Hanging out at a trendy South Melbourne cafe earlier this year, I’m sitting across from Casey’s honest and kind frontman, Tom Weaver. At the time, Casey were near the end of their first ever Australian tour, supporting Melbourne post-hardcore favourites, Belle Haven, and the response to the U.K. band’s debut Aussie run was unreal. With half an hour on the clock and with the band’s Australian PR contact hanging near-by, the vocalist and I have a really natural conversation – one of my favourite aspects about interviewing someone like Tom. (This actually being the third time we’ve crossed paths now). In our chat together, we cover a host of topics: Australia, touring, how he performs live, stories from the road, the shitty use of phrases like “sadboy” in music these days, mental and physical health issues, the original name of their latest record, the singer himself, and more. Dive in below.
So Tom, first off, I wanted to ask about the Melbourne show you guys played the other night. I found it amusing how you and the rest of Casey are respectful in your stage mannerisms, but you had this really enthusiastic crowd going nuts for your songs and shouting out stuff like “SHOEY!”. With the kind of dynamic music that you write, are things like that ever off-putting or distracting?
No, not really. Before we came out here, we already know what a ‘shoey’ is and how prevalent it was in this country. This tour definitely isn’t the first time we’ve had silly heckles or anything like that. We did a tour with Thy Art Is Murder, so every night you’d have one or two idiots yelling “bring the metal on!”, or “it’s not heavy enough!”. But then at the same time, we get some really back-handed compliments. In Germany, and it’s not prevalent in the alternative scene, but with metal, there can be some homophobia and this idea of “men having to be men” and all that bullshit. So I personally went out of my way and bought a giant pink bomber jacket, and I’d wear it every night after the show at the merch desk. So guys would come up and say, “you weren’t as gay as I’d thought you be” and I’d just tell them to fuck right off. That’s not a compliment. We also printed this black shirt that had a dark purple print on it. Some people would buy it, then come back ten minutes later wanting to return it as they thought that the purple was ‘gay’ or some shit. I’d always say that they could return it, but that I would only give them half their money back as they’re an asshole.
Oh yeah, fuck them. And that’s a really weird concept to me – returning merch on the night of the gig after someone’s just bought it.
It happens all the time, bro! We’ve had people buy a shirt at the start of a show, then come back at the end of the night when it’s all sweaty and asking to give it back. Like, tough shit, just go home and wash it. If someone came back and said “I got a small instead of a medium, sorry”, we’d change it no problem. But yeah, we’ve had some really weird experiences. As far as heckling goes, though, the only time I’ve ever really called it out was during a BBC session we played along with Black Peaks and Crooks. We had a heckler who was at the back just shouting “DO IT!” over and over. I ignored it for most of the show as it was recorded for radio, but then one song before the end, and I just thought: fuck it. So I said, “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, mate, but we ARE DOING IT”. Basically, this is what we do so if you don’t like it, fuck off to the bar next door. We’ve never been a band that’s solely dependent on the crowd interaction. We just play and if people like it, sick. If not, that’s fine – we’ll just play for ourselves. We never think about if we’re having a bad show, we just get on with it.
Well, that’s what it was like on Saturday night: you guys did your thing, played the songs and the crowd got well into it. During songs like ‘Little Bird’ and older tracks, it just went off. People were just waiting for these songs they love so much to get air-time and scream them back at you guys. And that was just the second show of the tour too!
Oh, it was so good. We got so much more engagement than we ever thought we would out here. Playing to the Belle Haven crowd was great too. Every show so far, the fans have been audible, like louder than us, and that was great.
On live shows, what’s your take on phones at gigs? During a song like ‘Making Weight,’ I saw lots of people filming it and even Snapchatting it.
Again, I’m not really phased by it. I’m never gonna get up on stage and ask people to come down the front or stage dive. I hate that shit. If I saw a band do that and I was watching them, I wouldn’t do anything, you know?
If people want to mosh or get close, they will. It’s like if YouTuber’s just keep saying “like and subscribe”, people will do that if they like what you’re putting down.
