Print Edition: September 18, 2013
Casinos are rapidly becoming a staple in the Abbotsford music scene; if you haven’t heard of them yet, believe me, you will soon. And you’ll be better off for it. Made up of 19-year-old lead singer and rhythm guitarist Kier Christer Junos, 19-year-old lead guitarist and auxiliary vocalist Zachary Keely, 19-year-old bassist and sometimes-vocalist Mitchell Trainor, and 18-year-old Alex Vevers rounding off this musical quartet on drums, Casinos played a killer set at AfterMath last Saturday and afterwards sat down to talk with The Cascade.
Casinos was formerly known as Mech City Busk … what was the reason for the name change? And where did the name Casinos come from?
Kier: We made Mech City Busk when we were in the eighth [or] ninth grade, maybe even the seventh. And you know, musical styles change, and … we all thought it was a prudent idea to get the name changed. We had been trying [to change the name] since, 2010, probably.
Zachary: It was a metamorphosis, stylistically. As soon as we changed our band name, we changed a little bit as a band; we matured. And so Casinos is the butterfly, while Mech City Busk was the cocoon.
Kier: Casinos came from … I believe it was a band practice? I think we were all talking about Ocean’s 11 or something like that, and I was talking about the Epiphone Casino guitar, and either Mitch or Zach said, “Let’s call ourselves Casinos,” and it was as simple as that. You know, all the other times we actually tried to [come up with] a band name, we failed … we deliberated too much. Somehow, ironically, we came up with [the name] in seconds.
Zachary: And, it’s also important to note that we’re not called The Casinos, we’re just Casinos.
You’re a self-proclaimed garage-rock band, but it seems your music has a lot of influences. What artists or genres of music do you consider to be your biggest influences?
Zachary: I think we see ourselves as a modern spin on garage-rock. So bands that we listened to [when we were] growing up, bands like The Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, Last Shadow Puppets…
Kier: Lots of Brit rock.
Zachary: Oasis, obviously.
Kier: It got bigger, though, especially when I started listening to Dananananakroyd, from Glasgow. If you were to listen to them, you could definitely hear some similarities in some of our noise. What’s important to note is that if it wasn’t for videogames, we wouldn’t be in a band right now. I first heard Avenged Sevenfold on the soundtrack for Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and that was very crucial to our sound. And years later when I bought FIFA 10, Dananananakroyd was [on it], we started adopting a heavy amount of stuff from them. Video games are why we’re in a band [laughs].
Where did you guys meet? When did you start playing together?
Zachary: We started playing around in the band portable at our elementary school, at St. James Catholic School. The original members were me, Kier, and [Alex] Vevers. And we’ve had a rotating door of guitarists and bassists. I was originally the bass player of the band.
And when did Mitch enter the picture?
Kier: That’s even farther on.
Zachary: That’s way farther on … Before we were Mech City Busk we played for a while as The Skinnies and that was a three-piece group. I played bass, Kier played guitar and [Alex] Vevers played drums. We all had long hair and listened to The Ramones and stuff like that.
Kier: We didn’t know what we were doing. But it was fun. We had some of the most fun times. I kid you not.
When did you guys start playing together? And when did you decide to start performing?
Zachary: When I flew out of my mom’s womb, I was on a stage.
Kier: Zach was just ready to go.
Kier: It was probably seventh grade … there was a talent show coming up, and we did a Bedouin Soundclash cover. And we started covering Ramones, so we had a lot of their songs in our repertoire. We tried to go for old-school punk-rock stuff. It was fun.
So it was a talent show?
Kier: It was a talent show, yeah. We were absolutely terrible. I cringe whenever I think of it. I don’t think of it.
Well, we all have to start somewhere.
Kier: That is true.
What’s your creative set-up, in terms of the songwriting process?
Kier: A lot of the songs, I actually wrote the structure for. I also write all the lyrics for the songs. I always bring a full song structure to the table, and I play it through to the guys, then we make changes according to what we think would be better. I never want to keep things too simple … I always want to have something that’s a little challenging to play. It might not be rhythms all the time, because we always play in 4/4, sometimes it’s the speed. I’d say Zach probably has the hardest parts to play, and Alex as well. Zach still has trouble with them sometimes, and I don’t blame him. I ask a lot of him sometimes, but through Casinos, Zach has become a really good guitarist.
Generally, what are your songs about?
Kier: The songs that we have in our repertoire so far, they span over a very long time, probably from as far back as 2008. And what we get from writing a bunch of songs, sporadically, is a variety of unfocused topics. I’ll admit it was pretty immature at first, things like young love, struggling and overcoming. Now, I feel like there’s merit to that kind of topic, because I enjoy writing about struggling with and overcoming a problem. I’m trying to stay away from the young love songs now. I guess it’s expected of you to write something like that when you’re still in the probing grounds of musicianship, and it was just what we felt. Now I like to write about moments … and spans of time, and being wiser.
Casinos released The Motionless Heron EP a while back, which was really quite good. Is there a full-length record in the making?
Zachary: Yeah, we’re actually in talks about that right now. We’ve thought about it, and we’re thinking probably in the next year we should have something, whether it’s a full-length record or another EP, we’re not sure yet. We have some friends in Abbotsford that have studios.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band, and how have you been able to overcome it?
Zachary: Finding time to practice is a very large challenge. Especially given the fact that we’re all university students.
And is it still a challenge, or have you been able to overcome it?
Zachary: It’s still a challenge, but we’ve become more economic with our time. I think we’ve gotten a lot better with our time management skills. So when we have a really focused 45 minutes, it pays off when we play live shows.
Kier: Tonight, for example, we practiced for less than an hour before our set. Everyone knows the song structures, but that’s how we’ve been working for a while. The day of the show, everyone will come over in the afternoon … we’ll practice, have sushi, go to the show after we pack all our equipment up. It’s as easy as that.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.