PORCUPINE interview with Casey Virock
December 4, 2012
A first for this blog via the form of an interview. I first came into contact with Casey when he emailed me regarding this aMinature post. It’s seldom to hear new bands I really like but I was impressed by his band PORCUPINE & their first album ‘The trouble with you’. They basically mix together lots of elements I appreciate and throw them back out in a big rock juggernaut. The Midwest always seems to produce original guitar music and has done for decades. If, like me, you can’t get enough Shiner, Swervedriver, QOTSA, Chavez and their ilk then you will not be disappointed by this band. It’s not like you’re ever going to see PORCUPINE getting repped on Pitchfork or hyped by some hip music forum but bands like this deserve their dues. I sent guitar/vocalist Casey Virock a few quick questions…
1- What does doing this band means to you and why you still want to create music?
It’s really about having a vehicle to be creative. I personally have always liked writing songs. And being in this band is great in that I can play loud, raucous guitar with a lot of feedback and yet still have the melodies come through. I like sitting with an acoustic as well but there is something about the guitar, bass, and drums all going full on that is therapeutic…haha!
2- ‘There are approximately seven million indie bands operating on planet Earth as of yesterday…..we are one of them’. What would you say makes Porcupine unique in comparison to the average indie band?
If we are different or unique it may because some of our influences come from 70’s classic rock and 60’s British psychedelic music. Some examples would be Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett and T-Rex. We are inspired by them and we try to use those influences, but still create a sound that is truly our own.
3- What initially led you down this musical path to the point you’re at now? what was your first exposure to music and how did this develop into wanting to create it?
I think the point where I thought about writing my own music came about after seeing Love and Rockets w/ the Pixies in 1989. That show was incredible and really inspired me to want to create. I formed different bands and played around town which was then a bit funny because “hair metal” was popular in the area. After Nirvana came out it in 1991, it became a bit easier to get gigs booked doing our own material.
Dave and I played together in a group called SpaceBike which formed in 1994 and broke up in “99?”..after which we didn’t see each other for about 4-5 yrs. This group basically became Porcupine (named after my favorite Echo and the Bunnymen record) after trying out about 4 different bass players and then finally tricking Dave to come and record some “demos” …wink wink.
4- The new album was essentially recorded and released (digitally/CD) entirely independently on all levels. Within the current musical landscape how do you view this process as opposed to the distribution of music during the 90s?
I think we find it liberating to be able to put out records without the label b.s. We are able to record and distribute our music on our own. The internet has changed the game for sure. There was a time in a past band when we were concerned with our music being something a label might like and “sign us” …etc. At this point we are pretty cynical about the music industry…and it’s really just about making music we enjoy playing. If it’s something people like and want to buy, that’s great also.
5- What is your process for writing the material in Porcupine?
Most of the time I will come in with a chord progression and a melody, play it for the guys and see if it’s something that they like. They haven’t shot me down yet…but we also know as a group if something isn’t going to work pretty quickly. In that situation we just record it as an idea for some later release. An example on the last record was a song called “Floppish” which we all liked but felt it wasn’t ready to be recorded yet.
6- The lyrics are not printed on any of your releases, what is the subject matter/nature of your words?
I think most of the lyrics for Porcupine material comes from personal experience; relationship situations and stories filtered through this and that. I have never been a fan of literal, story telling kind of song writing. I like sarcasm and I prefer lyrics that are somewhat abstract. I want the lyrics to mean different things to different people. They are somewhat open to interpretation. I do feel that the lyrics and tone of the music have to have a relationship or it doesn’t work.
7- Your music sounds essentially like it could only come from America yet I sense a definite ‘British’ feel to it. In what areas would you say that you draw from UK bands?
We are all fans of The Beatles, The Who, Bowie and I still love the 90’s wave of British bands like Swervedriver, Teenage FanClub and My Bloody Valentine. Those bands to me always had a more artistic way about them. The album artwork, the song craft, the guitar sounds..etc. It’s just my opinion but I feel they seemed to push their music a bit more outside the box. I think the way that I sing, perhaps some of the inflections that I use, would maybe give the listener a sense of the British influence? The American slant for us would be Husker Du, The Pixies, Meat Puppets and Queens of the Stone Age.
8- The type of groups you often play with (Meat Puppets, Mission of Burma etc.) are not young bands, how do you balance the increased responsibility (family/work) against Porcupine?
We have been fortunate with Porcupine to play with bands that were musical heroes to us growing up i.e. Meat Puppets, 18th Dye, Mission of Burma. All of us now have families and so our priorities have changed for sure. We try to keep busy and productive with Porcupine. Whether it’s gigs or making records, we keep in mind that we need to re-charge the batteries a little more than we used to…a.k.a. sleep. And our families are our first priority so we recognize how important it is to make time for them. We don’t play out as much as we would have 15 years ago. We play maybe 2-3 times a month and so it seems to be a fairly good balance of work/family/band time.
9- Porcupine sounds very focused and direct, do you think this type of directness can only come from age/experience?
I think that my only answer for that would be just doing what we do without too much concern with what people think. That may come from being in our 40’s now and having played for awhile. And also just about having a better sense of the way things work in this business. We are confident about how we operate and we have found a method that works well for us. Dave and I being in SpaceBike before and having some success, have some common ground to draw on in regards to recording, album art, shirt design, etc. So yes, I would say that some of the focus definitely comes from being older and just knowing what it is that we want to accomplish.
10- You’d mentioned Adam Franklin borrowed your Jazzmaster for the last SWD reunion shows. What was in the ‘thank you’ package that he sent you?
Adam sent me a Swervedriver Mezcal head T-shirt, two vinyl 7″ inch records of his Bolts of Melody material and a Swervedriver DVD of a performance that was live in Australia. He is an amazingly talented songwriter and I wish Swervedriver would make another record. That would make me very happy.
Adam Franklin, Casey & Jimmy Hartridge