One hundred per cent mate! That’s it. If people wanna film us, that’s fine. Though, however, I am not a huge fan of talking during shows. Especially if there’s an area where people can go to chat but still watch the band, instead of just standing right down the front and talking with their friends. I’ve noticed that more at bigger shows we’ve played too. For instance, I’ve just come off tour with Emmure, and they were playing with Parkway Drive, and you’d have people cueing up for hours, sprint to the barrier, and be there the whole night talking during the support bands. This is something I wish I could tell 14-year-old me, as I was this kid too, but you can get to the front of a show at any point. It’s kind of disrespectful to an artist. We only ever ask for 30 minutes of your time and attention. There are quite a few bands that ban phones now at gigs, like Radiohead, Interpol and La Dispute.
Some do get quite aggressive about it. Like Corey Taylor from Slipknot just smashing the phone out of that dude’s hand a year or so ago. To even David from Disturbed berating that woman filming one of their shows from a balcony section.
Yeah, Parker Cannon [The Story So Far] threw someone’s phone away once, and Keith Buckley [Every Time I Die] punched the phone out of a guy’s hand. There is a line to it, though. For me, it’s more stage divers that get me. Just as I sing with my eyes closed a lot and it’s unnerving to just feel someone run past you. I’ve been singing with my eyes closed and had people push the mic right into my face. It’s not malicious, they just want to grab the mic, but it’ll split my lip. When I hear people running past me, I’m just thinking “oh god please don’t hit me, please don’t hit me”. Working with friend’s bands on tour, sometimes kids will get on-stage and just stay there for thirty seconds. Just make it about them more than anything.
It’s basically this: come up, do your thing, and then get the fuck off.
Pretty much! I don’t want to slate the European scene too much, as we’ve been really well-received over there and their very kind to us. But one thing that Euro kids are really bad at our shows is stage diving.
Well, in the U.K. and even here in Australia, fans get up and they just dive right into people. Whereas in Europe, they’ll get up onstage, beckon people to come closer and then just fall onto them. It’s weird. It takes a load of time and takes the fun out of it. Every country in Europe, that thing happens.
That is weird, yeah. But one thing you said before that’s really interesting to me is that you worked with Emmure. Casey and Emmure are VERY different bands, so were you working with them for merch or something?
Ah, so Casey’s tour manager is Emmure’s tour manager as well. They needed someone to help out on their tour and I wasn’t doing anything so I put my hand up. My old band was signed to the same label as Emmure so I met Frankie and them back in 2014 in Tokyo. We were playing with The Ghost Inside over there and they were there too. It was a weird time for them. I really didn’t like ‘Speaker of the Dead’ or ‘Eternal Enemies’ but that new album ‘Look At Yourself’ is just so sick. When I heard ‘Flag of the Beast’, that song was just SO HARD. Then when I first heard ‘Smokey’, I went and told Josh Travis [guitarist] that it was just offensively heavy [laughs].
It’s a great album: so punchy and violent. It’s the most mature Frankie’s ever been on a record too. I loved it, honestly. Off from Emmure, I remember seeing a tweet from James Blake earlier this year about how the phrase “sadboy” is a poor blanket statement for alternative/emo/melodic-hardcore/indie/whatever music. I also find that it’s quite regressive towards the conversation of men’s mental health either. I’ve cut that phrase out of my own writer vocabulary too. There’s nothing wrong with genre talk, but this is an example of trying way too hard to put something into a box.
Yeah man, I agree, totally! I’m so glad you said this. I was talking with the member of a function band that I was driving for, not a notable act or anything but the bassist is a really noticeable musician. He’s in his late 40’s, and we were talking about emo. He said that when I said emo, what bands did I mean, and I told him at the moment I meant newer bands like Dry Jacket or going back awhile, Sunny Day Real Estate, Mineral, Pavement or Slint. But there are people that say that even older bands like The Cure are emo too. This guy said that I couldn’t call The Cure that as they’re post-punk, but Robert Smith wrote very emotional lyrics. Just like The Doors or Joy Division. There are key elements there. As you said, with “sadboy”, sometimes people want one word to summarize everything going on with a song or band. That’s how that word has come about. Which is weird, as that means any artist ever who writes about any kind of depression is “sadboy”: from Lil Pump to Casey and even some metal too. It’s ridiculous. If you take away the depressed lyrical content, the spectrum of sounds can sometimes be so vast. A single label like that doesn’t work. Take Have Heart, Lil Pump, Coldplay, Now, Now, and Joy Division. None of those artists sounds anything alike but the thread they have in common is the lyrics.
