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A Strange, Much-Missed Feeling: The Return of Casavettes

Last month, the news of return of Limerick emo legends Casavettes after four years away was met with no shortage of rejoicing on Irish music Twitter (and Instagram etc. etc.)

Ahead of a handful of eagerly-anticipated shows from the band – kicking off in Galway on Friday – Mike Ryan picks the brain of frontman Diarmuid O’Shea about second acts, sonic evolution, Ireland’s DIY scene and – an old classic to end all old classics – the strange passing of time.

It’s been 5 years (almost to the day) since your debut album, Senselessness, and just over 4 years since your last single was released. How does it feel to be back playing and touring together?

It feels a bit like a fever dream. 2020 & 2021 made everything before feel like a million years ago, so to be back playing together is definitely a strange but much-missed feeling. It felt like something that wasn’t going to happen again. We’re extremely excited to return to the cities that we love so much.

Why the hiatus (I assume COVID had a part to play, but what else)? 

COVID probably did play the biggest part, in the way it exacerbated any other problems we had faced. It killed any momentum we felt we had, and with live shows out the window for a couple years, it was easy to fall off the wagon. The scene that we had grown as a band with wasn’t really a thing anymore, and without that backbone too, there was a sense of defeat.

We didn’t really make a concerted decision to go on hiatus, it just happened, and the more time went by the more it seemed to cement itself as a thing.

What have you all been doing in the meantime?

I (Diarmuid), formed another band called The Low Field. I’ve been mostly focusing on Féile na Gréine too, a festival a big group of us run here in Limerick every August.

Mike has played with Anna’s Anchor, moved to Wicklow and finished his phD. Steve has been working in aviation, spending the last 4 years getting his aircraft maintenance license.

Tell me about the band’s origins in the DIY LK scene, and what influence that had on your attitudes to playing, recording, and touring.

I met Chris Quigley through a friend in college, after hearing he was producing his own band’s music – Cruiser. We soon became friends, and with the rest of Cruiser, Anna’s Anchor & Eraser TV we decided to form a small collective to run DIY shows. I had originally formed Casavettes as a teenager at home in Co. Mayo, but it wasn’t until DIY LK that it felt like a proper band.

We soon formed valued connections with like-minded people around the country. This approach to music and organisation really informed our values, and we still engage with this sense of community today through Féile na Gréine. 

Being able to record with our mates, and then tour with people we’d met through our own DIY shows really helped in removing that alienating barrier that most people face when starting off in music. We weren’t dealing with faceless venues and promoters, we were organising shows with people who we had hosted in our own houses when they would have played down here, people who we are still lucky to call friends today.

You’ve got new tracks on the way. How do you think the new tracks differ from the music you were releasing 4+ years ago? What remains the same? Do you feel there are new musical influences that have coloured your new music?

Because we all live apart now, I think the songs sound a little different in the way that they haven’t grown from live performances. In the past, we’d be playing songs one night that we wrote the night before and would flesh them out with each show. We can’t really get away with that these days so the approach and writing needs to be a bit more concerted.

It’s funny though, these new songs have been in the works for a few years. I think one of them may be as old as 2019. So they do have a feeling of continuation.

They have definitely been affected by the time though. Myself and Mike have gotten into The Microphones a lot recently, so we’ve approached some ideas for these songs with that influence in mind. More distortion. More sustain.

The new music isn’t a major departure. I still rely heavily on my teenage emo influences, but it all feels a bit slower now, a bit more conscientious.

What is the band’s philosophy/approach when it comes to making music, and has that changed since you last toured?

It’s quite relaxed at the moment. We’re not putting the pressures we probably put on ourselves a few years ago. I’ve been trying to completely flesh out songs before sending them to the guys, instead of just small snippets here and there. Our practising time is limited so it’s better to come prepared with a full idea.

In comparison to when we were writing and recording Senselessness, it feels like a better approach. It was more scrappy back then. I remember not having lyrics finished for Only Way To Heaven so we only ever practised that song instrumentally. The guys heard the vocals for the first time when we got our first mixes back. It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but I think we’re trying to have a bit more control, more confidence, all that good stuff.

Is there a new album on the way? What can fans expect to see from the band in the coming months? 

An album is the loose aim. It won’t be anytime soon, but we do love the process of it and are excited to get into it. Scenes can change rapidly in a short space of time. 4 years is a long time to be away, especially with the type of music we play, so we’re mainly focusing on reconnecting musically with the different pockets of people around Ireland who showed us love over the last number of years. In the coming months, we’re hoping to release some new music, play some fun shows & just see what happens.

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