I haven’t written the Hum for a bit, but today seemed like a good a time as any to get back to it. Casey Neill and the Norway Rats are playing in Eureka tonight and I bought advance tickets.
Depending on where you find out about music, you may not have heard about the show. For some reason the North Coast Journal didn’t mention it at all and there aren’t many other places to read about shows outside of the imperfect, but massively powerful Facebook.
Maybe you’ve never heard of Casey. As an introduction I’ll quote Wikipedia, where they note,
“Casey Neill is an American musician. He leads Portland, Oregon-based band Casey Neill & The Norway Rats, singing with a raspy vocal quality and playing electric and acoustic guitars. Neill’s style, folk-punk, mixes influences from punk, Celtic and folk music, and has been compared to R.E.M. and The Pogues.”
(Aside from the “raspy” part I’d agree.) Or there’s this short interview and song he did with a tv station in Portland…
I first met Casey in the ’90s when he was touring up and down the coast in support of Earth First!, usually fighting the good fight in support of our forests or something like that. He had a cassette release (I may have one somewhere) with songs like the hopeful “Dancing on The Ruins of Multinational Corporations.”
I’ve seen him play every chance I could, like at this gig in PDX where he played a tribute for Joe Strummer of the Clash. It may or may not have been with the Pogues cover band he’s in called KMRIA.
“It stands for Kiss My Royal Irish Ass,” Neill explained when I asked, “It’s originally a reference from James Joyce’s Ulysses, but then was used in a Pogues song. That band has definitely influenced my writing — there’s a lot of Pogues in there, along with Joe Strummer and others in and around that world.”
There’s a lot of politics in his songs, some personal, some the other kind. “If you’re singing about the real world at all, it’s political,” he told me. “It’s more that my standards for what makes a good political song have gotten much higher. There’s definitely less of the anthemic political cheerleading. I’m trying to focus more on storytelling, where the narrative draws people into the story, which has inherent politics to it. I want to let the listeners come to their own conclusions without being a bully about it. Of course we still play some of the old songs because, well, people won’t let us stop.”
As noted in that tv interview, The Norway Rats have a new album out. I assume this song is on it.
Years ago, before a show in Blue Lake at the dearly departed Red Radish, I asked him what is it he’s trying to do with his songs and music. “I am simply trying to move people,” he said. “I think it’s what anyone who isn’t in music for fame and glory is trying to do. If I can draw a listener into a song and have it resonate for them personally, that’s a victory.”
The Rats’ short album release tour includes just one date in California, tonight in the Grand Theatre Ballroom at the Historic Eagle House, Old Town, Eureka. If you don’t have other plans (like perhaps the Forest Prom is Arcata) you should go.
Burning Leaf tells us, “The music of Casey Neill and The Norway Rats combines high energy indie rock rave-ups and haunting lush acoustic reveries built around melodic narrative songwriting. Neill has been touring extensively through the USA, Japan, and Europe for more than a decade, performing his songs at venues such as Town Hall in New York, San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, and the Newport Folk Festival. He is often a member of the Northwest power pop collective The Minus 5 (with members of R.E.M.) as well as Japanese/American cross cultural band Big Bridges. ALL AGES, Doors at 7pm, Show at 8pm. Tickets are available at the door for $12 Entrance on 2nd street. Phatsy Kline’s Parlor Lounge will be serving up the finest local libations! See you tonight!”