Interview with [the] Caseworker


We were directed towards [the] Caseworker by our friends at Indiecater Records (a fantastic label which you really should check out) who had just released the band’s EP ‘Boats’. We loved the beautiful ‘lush indie pop gems’ as Indiecator so finely put it and instantly added a track to one of our mixtapes. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with Conor and Eimer, the duo responsible for creating [the] Caseworker, via email and found about more about the beginnings of the band and why you’re very unlikely to see them on tour anytime soon…

Cat On The Wall: I found out that you were both previously in a band called Half Film before [the] Caseworker came about. When and why did you both start making music together?

Conor: We started making music when we moved from the UK to San Francisco in 1995. We started learning our instruments together so the next step was songs… of the reasons we moved to SF was bands like Swell, American Music Club, Timco and Red House Painters. When we got there we found a drummer called Jason Lakis who was into the same stuff as us. The three of us formed Half Film in 1997 and made a few records together. We also toured a fair bit, but called it quits in 2001 when me and Eimer moved to Spain. Jason’s currently in Mist and Mast, and we’re [the] caseworker, which we formed in 2002. We’re the core of the group but others have suffered alongside us over the years – Sean Kirkpatrick, Andrew Lau and Will Waghorn on the drums, and Monte Vallier and Geoff Diesel on the guitar….

Eimer: To be fair to Con I would say that my initial instrument learning curve was definitely steeper than his! Whatever chance he had of finding like minded musical companions at that time, mine may have been more challenging! I think heading to San Francisco to start Half Film was pretty intimidating but it was also such a breath of fresh air, so exciting, a really great music scene and a very encouraging atmosphere.

COTW: It seems you like to travel as I noticed you are Irish yet have lived in San Francisco but have also travelled to South Africa as well as living in Switzerland… has your location ever influenced your music? How do you work around recording when you are in different places?

C: I think location’s a huge part of our music……every song we have seems to be linked to a place, lyrically. I never realized this until Monte pointed it out. Memory and places are always the themes.
Right now I’m in Switzerland, Eimer’s in northern California and Monte the producer is in San Francisco. We share demos via email as we all use Protools and it’s easy to stay up to date. When it comes to recording properly, we’ll most likely do the bass and drums in SF and then the guitars, vocals and mixing here in Lausanne. At least that’s the plan…..we’ll see if it works or not.

E: I think recording from different places works well for us. We were never really a band that wrote songs in a room together anyway. We would usually just trade the eight-track back and forth, so doing that over the internet will be a little easier that lugging the machine around, although I will miss meeting up for the eight-track handover drink. When we were all in the same city rehearsals tended to be an exercise in translating the final recorded tracks into something we could pull off live…you know we’d build all these layers as we’d record and then be left trying to figure out how to strip it down to play it live.

COTW: What is your creative process when composing a song?

C: Mostly it starts with me. I’ll generally develop the guitar parts alone and then hand them over to eimer for basslines and the overall arranging of the song…… if we have a working band – like we did in san Francisco – we’ll then take it into the rehearsal room and finish it there. I like the idea of four or three people in a room jamming on ideas and writing songs that way but it doesn’t really work for [the] caseworker.

E: I think that pretty much sums it. From my perspective when I get the guitar parts I usually listen for a long time before even picking up the bass. I listen and come up with a vocal line (no lyrics just a melody) which I then transpose to the bass…obviously a lot changes as it migrates to the bass but that’s my process generally. It’s always fun if Con doesn’t fancy doing the main vocals for a song as I go through the same process again but in that instance the vocals stay the vocals.

COTW: Your EP ‘Boats’ has some new as well as old tracks on it. Why did you decide to release an EP rather than an album? When can we expect a new album? Can you tell us anything about it?

C: We finished a record this year in San Francisco, when I was back there for a few months. Then we just went into limbo for a while. I definitely checked out for a while. I wanted to lay low in Cape Town and walk the damn dog and not think about music for a long time. Then Kevin at Indiecater asked us if we had any new stuff coming out and that prompted us to master the album. It’s been a while since we’d put anything out so we thought an ep would be a good way to stick our heads above the parapet again. Three years is a long time. It’s like: if you like us already, here’s three new ones. If you’ve never heard of us, here’s also a couple of old ones that we put out 200 years ago and if you like them you can go find the old records in the bargain bins. There’s a new lp ready to go but we don’t know what to do with it. Do we put it out ourselves? It seems to be the way forward. We just don’t know yet.

E: I spent most of 2009 back in Dublin… an experiment as I hadn’t lived there in a long time. We finished recording the LP right as I was leaving, literally finished recording one day and left the next. It was great to be able to come back a year later and still have the opportunity to help with some of the final mixes. We didn’t plan on such an extended process, it just happened that way and we were lucky that our time overlapped back in San Francisco, and of course that Kevin at Indiecater was interested in doing the E.P. Hopefully we’ll get the whole LP out there pretty soon, one way or another.

COTW: Do you have any plans to tour? Do you enjoy performing live? Any memorable experiences?

C: No real plans to tour, no. Personally I’ve never really enjoyed playing live. Most people in bands seem to live for it, so I know I’m in the minority here. I hate being photographed and being stared at, so getting onstage is hard… haha… but having said that, I’ve generally enjoyed touring but mostly because of the people I was with. We were lucky to always tour with sane people. So generally it’s more the shared experience of being in an active group with good people that makes a good memory. You always remember the worst shows but the best ones I can never remember. I guess that’s adrenalin. That weird dream-like feeling when everything clicks for an hour and you can lost in the noise. I never remember those shows. I remember playing in some basement in Berlin that was memorable, and a packed show in a tiny club Ghent with half film. Club Fred in Fresno was also interesting as the audience was two guys in Pantera tshirts, playing pool. They didn’t care for us, and we didn’t care for them. so it got a bit heated.

E: Yeah, I agree, I definitely tend to remember the bad ones or the ones that didn’t happen at all. I think we made the right decision not to plug in our gear one time in Philadelphia…it seemed reasonable to us not to play in six inches of water but an unpopular decision none the less. Oh and on one occasion we might have “accidentally” driven right by the venue but just kept on driving.

COTW: Finally, what does the future hold for [the] Caseworker?

C: I guess we’ll keep making records. I can’t see a live thing happening. We did that enough in the past and it’s too expensive to take a band out. People have lives to lead. And there’s just something about being on your knees in a club, taping your pedals to the stage, that I don’t care to revisit. Unless the stage is a very big stage, and someone can help with the kneeling and taping.

E: I enjoy the writing and recording process and sometimes I even feel like I have the inclination to play live, but unless something miraculous happened I know the reality of touring is less than fun.

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