Strawberry Spotlight with Castle Black
Lady Audio: Hello everyone and welcome to the Strawberry Spotlight radio show. Our guest this week is Castle Black. We have Leah, Lisa and Matt joining us. Castle Black, welcome to the show! How are you today?
Leah, Lisa & Matt: Good, how are you?
Lady Audio: Doing alright! So my first question is, always, what attracted you to the realm of music? So we can just start with Lee and then Lisa and Matt.
Leah: I think for me – I was always kind of into it since I was a kid. I wanted to play drums when I was really young but my mom said, “drums are for boys,” so I danced instead. I still got a lot of a musical exposure that way. I think that was kind of when I fell in love with the rhythm and just the whole aspect of it. Then I ended up playing guitar after I danced for a little bit. It’s just always been a way for me, when I was younger, to just kind of connect with my emotions. I don’t know – there’s just music that got through me through different times in my life and just identifying with different songs and stuff. I was looking for a creative outlet that really brought together everything. I used to write a lot of poetry in high school and then when I started playing and I wasn’t writing right away. Once that I started writing and bringing that together with the writing, and the expression, and the performance, which I was used to from dance, was the culmination of all of it for me. After that it was the only thing I really wanted to focus on.
Lady Audio: Cool, go ahead Lisa.
Lisa: I actually came into it a little later. I did piano and singing and stuff is a kid. Probably about 4 years ago – 5 years ago – I did a rock camp for ladies called Willie Mae Rock Rock Camp in New York Cit. It was a fundraiser – like a weekend camp and get to try different singing or guitar. It’s a fundraiser for young girls who that want to perform. I just got really hooked into it and I started singing. Then I went to guitar and then I found bass, which I play now and I love.
Lady Audio: Cool, cool, and Ma tt what about you?
Matt: I have loved music ever since I was about four or five. Ever since I heard the Beatles and my parents old rock and roll records from the fifties. I’ve always just loved the rhythm of it. I used to set up on my parents couch with the pillows to play the drums. Later on it (music) got me through some tough years – my teenage years and later. But I’ve always just been attracted to the rhythm. Honestly, I’m not much of a lyricist or a word person. Always just been mainly about the sound and the rhythms.
Lady Audio: That’s cool. So how did you all meet and how to Castle Black get started?
Leah: So Castle black had a bit of a history before we all came together in 2015. I played with some other people and it’s just tough finding the right fit all around. So, Lisa and I actually met at Willie Mae, but we don’t really know each other well. Then my band was looking to play with another band and I reached out to that community. Her other band – at the time – ended up playing with that version of Castle Black. Then that band needed a guitarist so I joined them for a while. She and I were playing about a year-and-a-half before she joined Castle Black. Then our other bassist left so then I asked her to play with us. Matt joined a couple months later when we were switching everything around. So 2015, for me, is the real start with the three of us, although there were some versions of the songs before that. Matt was through someone Lisa knew in the community, here in New York, so he came to audition and we loved him.
Lady Audio: So Matt plays drums, Lisa plays bass, and you play guitar. So, Leah, you’re the lead singer?
Leah: Yeah, Lisa she sings, too. So, we try to do a lot of parts in songs and there’s a couple song she sings lead on, so we try to mix it up a little bit like that utilize both vocals in that way.
Lady Audio: Yeah I think it sounds good. So, I wanted to ask you if you could describe the kind of music you play. This isn’t a question like, “who are your influences” or one of those kind of things like, “who do you sound like?” I want you to describe, in your own words, the type of music that you play. It doesn’t have to be a specific genre – just descriptive words.
Leah: I guess for me I’m trying not to say what people say about it. It’s rock and the music can be heavy, at times. But, it’s also super melodic and a lot of it is pretty catchy, with the riffs, and the vocal melodies, and stuff like that. So, it’s also kind of hard-hitting and we want that kind of aggression to come out, too, but, keeps the melody, and those melodic and rhythmical elements, I think. That’s kind of how I would describe it.
Lisa: Too, when you listen to us when we play without one of the people present you can really feel if that person missing. So all the pieces feel very distinct. It isn’t like one part copying or immitating the other part. It’s more like three distinct pieces that play together, which, I think, is sort of unusual.
Lady Audio: So on the way to practice or in between practice when you’re having a break or something and your guys wanted to choose some music to listen to, who would you choose to listen to?
Matt: With the three of us in the same place? (laughs)
Lady Audio: Yeah with the three of you in the same place!
