Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Danny Reisch at Good Danny's in Austin, Texas
There was this one twilight evening in Lodi, Wisconsin, in the fall of 2009. It might have started as a crisp one, but it quickly turned frigid, as the air temperature plummeted to 30 degrees below normal. Only the hot chocolate later on in the evening made anything bearable. We'd all just been over at the pumpkin launcher, sending some into a big lake across the way. The corn maze was inviting. The reverb silo was primed for a visit and Alex Casnoff's heavy piano had already been loaded up the wooden steps and into the barn. Out there, surrounded by a cruel autumn night, we stood behind the barn, on the fence as he and his bandmates at the time - he men of Dawes - ran around with some goats.
Casnoff was the new guy in the band and he was quiet. He played his piano and he sang his backing vocals just the way that they were meant to be sung, but we couldn't have possibly known what he was capable of at that time. He slipped in with the rolling caravan that we took from one cold barn to the next on that Barnstormer tour, but he was mostly an unknown quantity. The songs that you're about to hear are staggering. They knocked us completely the fuck out, when we heard them the first time a few months ago, so fully thought out and developed were they. These were hearty pieces of writing, full of impressive depth - the sorts of tales that could have come from the best pages of a Richard Yates or Raymond Carver short story. They were formative and incredible and terrifying all at the same time.
Casnoff writes with a distinctive kind of fire that's like nothing we've heard in a very long time. It feels hurt, wounded and it feels paranoid. It feels delusional and destructive. It feels so damned literary and passionate that you find that you just keep listening, with every other line being so worth revisiting and analyzing even further. It's so well put together - all of these songs that appear to be about people coming apart at the seams. You get the impression that some of these stories are the kinds that doctors at VA hospitals here from veterans who have been floundering in trauma and their own inner turmoil since their days in whatever war they wished they'd never been in. There are adjustment issues littered throughout the songs and the protagonists are all very vocal that they've been wronged, or they've been had. Who knows if any of it's actually true, but the conviction invested in the telling, in the shouting is powerful. The spilling out claims us.
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