All great points there, Tom. Genres do exist for a reason but certain new descriptors just go too far or just don’t work. In terms of emotional lyricism though, what’s a record that just fully wrecks you, though?
Oh! The second Pianos Become The Teeth record, ‘The Lack Long After’. The first time I heard of it was through The Needle Drop’s review of it and one of the criticisms that Anthony Fantano had was that the vocals are unintelligible at times, so it’s hard to make out what Kyle was singing and screaming about. So he said if you listen to it, make sure you read the lyrics as well. And I did and it was HEAVY.
That record just ruins me as well. It’s actually my favourite Pianos album too. The new album, ‘Wait For Love’ is so blissful, but I’ve seen many reviews where people clearly don’t understand the context of Kyle’s life nor the lyrics of old records and how they’ve imparted meaning onto these new songs. Kyle’s father’s passing due to his MS, that being referred to on ‘Lack…’. And how that’s affected current material is just so haunting.
Oh yeah! Here’s the thing with ‘Wait For Love’: without context, it’s a good album, but with the context, it’s a great record. It’s one of those things; casual listeners will see it as the band watering down their sound. But he nailed it here. Kyle once said that you can’t stay angry forever. That’s something that I completely agree. As with our new record, I had no desire to shout and scream about some of these things. I’d rather deliver it in a way that reflects my attitudes and not because we’re a melodic hardcore band. It wouldn’t fit as well. I’ve been that type of arsehole fan before but for bands like Pianos, while there’s all of this singing, it’s still so heavy emotionally.
That’s my big thing: you can’t call a band a sell-out or any of that bollocks if the lyrical and emotional content hasn’t changed. That’s the core thing for me. Take Parkway Drive, for example, people called them a Five Finger Death Punch clone on ‘Reverence’, despite the record having at best, two songs that sound kinda similar to what FFDP. Yet the lyricism is just so raw.
Exactly! And dude, I saw them recently live and they opened up with ‘Wishing Wells’ at With Full Force festival. They had this insane light show, all of this pyro going off, and as soon as the first song finished, Frankie from Emmure told me it was the best thing he’s ever seen. It was hard as fuck! Casey actually played with them last year and they had that spinning drum kit and it was sick. Saw them on their first show of the tour earlier this year and saw the spinning drum kit and went: “Yeah, yeah, seen that before”. And then they set the drum riser on fire. I’ve never seen a band do that before, not even Slipknot.
Oh, it’s so cool! Back on track to Casey, you’ve said to me before in our past interviews and even in other interviews that you like to write after the fact; when you can process things better for the lyrics and song meanings. So, are there things happening right now in your life that you feel will impact future Casey material?
No, there is nothing emotionally drastic things happening in my life right now. Yet there are certain thought processes I’m going through now that will impact the next record. I won’t mention too much, as we aren’t at the next record yet. But I will say that I do have a degree in psychology, and I stumbled across this experiment, this theory, that has really interested me. Even with these last two records, it wasn’t a long build-up. It wasn’t pre-ordained. One day, I woke up and had a stroke. One day, I woke up and had a car crash later that night. These things happened and they worked into the grander scheme of the album. Like, after this, Matthew [Whitting, Casey’s PR] may drive me to the next interviewer and we could see someone be shot or something and I’ll end up writing the next ‘King Park’. [Laughs]. It’s so impossible for me, as my inspiration is a constant stream of events, or even just hearing a word in an ad and looking it up and realizing how it relates to my life.
I love that you do that, as that’s what makes your lyrics stand out so well. Now in terms of albums, I know that ‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ was originally titled, ‘This Routine Is Hell’. When I saw you play the first Melbourne show the other night, I noticed that you have that tattooed on the back of your head. When did you get that tattooed, before or after this recent record was finished?
