.

SSv: So how humbling was it to have The Counting Crows cover one of your songs (“Like Teenage Gravity”) on their last album?

Kasey Anderson: It’s cool man. I’ve listened to that band for a long time. I think everybody had that first record of theirs. I’ve listened to them ever since. It was humbling, and it was great to know that Adam [Duritz] and the band were going to record that song.

SSv: So how did that end up coming about?

Music can sometimes be given too much credit. That may sound kind of weird, but I think you have people who say that music can change the world, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. But I do think it can change an individual, and if it changes enough individuals in the same way then those people can probably change the world.

Music can sometimes be given too much credit. That may sound kind of weird, but I think you have people who say that music can change the world, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. But I do think it can change an individual, and if it changes enough individuals in the same way then those people can probably change the world.

Kasey: Adam and I had been friends for a couple of years, and we both happened to be in Los Angeles at the same time and I got a text message from him asking if I wanted to come by the studio because they were working on a new record. I said sure.

So I stopped in and they explained to me that it was a covers record and they were going to be recording one of my songs along with Dylan and Dawes and the Faces and all the other stuff that’s on the record, so it was pretty great. I think Adam had compiled a list of songs that he wanted the band to learn and that was one of the ones that wound up on the record.

SSv: What do you think of their version of the song?

Kasey: I like it a lot. It’s definitely really different from the version that’s on Nowhere Nights. The version that’s on Nowhere Nights is just acoustic guitar and piano and The Counting Crows’ version is quite a bit more ornate, instrumentally. But I like it a lot though, it’s a cool arrangement.

SSv: And you’re going to be touring with them this summer, right?

Kasey: Yeah, we’ll be out with them in the summer starting in July and going until about the middle of August.

SSv: Cool. Now is this going to be the first time you’ve toured with them?

Kasey: We played a few shows with them last fall in the Northwest.

SSv: Well I hope those shows go well for you guys.

Kasey: Aw thanks man! It should be fun.

SSv: Talk to us a bit about the new record.

Kasey: We recorded it with Kurt Block and we did it in two separate sessions: one in November of last year and the other in February of this year. Most of it is the band live, in a room playing. All the takes are one take. Nothing got spliced or cobbled together. And there were some others who helped us out a bunch too. This guy Jeff Fielder who plays with Mark Lanegan and a few other guys around town, he’s on it. David Immergluck from Counting Crows played on it. But the Heart of a Dog record was a record where I sort of refused to include any acoustic guitars or acoustic instruments on the record besides piano, but on this new one I backed off on that a little bit.

So I think it’s a good marriage of sort of the more songwriter stuff that was on the first two records and the way the band sounds now.

SSv: What was the reason behind not wanting the acoustic instruments for the last record and then backing off on that some for this record? Was it just a matter of what you were into at the time?

Kasey: Well, when I put out Nowhere Nights, I toured for two years behind it solo, so I had heard my own voice and an acoustic guitar for two straight years almost every night of the week. It just got very tiresome. So I wanted to make a record that made it almost impossible for me to tour without the band. I mean all those songs on Heart of a Dog can be played acoustic, but in order to present them the way I want to it’s better to have the band around, so I just wanted to sort of force myself to tour with the band and force myself to record with the band.

Another thing is, a lot of the reviews of all my records—which I try not to read, but then again I try not to do a lot of things I end up doing anyway [Both Laugh]—a lot of the reviews…you can’t get away from someone trying to classify you as one thing or another, whether it’s alt-country or folk rock or whatever. I just like rock ‘n roll and I just want people to know that we’re a rock ‘n roll band, you know?

I feel like you can’t do much with classifications past that, so not having any acoustic guitars on the record makes it really difficult for people to call it folk rock or alt-country or whatever they want to label it.

SSv: Good point. Coming from that perspective then, what were your writing and recording processes like for this record?

Kasey: For the new record, it was the first time, really, that I had collaborated with anybody. I wrote several of the songs with Andrew McKeag, who plays guitar in the Honkies, and it was a process whereby I would send him lyrics that I had written and he would send me back riffs, and I’d never really written that way before. I always felt that music and lyrics go hand in hand while writing, but it was fun to be able to hand some lyrics off to him and say, “Where do you think this fits in with what we want to do?”

And in terms of recording, this band is made up of guys in bands I’ve seen and loved for years. McKeag played in Presidents of the United States of America. [Drummer, Mike] Musberger was in The Pogues and the Fastbacks. Eric Corson, the bass player, was in The Long Winter. So all these dudes came from bands I love and made all these records that I just love, so it was really sort of easy to invite everybody into the recording process and let the arrangements work themselves out.

