While New Jersey has been the brunt of jokes and bad press over the years, there can be no disputing the musical talent produced in the state. From the obvious names that can fill a stadium like Springsteen and Bon Jovi, to equally talented bands like Railroad Earth and The Smithereens who carry on through the years with a devoted following, each part of the state has musical groups who have made a name for themselves. It also has a lot young bands trying to follow in their footsteps.
Out of the northwest corner of the state, Deal Casino is one of those bands. Young – but not inexperienced – the band has played the local scene, the shore scene, and everything in-between. Originally known as Something About January, a change in the name of the band seemed necessary for the growth of their music. Veterans of many Battle of the Bands, last summer they won a spot playing at the Bamboozle festival, and have recently been nominated for the Top Pop Rock Band in the 2013 Asbury Music Awards. The release party for their third EP The Runaways, will be held next week, and the EP is now available as a free download.
I recently spoke with Deal Casino drummer Michael Linardi about the direction of their music, writing styles, and the learning curve of an up and coming Indie band.
Oh, and FYI, Deal Casino is Joe Parella (Vocals, Guitar), Joe Cowell (Guitar), Jon Rodney (Bass) and Mike Linardi (Drums).
Kath Galasso: Before the release of your last EP, Cocaine Love, the band changed its name from Something About January to Deal Casino. At that time there was also a change in your music direction. Was that the reason for the change?
Mike Linardi: Yes. We were Something About January for five years at least, and we were beginning to get into bad habits of writing songs thinking ‘we can’t do that, it doesn’t sound like Something About January.’ We were putting ourselves in a musical rut in a weird way, not being creative and just being afraid to do things. Then we went to record the Cocaine Love EP as Something About January, and our producer John Leidersdorff said ‘guys this doesn’t sound like anything you’ve been doing, you should probably change your name or something.’ Just to get out of bad habits like not using songs that we could have used, when we were thinking differently. So we ended up changing it to Deal Casino, just to feel different and start fresh. It’s been working out way better this way. We’ve been playing better, writing better songs. Nothing bad has come out of changing our name.
Deal Casino’s “Tomorrow”
How would you describe the change of direction in your music?
We’re not really sure. We are just writing everything we hear; rock or pop. We’re not afraid to write any type of song at this point because we know that if we wrote it, and we’re all playing the instruments, it’s going to sound like Deal Casino. There are three different sounding songs on the album: two poppy ones, a kind of heavier one and then one Lumineer’s pop-folk thing. We know we can play anything because it’s still going to sound like us. We’re not just going in a specific place.
Let’s talk about the writing. You all have input into the writing?
Yeah, someone will have an idea, a lot of the ideas will come from Joe (Parella,) Jon (Rodney) or Joe (Cowell). I have the least amount of ideas, but we all have an equal amount of say. A lot of times Joe P. will write and record some stuff, and send it to me. Then we will practice it as a band and change it. We all do basically the same process. Or once in a while when we have a chance to be together and practice, we’ll end up jamming on something and write a song. Every song we write, we are improving on the last one.
Mike, you’re still in college, the rest of the band is spread out, how do you write? I’m assuming there’s a lot of use of a webcam.
Yes. Lots of video chatting, emailing each other stuff… we’ll have people finish parts of songs with their recording equipment because we all have the capability to record. We end up throwing some stuff together very quickly, and making them sound like we could release some of them, but we like recording at expensive places (studios) cause it sounds better.
We kind of always write the music first. If we write as a band, we totally write the whole song musically. We figure out what feels right, as in length of verses, choruses, and then we’ll write lyrics right after we finish the music. Then we’ll change things a bit if we feel it doesn’t work.
While the band was still called Something About January, you placed second in a Battle of the Bands and you got to play at the Bamboozle festival down the Jersey shore, alongside some major acts such as The Foo Fighters. How did that all come about?
We did The Break Contest a year or two before, tried it a couple of times and failed miserably. Didn’t even make it through the first round. One day, unknowing to us, Joe P. signed us up for it again and we were really mad. Then we played, and we make it to the next round. And we’re like, ‘well that was weird.’ Then we kept going round by round and started getting closer, and more people started to like our music, were really supportive of us and we sold a lot of tickets. We were able to get all the way to the championships, we came in second place of five hundred or six hundred bands. It was insane. We were hoping to win… it stinks when you get that close and you don’t win. You get that far and you’re still number two. But we still played Bamboozle and that was interesting.
You’ve played alongside The Foo Fighters, you’ve opened for The Dunwells and a couple of other well known Indie names that are out there, what do you take from being the support band, what do you learn from every experience?
We try to watch all those bands and really study what they do onstage. Try to see what we could do to make our show better and more personable. We try to pick up on how they interact with the crowd. We look at how well-rehearsed they are and how well-rehearsed we should be playing live. We love just talking to bands and asking them questions about touring… try to get anything we can get out of them because they are way more well off than we are in the music business, and we try to learn every possible detail we can. Anything that we can try to get us to the next level, we try to find out.
Written by Kath Galasso
OurVinyl | Contributor