Matt: We all like to listen to rock and roll. Like my taste vary but, my go-to stuff is a AC/DC and Motorhead and bands like that. But, Leah and I love The Dead Weather, Savages, White Stripes – bands like that.
Lady Audio: What about some Hawkwind?
Matt: Oh yeah I love that too
Lady Audio: Whenever I hear Motorhead, that’s the first thing that comes to mind – Hawkwind.
Matt: I’m kind of the band Metal Head, to. But, I don’t want to put them through that – too much. (laughs)
Lady Audio: So, what do you like to listen to Leah?
Leah: I think that’s a good description. The Dead Weather, Savages, are kind of our crossover point. Historically I loved Radiohead, and The Smiths, The Cure – all those bands. Then Nirvana and Hole from the nineties. Then in the 2000’s, I got more into indie rock, and Arcade Fire, and The National were big influences when I really started started getting into the indie-rock realm. But I love The Dead Weather, I love all of Jack White’s projects – he’s just really talented, Sleater-Kinney – we really like as well. Things like that, I guess.
Lady Audio: Cool. How about you Lisa?
Lisa: Well, I’m kind of the anomaly in the group. I’m probably the most pop influenced in the group. I love The Police, I love Bjork, Blondie. I tend to listen to hip hop – like current hip-hop. I love Drake, which is probably embarrassing, sometimes. So I’m kind of the anomaly in the listening crowd.
Lady Audio: I love pop music, too.
Matt: Well, see, that’s the thing. I think we all love that too. I love Blondie, The Police, so it depends on my mood pretty much.
Lady Audio: Cool. So now I want to ask you guys about some questions about the album, “Losing Forever.” I really like the song “Dark Light” and I wanted to ask you what the story was behind it? I like the way it speeds up and I just wanted you to tell a story about writing it and also recording it.
Leah: So, normally the way that I write lyrics and I hear vocal melodies – I hear the main part of the song – with that it actually unusual because I came up with the riff – the main guitar riff and I had lyrics for different song in my head. They just kind of worked with Dark Light and, I think, that was for the verses and stuff. The rest of it just kind of came out of just playing the guitar parts, which is just unusual ‘cuz that’s just not usually how I will write them. Then when we came together – to add the drums and the bass – I don’t even know the slow part came about. Do you guys even remember that?
Lisa: I don’t know. (laughs)
Matt: I think that was your thing. You said, “yeah, let’s speed it up.”
Leah: The thing with a dual vocals, too, I remember that, there was a different version of that song – it was right before they joined actually and I played it was the other version of the band. I really just wanted it different but I really wanted that dual vocal part at the end and, I think, because I envisioned having that intensity. Lisa just takes that one part and keep that really study and then I have the lines coming over it. There was just kind of intensity there that just made sense to speed it up, because the first three versus kind of build. I keep the vocals pretty low in the first one, I kind of go middle-ground on the second verse, and then on the third verse it kind of screams. Kind of the point was to build that intensity so coming into the end where we really speed it up made it just made sense to kind of veer away from the way the rest the song was.
[Play Dark Light]
Lady Audio: Yeah, it was a really nice surprise. Because I listen to a lot of music and whenever I hear surprises like that come during the song that I wasn’t expecting I’m like, “yeah I love that.” So, it’s good!
Matt: It’s fun to to play, too.
Lady Audio: I bet. I really like the video that goes along with it you have it right front and center on the website and I wanted to ask you the story behind creating the video who helped with it?
Matt: The director was a guy named Jeff Szwast – he’s a friend of ours. I think we had met him in the in the music community here. He has his own musical projects and he’s in a couple bands that were friends with, so and then we kind of looked at his work and we loved it and we were like, “oh yeah this guy is perfect!” So the ideas were kind of mix between Leah and him, right?
Leah: Yeah I had this idea – in my head it was a lot grander but we don’t have enough money for it – but was apocalyptic scene and we’re supposed to have 50 extras crawling around in the dirt. That wasn’t actually supposed to be us but once we were talking to him and try to figure out what we could do on the budget we made some changes but the idea always was that it would be like a Hunger Games type of thing. The whole world is in the state and there’s some people who are surviving, and trying to get out and make it out of there alive, and it’s an oppressive, Fascist, society. So, that’s kind of the main idea of the video. We had to pare it down a bit, because the idea in my head would have cost a lot more.
