Brooklyn based, transatlantic twosome The Casual Sexists are willing constituents of the emerging wave of satirical, frenetic Avant-pop. Merging organic with electronic and cherry-picking sounds from their surroundings, these elements fuse to create a dichotomy between playful and pensive. Think Fever Ray, The Flying Lizards and Madonna‘s Vogue galaxy.
With all of this in mind, we got chatting with The Casual Sexists to pick their brains about the origins of their sound, the intentions of The Casual Sexists, the process in creating their music fusions and upcoming releases.
Alysa: So, Varrick and Ed Zed… who are you wankers?
TCS: Hello Alysa, we wankers are Varrick and Ed Zed, known unprofessionally as The Casual Sexists. The two of us met in Ed’s native London, where New Yorker Varrick was on holiday a few years back. We fell deliriously in love and were married three months later. The Casual Sexists marked the meeting of our lopsided artistic minds, and has provided a medium for simultaneously combatting and exacerbating the acute anxiety with which we both are riddled.
Varrick is a former club kid / artist’s muse who cut her teeth on Manhattan’s nightlife scene when it was still seedier than a grain silo. She loves the desert, aye-ayes, unlimited Metrocards, and learning Japanese.
Ed is a former child punk who fronted teen terrors The Walking Abortions, and once snogged Adam Ant in a North London pub. He loves derelict buildings, Australian New Wave cinema, lammergeiers, and the music of Inga Copeland.
Alysa: How did you get into music?
TCS: Varrick was raised on musicals, and came to embrace new wave, synth pop and punk in her dancing days, then filtered all of those through a decidedly fractured lens to form the framework of The Casual Sexists.
Ed’s older siblings furnished him with albums by Black Sabbath, The Human League and Iron Maiden when he was barely five years old, and eventually he found his way to punk, which dominated his life between the ages of 11 and 17. Punk helped to open Ed’s ears to so much beyond its own limitations, and soon techno, house, dancehall, dub and various forms of bass music wormed their way into his heart, where they will remain forever more.
It should be noted that we also both LOVE pop music of so many varieties with a vicious passion!
Alysa: And The Casual Sexists, how did this form?
TCS: We used to front a noisy six-piece synth punk band called The Inconsolables back when we lived in London, and The Casual Sexists was a kind of side project that allowed us to experiment with more unusual sounds and production techniques, and to learn home recording.
Then, when we moved to NYC, The Casuals became our main musical outlet, and we started really getting into producing our own music and videos.
It wasn’t until after the release of our third EP, however, that we started playing live. Even now, we play shows only sporadically, as we like to make each one a real event, incorporating visuals and theatrical elements into every performance.
We try to give our audience something memorable to walk away with, rather than badgering them to come and see us play the same old show down the Dog and Toothbrush every coupla weeks.
Alysa: Is there a meaning behind the name?
TCS: Absolutely. The meaning is twofold: ‘The Casual Sexists’ appealed to our sense of humour as a young married couple to have a collective name with such unchaste implications—with a nod to the inception of our own relationship—but it also confronts the ugliness of misogyny still so prevalent in our world, and that meaning has only become stronger over time. A lot of our songs address issues of everyday ‘casual’ sexism, and we’re never short on material.
Alysa: Tell us more about your intentions as this utopic musical duo?
TCS: Well, cult status would be lovely, as we ain’t never gonna be pop stars…outside of our own heads, of course. 🙂
Honestly, we’d love to continue to touch the lives of freaky folks around the world, as we’ve been doing so far.
The band has been a vital element in our lives, both as individuals and as a unit, to grapple our passions, anxieties, joy and anger into submission to create something cool and cathartic for ourselves, and hopefully for others also.
Sometimes creativity can be its own burden, but to quote Werner Herzog in his inimitably overwrought manner: ‘If I abandon this project, I would be without dreams, and I don’t want to live like that. I live my life or I end my life with this project.’ (We hope that you read this quote in your best Werner Herzog accent).
