INTERVIEW: Casey Talk Returning From Hiatus & Third Album ‘How To Disappear’

When Welsh post-hardcore five-piece Casey announced their hiatus back in 2018, it felt like a huge loss for the alternative music scene.

Image credit: Martyna Bannister

Laid to rest shortly after the release of their second album, ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’, the band’s premature demise was mourned by a cult fanbase drawn to vocalist Tom Weaver’s distinctly personal songwriting. With months turning to years as an indefinite hiatus seemingly developed into a permanent split, exactly four years since their departing statement a cryptic essay appeared on the band’s socials ultimately confirming one thing – Casey were back.

Six years since their last album, though their penchant for penning candid songs filled with emotion and intensity remains – a lot has changed within the Casey camp. Tending to personal tensions and honing in on the band they truly want to be, the five-piece are kickstarting 2024 on style with the release of their ambitious third album, ‘How To Disappear’.

A defiant statement that marks the beginning of a new era for Casey, we caught up with drummer Max Nicolai and guitarist Toby Evans to chat about the band’s return and the process of creating their boldest album to date.

ROCK SOUND: It’s been over five years since you announced Casey’s hiatus, and the world has been through a hell of a lot since then. Given the chaos of the last few years, what made you decide that it was time to bring the band back?

MAX: “Given the timing of the pandemic after we broke up, it looks like we planned it to work out like that – but I promise that we didn’t!”

TOBY: “When we ended the band, honestly, we all thought that was it. There wasn’t a decision made on whether we would come back or not because everyone had a lot going on in their personal lives.”

MAX: “Personally, we’ve all been through so much in the last few years, and we all went through different things. There were times where you could have asked me, ‘Are you ever going to do Casey again?’ and I would have replied, ‘Absolutely not, it’s never happening’. Deep down though, I wanted to do something again. On the flip side though, I don’t think Toby ever gave up. He was always the one messaging me and saying, ‘Come on, man. You’ve got to do it’.”

TOBY: “Yeah, I never stopped writing, and everything that I wrote ended up sounding like Casey. I had all these ideas banked for if it was ever to happen, and the first single that we released when we came back (‘Great Grief’) was written about six months after the band ended. I think the pandemic helped all of us to mature and sort out our independent lives, but we’re happy to be back.”

RS: When you made the decision to come back, what needed to change within the band?

TOBY: “The communication between us. We got to a point where if someone wasn’t happy with something, it just got shoved under the carpet. We didn’t voice our opinions and couldn’t discuss changes that we wanted to make. It was never malicious, and there was no argument behind it all – we just needed to communicate better. Now, we’re a lot more open with each other and we all understand each other a bit more.”

RS: Having been away for such a long time, were you shocked by how much love there still was for Casey when you returned?

MAX: “I didn’t think anyone cared. I was excited to get back to it because whenever Toby would send me a song that he’d written I’d be upset that the band wasn’t around anymore, but outside of us – I didn’t think anyone really gave a shit. When we saw that people were talking about the new music and looking forward to a new album – that meant a lot to us.”

RS: Coming into album three then, what was the vision?

TOBY: “Because we had been inactive for a while, we wanted to savour the excitement of writing music again. We wanted to write the album that we wanted to write when we called it a day, because we stopped just after we released our second record. It felt as though our next record could have been the big one for us, but obviously things didn’t work out as planned. It was important that if we were to make a third album, it was one we were all proud of, one we could all resonate with, and something that would do justice to our fanbase. We wanted it to be nostalgic to the old Casey, but also to be a step further than anything we’d ever written before.”

MAX: “In terms of the instrumentation, it all came together very naturally with this one. Looking back, I feel like the first two records were forced in some ways, and a lot of that was due to us lacking a good level of communication. Having addressed that, this record fell together nicely. All the ideas just flowed so naturally, and we collaborated more smoothly than ever before.”

RS: Listening to ‘How To Disappear’, this album retains the same DNA of the Casey people know and love – but it feels like the start of a new era for you. How has it been to focus on rebuilding the communication between the five of you and get back to the shared love of music that unites you?

TOBY: “Friendship is a massive part of any band. Liam and Tom are avid gamers, so during the pandemic they were online playing their PC games together. Max and Liam also carried on making music together in their side project, so most of us were still in close communication. However, we hadn’t all been in the same room together to make music since we broke up. Doing that was the starting point for this record, and there were a lot of conversations to have and things that needed to be said.”