Lady Audio: Yeah I had a really big idea for one of our songs called “Lady in Space ” I knew we wouldn’t be able to pull any of it off except for maybe a couple of scenes and so I said we just need to get a green screen and then we’ll just and then we’ll just go B- movie style and do it like that. So that’s what we did . S ometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
Matt: We were able to shoot it right here in Brooklyn. Part of it was just us the three of us crawling around – all dirty – it’s in a park near here.
Lady Audio: Oh no way it looks like you guys are on the forest or something!
Matt: No, it’s Prospect Park in Brooklyn! So we made it work ‘cuz it turned out pretty good.
Lady Audio: Yeah it turned out really well. Another song I really like on the album is “Premonition.” What is that song about?
Leah: It’s funny, I think a lot of people and they hear the lyrics, just immediately go, “that’s about someone who cheated on someone,” and I get it because it does kind of sound like that. But, it’s actually about that space after two people decide not to be together and running into this person years, or months, or whatever – time doesn’t really matter – but it’s some point in the future. So, it kinda goes back and forth between the time when the two people were together and then that’s time in space where they run into each other. So “Premonition” is really kind of about that – not having seen this person and really long time but having this feeling that you’re going to run into them and what does that mean. Have they moved on? Have you? And all those kind of questions that go along with that. It’s kind of interesting because the chorus is a lot about summer it’s it’s our poppiest song – it’s a major key and all of that which is not usual for us this it’s kind of interesting because all of that is in juxtaposition to kind of the sadness of the song. It all happened in the summer – so, it’s a summertime. So, I think people of it as a feel good song but if you listen to lyrics it’s not really.
Lady Audio: Recording the album: who recorded it and mixed it for and stuff like that?
Leah: Travis Harrison – he’s at Serious Business Records in Dumbo – in Brooklyn. So we used him on the first EP as well and then he recorded “Dark Light” as a single when we did that last February and then he did this album, as well.
Lady Audio: Did you have it mastered there too?
Leah: It was mastered by Jamal Rhue. He’s with West West Side Music, also here in New York.
Lady Audio: So, what was it like recording, Lisa? I wanted to ask you since you mention your kind of newer to the music, I wanted to ask if you had ever recorded before and what was it like to record?
Lisa: I hadn’t recorded before and for the first EP it was right after I joined and so I came in and recorded vocals with Leah for their first EP, right off the bat, it was really soon after I joined. Then for “Losing Forever” all three recorded together – it was really great. It’s a cool experience. It’s very involved. There’s a lot of layering, and re-thinking. We were just talking an elevator this a lot of pieces I get added on at the last minute and get figured in case you hear them later. So, it’s very fortunate that we are always thinking of new things to add on this piece of that exists live, that aren’t even on the recording. Different vocal lines, or different bass lines or drum fill. So, to see us live, the songs aren’t exactly like the recording. There’s some sort of ever-evolving.
Lady Audio: Yeah. I always like askin people that because in music is just so many different facets and each one of them is its own particular art. The art of guitar playing – you can just be a straight guitar player. Then there’s the art of recording – you can just be a recording engineer or you can just be a mixing engineer. Then there’s mastering engineer. There’s just so many different parts. Then playing live is a completely different animal – that’s its own art. So I always like asking people what was it like – not knowing and then getting into the studio and going “wow, there’s a lot of those of work that goes into this!”
Matt: Yeah especially setting up the sound, like, for drums. It’s so involved.
Lady Audio: So you guys recorded your live trap kit?
Matt: Yeah, Travis he’s got a kit there that he always records with, so I thought, “okay, I’ll just use that.” Since he always know it and it’s already set up well. But, you still have to get your sound right. Tune the drums, how you want it to sound. There’s so many mics for drums. It’s a lot of work.
Lady Audio: Yeah definitely. So are there any new projects that you’re working on now? What’s going on?
Leah: Well, we just keep working on new songs. We probably have about four songs right now that are not on any of the albums. We have two older ones, too. So, we’re just really trying to think about what we’re going to put on the recording and 2017. We will probably record in the spring again and do some kind of summer-ish release. We had so much fun doing the videos. We really want to do it another video and just try to think about what song we were going to do and, how we’re going to do that?
Matt: A lot of gigs/ We’re playing a lot, which is really fun.
Lady Audio: It is really fun. It must be a lot to set up all those drums every single time though.