The first set of sessions we didn’t use headphones. We set up a vocal monitor in the middle of the floor and we just recorded it that way, and that was a good setup for us because during some of the quieter songs we needed a little bit more separation.

SSv: What was the inspiration behind “The Lucky Ones?”

Kasey: “The Lucky Ones” was a song that started out as sort of a break-up song, but it was a break-up song from the perspective that maybe not every break-up has to be a horrible break-up where the two parties never speak to each other again. That’s pretty much the only kind of break-up that I’ve been through, and I know that other people can remain on good terms afterward but I just haven’t done that.

So we mapped out this sort of imaginary world in which you get along with the people that you leave behind. You run into them later on down the road, and you just realize that you sort of have these years of your lives in common with each other before you move on.

I played the song for Curtis Salgado, who is a harmonica player from Portland, and he didn’t even realize that it was a love song; he thought, at the end, that it sounded like two veterans of war, or any two people who shared an experience, drifted apart and sort of reconvened down the line. And so I think it has different levels to it instead of just being a song about breaking up with a girl. It’s going to mean different things to different people.

SSv: That’s interesting that Curtis would respond to the song in that way.

Kasey: Yeah, I really liked it. I mean it’s always good anytime a song can work on more than one level. You know the song you’re writing is specific enough that it reaches out to people even though it’s not supposed to be about one specific thing.

SSv: You’ve been quoted before as saying that at the end of an album you should be able to get hints of what the next album should sound like as a result of how this one ends, giving the impression that there is a connective thread between albums so that they aren’t stand-alone collections. How did you arrive at that decision, as an artist, and how important is that idea to you?

Kasey: To me, it sort of binds your work together, you know? It started for me… there’s a song at the end of Nowhere Nights, it’s called “Real Gone,” and it’s a louder, sort of more snarly, more sweeping song than anything else on the record, and it fits right in with sort of the way Heart of a Dog kicks off. And it kind of occurred to me over the course of those two albums that Heart of a Dog, in contrast, ends with a song called “For Anyone,” which is a little more piano, a little more somber, and it occurred to me that a lot of singer-songwriters invite you into a conversation. And there’s comfort in that and I think there’s understanding in that, that you’re building a body of work and not just one thing that stands alone. You understand and hope that they understand that all of these pieces fit together.

SSv: Sure. There’s an intentionality to it all.

Kasey: Yeah absolutely. And it’s always fun to watch an artist grow, I think, and it’s especially fun if you can sort of find a link that connects you from the end of each record to the beginning of the next one.

SSv: You’ve said that Heart of a Dog is about the weaker parts of the human psyche and that your new album carries that idea through to the point of people who see the wreckage behind them as they try to figure out where to next. Can you unpack that a little? That’s a pretty loaded concept.

Kasey: Well, Heart of a Dog was just about sort of giving yourself over to those impulses that aren’t healthy. It reflects on some of the darker corners of my life that I painted myself into. People have their best moments and their worst moments and you have to take them both into account. People always seem to want to discard their worst moment and say, “Well I’m past that now,” or they aren’t going through that now and so they think their life’s different.

But I think it’s important to be aware of that existence and be able to take a look back at it and embrace the idea that the darker parts live inside you along with the brighter parts of you. It’s not as easy to leave that stuff behind as people want to believe that it is. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I just think the awareness of it is what’s important.

SSv: Why do you make music?

Kasey: The short answer is because I’m not good at anything else. [Both laugh] It’s the only thing that I’ve ever done that I’ve really loved and that I really felt at home doing, you know? And that’s from the time I was eleven years old and picked up a guitar and didn’t know how to play it but still had fun learning how to play it. It just has been the only thing that felt natural and felt like home to me, and I really don’t know what I’d do if I had to stop for any reason.

SSv: What does music mean to you, whether it’s your own or someone else’s music?

Kasey: Music is almost everything to me. Music can sometimes be given too much credit. That may sound kind of weird, but I think you have people who say that music can change the world, and I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. But I do think it can change an individual, and if it changes enough individuals in the same way then those people can probably change the world.

To me it has always been a touchstone. I liked to immerse myself in music whether I was feeling great or feeling down. Writing and playing music has always been an escape for me no matter what was happening in my life, so it’s something I’ve always been able to turn to and always been able to feel at home in.

I think it gives a lot of us who play music and a lot of people who listen to it and love music a feeling of comfort and a feeling of being at home that we probably don’t find elsewhere in life that maybe other people do.


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