Latest release: Reptilian Overlord (Rubber)Website: www.thecasanovas.com.au
“Stuck in lockdown, so it’s groundhog day every day,” is Tommy Boyce’s answer when he’s asked how things have been for him recently. With the latest album from his band The Casanovas released in late August, he should be out hitting the stages of the world instead of bunkered down at home in Melbourne. Unfortunately, such is his lot as he endures one of the most tightly-controlled lockdowns of our pandemic-affected world.
The bitter irony that Reptilian Overlord could have been released almost a year ago isn’t lost on The Casanovas’ guitarist.
“There was the potential to get it out last year to tour Europe again in September, but it was all looking a bit squeezed so we pushed it back to put it out this year. Probably would have been better to get it out last year!”
“That aside,” he continues after a grim chuckle, “I’m glad we’re getting it out regardless. I would not want to sit on it and wait to put it out next year. I really want to move on. Fortunately with online platforms, a lot of people will hear it regardless of whether we play live or not. It’s important to move on, I reckon, and get it out.”
Coming just a little over five years since Terra Casanova, Reptilian Overlord is the fourth full-length release from the Melbourne hard rocking trio. Preceded by the singles Hollywood Riot, Red Hot and Lost and Lonely, the album has been winning strong support from those who like their music straight up and heavy.
“You always like to think that your latest thing is your best,” Boyce admits pleasantly, “but it’s nice to have been hearing that from other people as opposed to just what we think ourselves. A lot of people have been saying it’s our best record yet, so that’s nice.”
In their early days, The Casanovas were prone to the inevitable AC/DC comparisons that many other rock acts coming through around the same time were attracting. While Boyce is quick to admit that there was some justification to that, he’s also keen to make it clear he felt there was always more to his band’s music than imitation.
“When we started, a song like 10 Outta 10 or Livin’ in the City, they obviously had a very definite AC/DC influence, but even then I felt like we added our own flavour to it, rather than a really slavish rehashing of that sound. You’d really be crazy to try to sound like AC/DC. They’re pretty inimitable. I’d say there are some bands out there that stay truer and closer to that model, but you’d be pretty hard pressed to try and beat or improve on that. You’re better off doing your own thing and adding your own flavour to it.”
Sixteen years on from the release of their debut album and The Casanovas still deliver four-to-the-floor rock and roll. Those hoary old comparisons may be harder to make these days, however, as the band moves on with a sound of their own.
“It’s not a real conscious decision to not do something,” Boyce says. “It’s not like we’re saying, ‘We don’t want to sound like AC/DC!’, or something. It’s more that you just get older and you evolve and you listen to a whole lot of stuff and it all goes into the melting pot and all the other influences come out as well.”
Perhaps the most talked about track on Reptilian Overlord is the wonderfully titled St. Kilda is Fucked, Tommy’s ode to his former home.
“It’s been mildly controversial, but it wasn’t intended to be,” he explains. “It’s more kind of an observation on my behalf. I grew up there, and when I go back there now, it’s lost its magic. It looks nice, and everything, but compared to what it used to be… It is a song about gentrification, I guess!”
St Kilda is not the only place that has seen its Bohemian arts and cultural scenes slowly eroded by interlopers moving in to take advantage of a suburb’s notoriety, only to then destroy it by changing everything that made people want to live there. The closure or repurposing of venues in the wake of gentrification of a neighbourhood has impacted Melbourne as much as it has everywhere.
“The encouraging thing about Melbourne is,” Boyce says, “because the scene is so strong, when places close, other places seem to pop up. It’s just changing and evolving, rather than just dying. A lot of the great traditional venues are gone, and that’s really sad, but other places have opened up and there’s still an audience coming out to see live shows.”
That has always seemed true of Melbourne in the past. It remains to be seen what the long term effects of the current lockdowns will be on the nation’s cultural capital. Unlike other places, travel restrictions and curfews don’t even allow bands to get together to rehearse, much less do small limited-seating shows like in Sydney. Like other Melburnians, Boyce is worried about how much longer it will be until he can move about freely again.
“I have to admit that I’m really concerned about the future and what we’re going to be allowed to do. This does have this sense of foreboding that we’re going to be locked down for the next year, or something, and I don’t necessarily agree with it. I guess if you agree with it, and you think that we need to do this full lockdown, then you can feel psychologically a little better about it, but for me it’s fucking bullshit. We should be allowed to do what we want. We should be taking care of the elderly, but the rest of society should be allowed to continue. It’s a restriction of civil liberties.”
It all makes promoting a new album difficult.
“Damo and I were joking that we should do some kind of publicity stunt and play a show on a rooftop somewhere, like the Beatles, and get arrested,” Boyce says with a laugh. “There isn’t really too much more we can do than engage on social media and do interviews. When things open up a bit and we can play live, and we can do a live stream gig, we’ll do one of those. We did one a couple of months ago and the response was really good, so if we do another one of those, it would be great.”
It’s not all gloom and doom, however. When they can get out and about again, The Casanovas have a whole new market open to them. South America has recently fallen in love with the band’s rocking tunes and rock and metal websites like wikimetal.com.br in Brazil have been hosting online launches and interviews with the lads. It’s certainly a glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel, even if it’s likely to be quite some time before travel to that part of the world is possible.
“If and when things open up again and we can travel,” promises Tommy Boyce, “we’ll go to Europe again, but we’ll probably go to South America as well. That’s something to look forward to.”