Matt: Luckily, here in New York City, every bar and club has their own kit – they have a house kit – which it’s great because you don’t have to carry drums. But, you never know if it’s going to be good or not. Like we were playing on a Friday night my rack tom kept falling off – that kind of stuff. So it’s good, and it’s bad.
Leah: We play with other bands a lot, too. We’ll play with friends of ours and so there’s a lot of times that we’ll share that responsibility of making sure that we have the equipment we need. In a pinch, we’ll fill them with the instruments for each other. It’s a pretty close community here. We have a nice group of other bands that we play with. We go support – we watch, and they ccome watch us, which is really fun, too.
Lady Audio: Yeah that’s cool. Alright you guys it’s time for the scenario bit. Are you ready?
Matt: Yeah, sure!
Lady Audio: So, I’m going to go ahead and start and we’ll just go one by one. I have a little bit of a different scenario for each one of you. Here we go. You are all in a huge Black Castle sitting in a circle. In the middle of the circle is a small fire. Pale winter sunlight shines through the old windows, and this one would be for Leah, as you look to your right you see an agent tapestry hanging on the wall. What is the image you see on the tapestry?
Leah: There’s a really large dragon with fire shooting out of its mouth – destroying an entire city.
Lady Audio: Nice, alright, cool. For Lisa – as you look to the left you see a stained glass window what is the image what is the image you see created in the glass?
Lisa: I think I see kind of an open area like fields with probably trees as they looks sort of winter and fall, maybe some leaves and birds, but pretty simple.
Lady Audio: Cool. For Matt – you look up and you see a huge door that is slowly opening. As it opens, who do you see walking in?
Matt: (laughs) I would see a wizard and on his shoulder he would have a raven. (laughs) They already knew I was going to say that, I think. (laughs)
Lady Audio: Thanks, guys, for participating in my scenario bit. My last question is your favorite flower? Let’s start with Matt this time.
Matt: I really love roses. I have a tattoo on my arm it’s ravens and roses. So that’s where I’m going.
Lady Audio: What about you, Lisa, what is your favorite flower?
Lisa: I don’t think it’s actually a flower. I’m a huge pussy willow fan. I think they’re just really pretty and you can keep them all the time. They’re soft but their kind of harsh in their shape so they have that contradictory feel and look to him.
Lady Audio: Yeah, cool. What about you Leah?
Leah: I had a lot of time to think about this, but I think, I love sunflowers. I love that they can get really tall. I spent some time in Spain and there’s a lot there and I like the Spanish word for them. They look to the sun that’s what they do. I just find them really pretty.
Lady Audio: I love sunflowers, too. Great, so where can people go to listen to and purchase your music?
Leah: We are on – I like to direct people to either CD Baby or Bandcamp because they are the best ones for the artist and terms of their payout structure and their whole business model. But, we’re pretty much everywhere – the regular outlets, as well. They can listen on Soundcloud for streaming there. We’re streaming on Spotify. “Losing Forever” just got added to Pandora, so it’s there as well. We have CDs we have hard copy CDs that are available on CD Baby, too. We always have them other shows and stuff but you download them all the normal places as well.
Lady Audio: And is there anything else of any of you would like to add?
Leah: I don’t know. I think we’re just trying to build a scene here in New York with the other bands we play with and and it’s not always easy. But, we’re just trying to find like-minded bands and a community that can kind of support each other because right now it’s in 2016 – it’s been going on for a while – there’s just so many bands everywhere – not just New York. So, just trying to differentiate yourself and kind of do that through a strong group of like-minded bands, is just something we’re really about.
Lady Audio: It sounds like you guys really are creating the scene and being a part of a scene that’s already going on, because having other bands to play with and using each other’s instruments and stuff that’s community right there.
Leah: Yeah, for sure.
Lisa: If someone’s listening though – we’ve traveled a bit we’ve been to Norfolk, DC,New Jersey, Cleveland and that’s been a lot of fun actually – to meet people in other cities. It’s probably been some of our most favorite shows, so if somebody’s listening and they want to reach out to us and say, “come play with us in our city,” we would be really open to it.
Lady Audio: Cool. Alright. Thank you all for joining me today, Castle Black, I really appreciate it
Leah, Matt, and Lisa: Thank you so much for having us!
Strawberry Tongue would like to thank Leah, Lisa and Matt from Castle Black for chatting with Lady Audio for this edition of Strawberry Spotlight. Learn more about Castle Black, keep up-to-date with their latest projects and shows, and connecting with them on social media by visiting their website.