I can tell you the exact date, man. Let me just get Telstra to work on my phone… 20th of February. It was on a whim, basically. Adam [Smith, bass] runs the desk at a really good tattoo show in Cardiff. I had a day off work and I went down there and one of their guys had an all-day cancellation so I asked if he wanted to tattoo my head and he was keen. I had a lot of hair at the time and he didn’t have any clippers so bit-razored the back of my head, just scraping through my hair [laughs]. This line was something I saw on Tumblr as some kind of fan-made art-piece for a band from mainland Europe whose name used to This Routine Is Hell who come from the same scene as Modern Life Is War and Touche Amore. The piece spoke to me and my own mental health path. When we first went into the studio, I had a rough idea of the material. But it wasn’t coming out. Then I was speaking with Daniel from Capsize, telling him how I don’t even know what I wanted to write about and if people would relate to it. And he said, “Who gives a fuck? You’re the one who’s gotta sing it every day”. So the first four songs I wrote were all exclusively about my own health – ‘Phosphenes’, ‘Fluorescents’, ‘Making Weight’, and ‘Wound’. So at first, that title – This Routine Is Hell – really fit with my cycle and what I was writing. Eventually, as songs like ‘Bruise’ and ‘The Funeral’ came out, I instead wanted something all-encompassing for a title and that I needed a better metaphor – sleep. Rather than just having a title that only reflected pockets of the album. But the old title still resonates me, though.
Well, on the topic of you and also relating to your own head, there are those scars around your hairline at the front. If you don’t mind me asking, were they a result from that car crash or from any post-stroke surgeries?
It was neither actually. That was actually in an error in our press release about this new album. My old band was touring Germany five years ago, and our guitar tech decided to “stage dive” while in the van, jumping from the front set of seats to the back set of seats in our Autobahn. I was sleeping in the back and he landed on my head and crushed my eye socket. They had to cut open my head, make an incision and peel all the skin off my skull down to my eye and wrap titanium mesh around that side of my head. It was on our way to the second show of the tour, we’d just done an 18-hour drive too [laughs]. I didn’t play the show, obviously. I went to the hospital and our guitar tech played the rest of the tour. I couldn’t do anything for six months and ended up leaving the band and he filled in full time.
That’s fucking gnarly! Are you two still mates now?
Oh yeah! He’s a guitar tech for a load of really cool bands. We see each other every now and then on the road. He paid for my flight home when that happened too, and checked in on me to make sure I was all good. It was a bummer but shit happens, you know
The physical duress you’ve undergone in your time is pretty wild, man. I think that maybe some people see those injuries, the tattoos, and the kind of lyrics that you write and perceive you as this unstable dude.
[Laughs] Maybe! I noticed that whenever I shave my head, I look way more menacing. I’ve also noticed I get asked things much less on the street now too. I’ve started coming up with a few alternate stories about how I got these scars too.
I’ve got some mates who tour with a lot of bands for photo and video work and I see statuses from them about how when they’re in different cities, they’ll make up different stories about what they do for a living when they get a taxi or an Uber.
When we were driving here, Matt and I, we talked about this. I have two games I play when I’m on tour: The Starbucks Game and The Uber Game. I can play it heaps more over here more as they always ask your name. But yeah, I just give them fake names for starters. I used to work in an interpreting company and I had access to a very extensive list of unusual foreign names. So I’ll come up with something like ‘Nerigus’. Especially when I’m abroad, I’ll use Welsh girls names. So I’ll use my name as Angharad, and when they bring it they won’t ever try, they’ll just nervously go “…flat white?” Same with The Uber Game. You get in the back and make up a fake life. They ask you what you do and I’ll just say, “I’m a rocket oil salesman, business is booming”. And they just say, “cool…”. Cause when you bring up that you’re going to a show, you get the same line of questions: What music do you make? Do you do covers? Do you sound like X band? I get sick of that, so I’ve just made up ridiculous shit like that I work at MI5 or that I fit wheels to planes or some nonsense.
Love it! See, now I’m gonna start doing this for a laugh as well. On another light-hearted topic, I saw a comment on Reddit or on YouTube somewhere, that said you’d replied to some people the Kingdom Leaks Casey post for the new record about the lyrics.