MAX: “Yeah, there were some difficult conversations to be had because of the way things ended. When we all got back together, Tom and I hadn’t spoken for around four years. Working on our relationship with one another became vital to this working, so we sat down for some sushi and talked it all out. We ended up hugging at the end of it, and that was the first step towards healing. When we came back and did the reunion tour, we knew that it was going to be okay. The vibes were so good.”

TOBY: “Honestly, it was like we’d never left.”

RS: In terms of the creation process of this album, talk us through how it all came together…

TOBY: “This one took place over numerous locations. We did some guitars at my house, we did the drums at Middle Farm – which was an incredible experience – we did some guitars with our friend in Cardiff, Timothy Vincent, and we did the vocals with Neil Kennedy in Southampton. If I had it my way, I’d never do it this way again! Next time, I just want to do a four-week block where we do it all in one stint.”

MAX: “We were trying to work around the fact that our lives are very different now to what they were before, and we had a tighter budget than usual. We wanted to make sure that we got the best out of it given our circumstances, and that meant that the only way we could do it was to be all over the place. It took a long time, but that was the only downside of the process. Next time we’ll all get together in a room and just smash it out.”

RS: Was there a noticeable difference in the energy you felt whilst bringing these songs to life, compared to how things were on ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’?

TOBY: “When we did our second record, we were locked in a studio for two weeks. It was a great experience, but it all boils down to communication and having a vision for the record. This time around, I took leadership on a lot of things. I had a sonic vision of where I wanted the record to go, so we focused on not procrastinating and just getting it done. We can all get distracted very easily, and that worked against us whilst we were making our first two records.”

MAX: “I think we spent more time playing darts than we spent recording on our second record…”

TOBY: “Yeah, we recorded that album in Monmouth, Wales at a massive house with a studio in it. There was a pool table, a dartboard, and a barbecue so we just ate food, drank, and played games a lot of the time.”

MAX: “I think we took a lot of things for granted back then. We were younger, and I didn’t have my head screwed on. A lot of money went into that album process, and I certainly took it for granted. I wasn’t really thinking about what we could do with that time, but now I think we’re much more grateful for the fact that we have this opportunity. When we were writing the music for album three, we knew it had to be really fucking good. Every single day when we were doing the drums at Middle Farm, I’d wake up early to do some yoga and I was so present during the process. That was important, because looking back on our last record – I was barely there mentally. None of us take any of this for granted now.”

RS: Obviously the lyrical side of this record is down to Tom, but how do you personally perceive the lyrical themes of ‘How To Disappear’?

MAX: “Casey is very much about Tom and his life, and I think that’s what draws people to this band. For me, this record seems to focus on the contemplation of death and what happens when you die. Previously, our music has talked about love – or the lack of love – and Tom’s opened up about his personal struggles, but this one feels more existential. The lyrical content is a little bit deeper, which is cool because I’ve connected with that a lot more. This is the first Casey record where the lyrics have really touched me on a personal level.”

RS: Following the release of the album, you’ve got UK and EU dates lined up for this year. Given how long it’s been since Casey has taken a new record out on the road, what can people expect from those shows?

TOBY: “They’re going to be some of our biggest shows to date, especially the UK ones. We’re going to be playing songs from all three albums, and the EPs, but the production has taken a huge step up. I’m so excited to get back out there and to take on these venues – everything is so much bigger than what we’ve done before.”

MAX: “You can expect the same energy that this band has always had, but this time around we’re a bit more grown up and better organised. We’ll be practising the songs much more than we ever did before, that’s for sure! We used to just go on tour without even bothering to practise, but we want to do things properly now.”

RS: Having created a new album together and seen the reaction to your reunion, does the future of Casey feel more positive than it did five years ago?

TOBY: “100 per cent. I’m still writing, and right now I can see at least a few more albums in this band. We want to try and make this a full-time thing, because at the moment we all have full-time jobs outside of the band. We’re ready to take it to the next level, and fingers crossed we can get to that point. Right now though, we’re just enjoying being together. I can’t say what’s going to happen in the future, but even if we just get to tour this album and have a good 2024 – I’m happy with that. We’ve gone through the worst of it, and I’m excited for whatever comes next.” 

MAX: “Toby doesn’t stop when it comes to writing. As soon as we got this record back, he was already in our group chat talking about the first single for LP4. We’re excited to make new music together, and I think we’re going to be a bit more prolific with writing than we were before. This album has helped us find our groove in terms of what we want to write and how we want to sound. Now, we’re all a little bit surer of what Casey truly is.”

‘How to Disappear’ is out on January 12 via Hassle Records.

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