Exclusive Interview with Deal Casino

Deal Casino has dedicated their lives to creating music. Consisting of four members, Joe Parella, Jozii Cowell, Jon Rodney, and Christopher Donofri, the band not only creates together, but they live together so they can write and record at any time. Nobody is ever brought in, which allows them to always create a sound that is authentic to who the four of them are as individuals and together as a band. I got the chance to talk with them about how they came together, what role Asbury Park, NJ has played in their music, their new single “Happy People,” their upcoming album and so much more. Keep reading to see what they had to say!
For those who might not have ever heard of Y’all, can you give us a brief history of the band and how you guys came together?

Joe P, Jon, and Joe C all come from a small, northwest New Jersey town called Sparta. We started playing music together in middle school and we never stopped. In 2013, we moved down to Asbury Park where we met our drummer Chris and that was the beginning of what became Deal Casino. Haters will say it’s photoshopped, but we really do have some pretty bad content from high school so make sure to not go deep-diving on Google for that, thanks. The four of us really got together over the last five years and focused on playing together. We moved into a house together where we write and record, and we played every venue in Asbury Park over and over again. We still play there a lot.
I’m totally intrigued by the name Deal Casino. Where did it come from?
It has absolutely nothing to do with gambling. It’s the name of a beach club about a mile north of Asbury Park. One time, we played a festival and the parking lot there was a staging area. We thought it’d be a cool band name. Locals, to this day, cannot figure out why we named our band after a beach club, but it stuck. Sometimes we hate it, but it’s in there pretty good now. We’re hoping they don’t sue us. If the Deal Casino Beach Club is reading this, we just want to say, “Hey, Deal Casino Beach Club. We love you guys and thanks for not suing us!”

You guys are based out of Asbury Park, which has always had a rich music history. How much does Asbury Park play a role in the music you create?

Asbury Park has been huge for our music in that it’s just given us a setting to be a band that can constantly work to get better. We’ve been very fortunate in that aspect. Whether it’s making music in our house till all hours of the night, unbothered by neighbors who all come out to our shows, or being able to call some of the venue bookers and say, “Hey, we wanna play…TONIGHT…can we ?”  We’ve pretty much had free reign to try and fail and occasionally succeed for basically the last four years. There’s a ton of history here, musically, between Bruce Springsteen coming up here, Bon Jovi, and then more recent bands like Gaslight Anthem, The Parlor Mob, and The Front Bottoms are a New Jersey band as well. And Asbury has a bunch of younger up-and-coming artists like Brick and Mortar, Sonic Blume, Well Wisher, Latewaves, Haunt Club, and lots more. It can be intimidating and inspiring to come out of a small town that has that much talent and history.

I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. So, how would you describe your sound without using genre names? What kind of music do you guys produce?

Honestly, I think we care mostly about songs before anything else, because if you write a good song, the genre or style of music becomes irrelevant in that process. I think that when the four of us play together, it is just going to sound the way we sound and if we tried to control that, the music would lose something. We obviously listen to a lot of different bands and artists which has a direct influence on what we end up creating but we really just get excited about the songwriting/creating part of things and put all of our efforts into serving each individual song.

Going off that, who are some of your musical influences?

We have spent a good amount of time in a van together so our musical influences have sort of become similar. We all basically grew up on the classics, like Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, etc. But as time went on, we all got into a ton of indie and alternative music, like Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine, REM, Joy Division, Mac DeMarco, Spoon, Grizzly Bear, The Shins, Elliot Smith, LCD Soundsystem, Sonic Youth, Beach House, The Strokes, DIIV, Alvvays, The Frontbottoms, Pixies and so on. Again, we really just love the fact that all of these artists have amazing songs and a unique sound to go along with those songs.

Talk a little bit about your latest single, “Happy People.” What is the story behind that song?

“Happy People” really wasn’t necessarily a contender for the album until the last minute. It was floating around on our computer in demo-land where many song ideas can just get lost. Luckily, we stumbled across it before we went to record and everyone felt like it had to make the cut. As far as the lyrics go, I was just writing down really cynical things that once I sang them over the instrumental, seemed less cynical and more sad. When it came time to write the chorus, all I had was the first “oh” and a bunch of mumbling that went with what is now the line “happy people smile all the time.” Eventually, the words “happy people” emerged and realized I might have a direction. I just started making this list of things that happy people do or have until I had a page or two of ideas. The second verse is based off of a real news article I happened to come across online about a couple who committed suicide due to financial issues that they felt they couldn’t get out from under and it really stuck with me to the point where I felt I had to write it into the song somehow. Once that was part of the story, the rest of the song made more sense to me and that became the real heart of it. There are also some lyrics towards the end that I actually didn’t have written and just sang them during the final vocal take.

What was your writing process like for this song in particular? Are you guys a band that likes to keep the writing in-house or do you like to collaborate with others?

We have a few different inter-band processes, but we keep all our writing in-house and always will. A lot of songs are one guy, many are all four of us in a circle, some are just made with whoever is hanging around. Our best friend and producer, Erik Romero, has been a great stop-gap for some of our craziness. He reels it in. “Happy People” was actually a demo jam that Jon and Joe P made one afternoon like two years ago, that we thankfully went through and listened to and said, “Dang… that should be a new tune.”

You guys are planning to release your next album, LLC, later this year. Where is it taking fans, both sonically and lyrically, that’s different from your self-titled project that you released last year?

LLC is very different from the self-titled record. The reason for that has a lot to do with the fact that we went away and isolated ourselves for twelve days while recording it, which we had never done before. To us, it felt like we could do whatever we wanted and I think that allowed a particular freedom that we weren’t aware of in the moment but was definitely necessary. Sonically, we experimented a lot more with synthesizers and new sounds in general. Like I said before, we only really care about the song feeling the best it can feel so we took our time trying to achieve exactly that on this record. Our producer, Erik, was an extremely important part of what we ended up doing in the studio and he helped encourage the experimental mentality, as well as making sure the song was still the center of the focus. His engineering techniques were equally as experimental as the production, which I think ended up being one of the most important factors. Lyrically, this record is definitely much more honest and raw than the self-titled. That record had a lot of moments where it was more about trying to come up with a clever metaphor here and there, and I think that had a lot to do with not being ready to let our guard down. LLC sounds and feels a lot closer to who we are as people and as a band.

What can people expect from you for the rest of 2018? Any tour plans?

Yes! We will be going on tour, opening for The Wrecks. The first show is November 10th and we will be touring all over the US. We are extremely excited because we have never done anything like this and they are super cool to give us the opportunity. Before that tour, we are playing the Sea Hear Now Festival in Asbury Park, NJ on September 30th, which we are also stoked to be a part of. Other than that, we are just going to be releasing new music and a lot of music videos that we have been working on over the past few months.

Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner-nerd. What is something, besides music, that you nerd out about?

We nerd over our gear. I know it is still music related but it truly is our obsession. We are really into all sorts of synthesizers and effects whether it be a Juno 60 or a Roland Space Echo. We are just always on the hunt for gear. Chris just keeps buying drums and then selling them so that he can buy new ones and Joe P had to actually take his bed and dresser out of his room in order to make more room for synths. He now just keeps his clothes in the linen closet down the hall. We all just can’t stop and won’t stop until everything on Craigslist is in one of our bedrooms.

For more information, you can check out their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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