Yeah, that’s my old account – tomXweaver. I don’t hide it or anything. I don’t remember the comment, but it didn’t anger me, I just needed to get this guy to tone it down and explain to the person about the lyrics and meanings behind one of the new songs. I’ve gotten this on other places too. I remember when we first released ‘Ceremony’ and I saw comments like “what the hell is Pulmonary Oedema? I can’t relate to this. You should go back to writing lyrics like Teeth?”. Right, I need to call you out on this I thought at the time. And I used the word ‘crazy’, which I hate – it makes me cringe all of the time now as there are so many more interesting ways I could’ve expressed this – but ultimately there aren’t many lyrics in Casey that I’m not happy with it. As for 99% of them, I felt that I couldn’t express a songs’ sentiment any better or in a more fulfilling way. So anyway, I responded to this comment telling them to Google Pulmonary Oedema and come back to me with a definition. They reply back saying that it’s fluid pooling in the longs following cardiac arrest, and then I gave him the breakdown of the metaphor for the song and how it all relates. They just replied with “oh, that’s actually pretty smart” and I was like: “yeah, I fucking know it is”. It wasn’t just some random word I chose to use– it had real intent. We’ve had the same thing happen with this new record. If that’s anyone reading this, please use Google and learn some new words too!
That point you made with your hatred for the use of words like ‘crazy’ to describe certain people or things is interesting. As it’s like the whole “sadboy” discussion we had before: there’s better words or ways to talk about things.
Yeah, it’s a “that’ll do” attitude. And Casey has always tried to avoid that kind of thinking. We go out of our ways to keep things tight. For instance, we’ve had the same merch designer since we’ve been a band. We’ve had the same tour manager too. We keep our net really small. One of our tour crew, Martina, has never haggled anything from us, nor us to her. We ask her to come on tour, and if she says yes, we ask how much money she needs for it to happen. The band comes last: the manager and crew get paid, and then us. I’d rather pay over the odds to get someone who believes in us and will do a great job than someone who gives us a half-baked product. She’s only ever missed three shows of ours in the last few years. We always love to bring people like her. It’s great continuity for the band as it makes the whole thing a project where we can work with her for long-term ideas, photos, tour videos. She captured 18 months worth of analogue footage before and in the run-up to the new record’s recording too. She has such a great understanding of how our band works and knows how to portray us, even sides that people don’t know. If you were to watch me on-stage and then talk to me afterwards, you’re not gonna get a full sense of me and the band. But if she can candidly capture us, it feels like a transparent interaction. Casey is more than just the thirty minutes of songs you see. It’s more than me mumbling between songs.
We’ve always had a good repour with our fans. We’ve always been honest. Cause sometimes, only eight tickets get sold to a gig. Other times, 300 tickets get sold. It’s sometimes down to the area and the promoters. But we put the same effort into each show we play. So I’m not gonna lie to our fans and say, “tickets are selling really fast!”. Because then if you show up and there’s like 15 people there, it’s weird. Not enough bands our honest enough about this stuff. Fact checking is so easy now in the internet age. It’s like growing up. I always used to lie to my parents about where I was going and what I was doing. If I said I was going to the park with a couple mates, they’d say no way as I might come back with a broken leg. [Tom suffers from brittle bones]. In hindsight, that was a completely rational fear to have. But I was a kid and I wanted to do all of this stuff. But in my early teens, I realized it was so much easier to be upfront with them. One time I said I wanted to go see Parkway Drive and Bury Your Dead play. And I’d tell them that their two heavy bands from Australia and America, that there will be moshing and a pit, but I’ll be with my mates and I just want to go enjoy the music. And they were fine with it. Ever since, I’ve been honest with them. So we do that with this band. It’s why we’ll never do one of those “big things coming soon” type of posts.
We live in an instant gratification age where people want to show off their best sides all the time. We sold out 12 shows on a tour last year but played to less than 30 people in the Czech Republic. It happens to everyone. It happened to Emmure as well on that tour I mentioned. Not every show is an amazing show, you know? Touring isn’t cheap and sometimes we just can’t go to certain places like Australia on our own unless it’s in a support role like this tour. But we’re here now and it’s been great.
That’s so true about being honest; you’re not always winning, not always on the up. I really respect that, Tom. And hey, I’m just glad you and the band finally made it out here. I’ve been waiting years for it and it did not disappoint! With that, your PR guy is eyeing us off so I’ll leave it there Tom. Thanks so much for your time today, mate, I really do hope you enjoyed it.
Yeah, this chat was fucking sick man, thank you so much!
‘Where I Go When I Am Sleeping’ is out now. Read my live review of Casey’s inaugural Australian tour with Belle Haven over here.