Indie-pop, uncle-nephew duo Casimer & Casimir haven't recorded an album, yet record executives are sniffing around to see what's what. They've yet to play a single show but have already been asked to play New York City's legendary Bowery Ballroom.
"This scares us to death because we feel we've just begun, but do not want to pass up the opportunity to perform on that stage. We're scrambling for a show in Chicago to get us prepared," said Craig Benedict Valentine Badynee, who performs under the name Casimer Pascal. His nephew, Vincent Casimir Caruso, performs as Vincent Casimir.
The Oak Park duo is releasing music on their own terms — perfecting one track at a time, enlisting the help of a designer to create art for the single and making it widely, freely available online. Stay tuned to their official band page and Facebook page for updates on future releases.
"We write and record simultaneously, starting with small fancies that turn it to grandiose statements (we hope). I generally write the foundation for the song, vocal melodies, and words in this manner...I work in a very well on my own but I can lose myself in this stuff. So, it helps having my nephew involved and helping me realize these songs," he said.
Oak Park-River Forest Patch fired off a few questions to the duo via email, which Pascal was kind enough to answer.
OK, so Casimer Pascal and Vincent Casimir. Casimer and Casimir. Family name, right?
C&C: My father, who died when I was about the age my nephew is now, was the first Casimer in our family. I named my son who's a 2nd grader at Longfellow after him, my older brother Casimer named his son after him, as well. Many of my nephews have it as their middle name...including Vincent. Some spell it like my father while others use the more traditional "Casimir" with all "i"s. I took on my dad's name when I began performing — it's haunted and inspired me ever since.
What's the Oak Park connection?
In 2008 I left the tiresome blight of Detroit in search of a living. I gave that city the sweaty dreams of my youth and it gave me what it gives most: poverty & an exhausted spirit. I landed a job in Chicago, moved to Oak Park, and let my previous vehicle, PAS/CAL, become one of Detroit's many fabulous ruins.
What made you two think to hook up with one another?
When I left Detroit in 2008 I left PAS/CAL and the romance of being in a band. Initially when I landed in OP/Chicago it kind of pained me to write or dream about music — I was burnt, so I didn't touch it for the first time in so many years. However, when Vincent came to live with me in 2011, through a lot of hanging out: intellectually wrestling over his fondness for conspiracy theories, watching a lot of Herzog, Hammer Horror, French art house films, and listening to tons and tons of music, the love for writing songs quickly came back to me.
We found we had much common...this especially became clear when Vincent asked me to compile a list of must-hear music from every decade from the 60s on. He dug everything I threw at him be it Harry Nilsson or Steve Reich, Eno or Gainsbourg, T. Rex or Neu!, The Associates or the Smiths, Rollerskate Skinny or Spacemen 3, Odd Future or De La Soul, et cetera. He is a quick study and began digging deeper and deeper without my help.
Listening together turned to playing. We began improvising in my basement studio...most were hour long jams making noise with guitars, tweaking synths, turning dials on delay pedals, banging drums & drum machines, but then song-like structures began to emerge. I found he was a great guitarist — someone who can tackle technical complexities, but never losing melody...never letting the mechanics get in the way of the soul. Around the spring of 2011 we found ourselves setting aside blocks of time to attempt writing and it just all sort of made sense that make it official & become a duo.
What's the philosophy behind releasing one track at a time?
I feel that the music press, publicity people, and, especially record labels are toiling around with a pretty archaic model that tends to be more in-line with their needs rather than the artists they work with. I spend soooo much time on a single song—often crafting it for months, refining elements, deepening the arrangements, working on words, harmonies, counterpoint melodies, et cetera.
My goal and that of my nephew's is to get each track as absolutely perfect as we possibly can get it...thus deadlines, release dates, and the like mean nothing. We've decided that we would release each song as we finish them—rather than holding off until we have 5 or 10. Why bother with that when people are only physically equipped to experience a song at a time and many music lovers—even stalwart concept album fans—spend the bulk of their listening hours with mix streams of diverse tracks? It's just not how most of us consume music.
Furthermore, I love the idea of working with our designer, Trevor Naud c/o Parody Lion, on a visual for every track rather than trying to come up with single representation for a whole collection. Each song is important, each one has it's own story. My nephew and I came to the conclusion that we'd be doing the song and ourselves a disservice by giving too much away at once. I have a sizable vinyl collection that agrees with me that the LP does nothing more than hide too many great, great songs...
Where did you record these tracks?
In my basement on the 600 block of Lombard Ave! I've been an avid self-recorder since I was 14 personally engineering every recording I have ever been a part of. I've been doing for such a very long time that I really have moved completely away from being a teenage gearhead to someone who understands that you don't need much equipment if you have a great song to capture.
Will you eventually compile them into an album?
Perhaps. A few labels have complimented us by asking, but it definitely ain't the goal. Our aim is to write & record great music indefinitely.
I can't stop staring at the cover photo for the Retiree single — to me it's spooky and a little sad. Where was it taken? Who took it?
The photo was taken in my family room on Lombard... I set up the shot based on a light concept I had taking a cue from the work of British artist duo, Gilbert & George. I passed on a couple photos from the session to our designer friend, Trevor Naud c/o Parody Lion, and he worked it into the somber beauty that became the cover for the Retiree single
Two of the three tracks you're making available are covers. One from the Walkmen, the other from a late 70s French duo. How did you discover Elli et Jacno?
Methinks we may be done with covers for a long bit. I never really messed with them. If anything I used them as a way to get back into writing my own. If you notice both, especially the Walkmen track, are almost rewrites or reimaginings of the original.
They were sort of arrangement experiments for me — blending electronics & acoustic instruments — that have lead us to where we are going with Retiree, our first released original, and other to-be-released songs. I grew up with an older brother who is a musician and a deep lover of music who took me to see Prince when I was 8, introduced me to Kraftwerk, T. Rex, Funkadelic, Sham 69, Yellowman, Sun Ra, and all other sorts of eclectic off-the-dial sounds at a very young age. He taught me to never trust the radio for music...to always curate my own collection.
So, match that with a love of discovery and a voracious appetite I'm always in hot pursuit of something I haven't heard. Jacno was one of these discoveries. In fact, just recently I've become Facebook friends with his old partner-in-crime and we are loosely talking about collaborating on a track. This would be an absolute dream for Vincent and I!
Pitchfork called your version of Anne Cherchait l'amour "slinking and carnival-like." Agree or disagree?
I could see that. I dunno it is sort of hard for me to say... I'm too close to it. Truth be told Pitchfork is such an influential force that I'm happy they mentioned it at all considering we haven't a record label or publicist!
What's next for Casimer & Casimir?
A new song that we are incredibly excited about finishing & releasing called "O Sweet Joe Pye". It is sort of a prayer or plead to the plantlife to surround, cover, and consume the shack I grew up in in Detroit. It just so happens to have a bit of a Motown vibe to it. After that we my collaborate on another Detroit-inspired track called "Devil's Night" with a great former-Chicago talent named Vanessa Upson who performs as Violetness.