10Qs with Casey McCurry of Sunset Hearts

Photo of Casey McCurry
Casey McCurry of Sunset Hearts at KahBang 2012. Photo by Stephen Quirk/Factory Portland

Sunset Hearts formed after performing as Talking Heads at a Clash of the Titans event and features a number of former members of Portland’s Satellite Lot. “Haunted Clouds,” their debut album, was released in the fall of 2011 and the EP “Deco Tech” in the summer of 2012.  A new EP is in the works and slated to be released this fall.  The band will also be performing throughout the remainder of 2012 and are working on several music videos.

Sunset Hearts Online:

Questions:

Q: Where were you born?
A: I was born here in elegant, sunlit Portland.

Q: Why did you stay in Portland/Maine?
A: My attention and daydreams have often strayed from Portland, but this is where my body has remained. I like it here! It’s a tiny village with sea breezes, and after a thirty-minute walk you abruptly find yourself in Twin Peaks.

Q: Do you have a day job, and if so, what is it?
No, I’m a student right now. Which pleasantly fills my time. And it helps me temper my ruinous flailings in the music world. It’s about to end, though… I’ll go back to pouring espresso and writing lyrics on the clock.

Q: What was your most memorable gig?
A: I suppose it’s a tie between the recent Hot August Night on a Boat show and one of our first shows, at the defunct DIY venue Apohadion. At the boat show we were able to play just as the sun was setting… the colors were beautiful, and strange. Though the sound wasn’t that great, and the motion of the boat really hurt some of our attempts at maintaining solid rhythm, it was pretty magical! The other show I mentioned was just a great stars-aligning kind of moment. I have a strong revulsion for astrology, but something kind of bewildering happened that night. It was, I believe, our second show ever, and tons and tons of people showed up to this little DIY art space. The PA system was rudimentary, but the shape of the room, and how it was filled with people, somehow soaked up all the bad sound and left only the sweet spots. Now that I think of it, all of our favorite shows have been at DIY spaces that are packed with people. It’s a trend.

Q: What was your worst gig?
A: Hmm, I’ve got to choose my words carefully I guess. I guess I can say that the worst gig we played was a benefit last year that kind of spiraled out of control. But that doesn’t count, I suppose, because we never ended up actually performing. I’ll let that one sit. It’s a strange thing to be asked about because you find yourself within the tempest of dramatic booking scenarios if you openly criticize a venue or their staff. There a couple that stand out, but really I should slink away from this question.

Q: What album or artist has most influenced you as a musician?
A: Can I say it’s a four-way stalemate? “Songs of Love and Hate” by Leonard Cohen for lyrics, “Blade Runner” by Vangelis for texture, “Rhythm of the Saints” by Paul Simon for melody and “Daydream Nation” by Sonic Youth for energy. Is that a cop out? Hmm.  And if you make me pin the ribbon on just one artist, the winner would be Morrissey. He makes all the others look drab.

Q: What’s the one piece of musical equipment you can’t live without?
A: Max Heinz (drummer for Sunset Hearts)? Hmm. I’m a closet gear guy, I don’t like to talk about it that much. For live shows, I have a really over-the-top-expensive vocal processor that I use for reverb and delay. It’s so expensive that if I told you how much it cost it would be majorly embarrassing. Maybe I can say my mid-90’s Japanese-issued Fender Jaguar. It’s better than any American Jaguar, indestructible, built of the heaviest materials… and I don’t like the sound of any other guitar. I’ve had it since I was sixteen and it’s been on every recording I’ve ever made. Things I’ve recently picked up that are inspiring me most right now are a Roland Juno 60 and a Nord Wave synth.

Q: Any advice for a musician starting out?
Am I qualified to dispense advice? Don’t play a show just because your parents told you that the Beatles played in Hamburg every night of the week and “that’s how they got good.” That’s not necessarily true, and it doesn’t have to be true for you. Only play shows that are curated properly, with lineups that your fledgling audience will actually want to see. Start creating relationships and try to con venues into letting you make every show an event. If they don’t bite, don’t take the show. Make every show a lofty ambition. Don’t troll bands you’re friends with by leaving the venue with all your friends after your set. You just ruined their night. Next time you play with them they will blow you off the stage and split. Don’t troll your audience by making them vote for you in an online poll (which are essentially elaborate click-jacking schemes and matter little to whatever extant remains of an industry endure in 2012).

Maybe this is all bad advice. I’m horrible about this stuff. Your art is a brand, whether you’re a country band making inroads on the corporate luncheon circuit or you’re a hip hop collective that met at an Occupy rally… Before every band decision you make, ask yourself, “does this threaten the brand?” No one is too cool to do this I think. You can bet your ass this is how all aesthetically successful bands operate. It’s serious. If you play a show at an airport, your meager empire could crumble. But music is all a con. Just have fun and try to write good lyrics, right?

Q: What’s the origin behind your name/band name?
A: I wanted a name that kind of conjured the feeling of last chances. Being away from the process of writing albums for awhile made me realize that I would be happy to give it one more shot, and so the band decided that having a sappy sounding name like Sunset Hearts could be appropriate. I ended up not liking the name much because the music is a lot more experimental and aggressive than I would have initially guessed… so it doesn’t seem to fit as much. But I’m overjoyed that we found something symmetrical. Makes designing posters so much easier, you know.

Q: What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
A: Darkthrone’s “A Blaze in the Northern Sky.” “Grafitti Bridge.” “Failure,” by Swans, because I feel guilty as fuck every time I put it on. “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” the greatest pop single ever released. “The Winner Takes it All,” by ABBA. I don’t know. “Still Pimpin’ (on a Bitch),” by David Banner. John Denver’s “The Eagle and the Hawk.” The new Beach House and Frank Ocean records… because every time I throw them on, whomever I’m with is probably thinking to themselves, “AGAIN?” And that makes me feel guilty.