“The band have been a vital element in our lives, both as individuals and as a unit, to grapple our passions, anxieties, joy and anger into submission to create something cool and cathartic for ourselves, and hopefully for others too.“– The Casual Sexists
Alysa: You describe your sound as coaxing crooked pop songs out of disillusionment, domestic objects, animals and the horrors of modern life since Brexit. There’s a lot more that goes into your tracks than perhaps some think. I can’t help but dance to your tracks, I love how complex your message is, yet how simplistically relatable and shared the tracks are.
TCS: Yep, the Casuals’ repertoire is derived from a great many sources, both musically and thematically. It’s a terrible cliché for a band to describe their lyrics as ‘dark’, but while we can’t escape the fact that many of our songs are forged out of unrest or dismay of some kind, they’re almost always suffused with a dry sense of humour.
Our recently released album ‘Your Prescription Is Ready’ was written and recorded amidst the collective horrors of Brexit, the Trump ‘presidency’ and COVID-19, and though shot through with themes of death, addiction and political disillusionment, even at its bleakest, ‘YPIR’ is still haunted by the dancefloor.
Pop music is lifeblood to us, and we’re both great believers in the idea that the best pop songs are those imbued with sadness.
Plus, pop music is the people’s music, and we do want people to be able to relate to who we are and what we do… even though people, by and large, are terrifying, and we’d love it equally if they left us well alone.
Alysa: Your most recent release was I Like Shapes which came out on June 17th, how have you found curating and releasing tracks during this last 18 months?
TCS: Although our music has always been written, recorded and released in a ‘domestic’ setting, psychologically speaking it has been very strange operating from within the pandemic cloister since early last year.
Under normal circumstances, of course, we would have played live to promote our debut album when it dropped in May, so it was peculiar to have to rely solely on the medium of the internet to project it to the world.
Having said that, musicians and fans alike have done so much on a grassroots level since the awful advent of COVID to help one another, when so many sources of revenue for artists were suddenly snatched away, and we feel very lucky to have been part of that collective movement. The artistic community has been kept very much aflame by various things, such as Bandcamp Fridays, during the past 18 months, and that has been incredible and deeply humbling to witness.
Alysa: I know you find inspiration from the world around you, but were there any influences in curating the retro-futuristic sound that The Casual Sexists have now adopted?
TCS: There are many influences in the Casuals’ melting pot, both old and new. We wouldn’t describe ourselves as retro-futuristic as such; our sound is a constantly evolving thing, and while we incorporate disparate elements of, say, post-punk, dancehall and hyperpop, they are always put through a filter which is very much our own, and one which is ultimately facing forwards.
Listen/watch ‘My Heartbeat Keeps Me Awake’ here:
Alysa: As an example, I notice the sound of glass smashing in your track Dub of Noise. There’s so many interesting sounds and frequencies through your music. What is your process to creating a track?
TCS: Oh yeah, we love the sound of glass smashing! Reminds us of being out in London on a Friday night 🙂
We often describe our approach to creating songs as ‘many drops which make up the ocean’. We tend to start with drums, percussion and snippets of found sounds, which can include anything from birdsong to vacuum cleaners, the gloriously complex sounds of water, or even our neighbours shouting.
We’ll often add vocals before we add any kind of melodic instrument, as it’s the beat, the words, and the samples that are the most important elements of any song for us.
Alysa: How do you go about picking the right sounds to accompany the tracks?
TCS: It usually happens pretty organically. We’re constantly listening for harvestable sounds when we’re out in the world, and often those will present themselves to us fairly early on, once the nucleus of a track is formed.
We both love animals very deeply, so we sample heavily from the natural world, and we’re also endlessly fascinated by the strange abstractions of humans in conversation, cut up to form their own unique fragments of music.
Alysa: If you had to use three words to describe The Casual Sexists, what would they be?
TCS: That is impossible.
Alysa: Do you have any upcoming releases we can watch out for?
TCS: We’re currently recording a new EP, ‘Salaryman’, which should hopefully be out later this year, along with a compilation of early Casuals material, and the second release by our alter ego band, Strange Flesh.
Or maybe we’ll decide to simply bask in the radiant success of our debut album, and spend the rest of the year responding to the sacks of fan mail we’ve received since May. Either way, someone’s in for a treat. 🙂