Review of the September 30th, 2016 show in Boston, MA by Courtney Tharp
Nothing quite beats the feeling of seeing a band live (that you knew nothing about prior to the show) and getting your head completely beaten in with a wet mackerel. That was my experience with DC punk/doom/psychedelic rock trio Caustic Casanova. The band has a pretty extensive discography and they’ve been at it for a good chunk of years now. Their latest album Breaks has a fitting home on Kylesa’s rock-solid Retro Futurist label and you can hear the chops this power trio have been perfecting for over a decade. CC is louder than the lord’s thunder in person while bringing a raucous element of fun to their riffed-up and tripped-out blotter acid punk. They were gritty for damn sure on the live front yet possessed plenty of sunsoaked snark which illustrated that these cats are having a blast tearing stages apart on tour…always a plus when you can get that vibe to rub off on the audience.
Breaks is punishing though smoother than I expected; the production by J. Robbins on this Olympic head tossing champ is slick, clear and crisp. Dual vocals never get lost in the fury and despite an instrumental decathlon going down nobody’s tone is bullying the rest of the tones for lunch money. Musically speaking, this is some acrobatic shit…harder to nail down than pinning Jell-O to a fuckin’ tack board. Overall, it reminds me of the legendary X’s dark, brooding punk mixed with some classic DC chaos coupled to the tricky though heavily rockin’ prog circa Outer Limits-era Voivod, as taken over by the alien invasions of prime Hawkwind, only to eventually crashland into the thick smirking heaviness of early Torche and Floor’s S/T if Steve Brooks harvested his material from a NOLA swamp farm. That description really isn’t even the half of the band’s sound. There’s a “who gives a flying pig fuck” level of experimentalism to the songwriting here and it works in the Casanovas favor.
“Thundersnow” kicks off with warped feedback before running an electrified punk riff through a cheesegrater of dope huffin’ hazy hard rock. Drummer/vocalist Stefanie Zaenker hits like she’s got sledgehammers instead of drum sticks and peppers the material with punchy fills, careening the tempo into bassist/vocalist Francis Beringer’s heavy, flashy grooves. The end result is an opening of pure punk rock with a filthy rock edge and pop catchiness that wraps around new guitarist Andrew Yonki’s ephedrine blues riffs. Somebody goosed this stuff up on trucker’s speed for sure and the Zaenker/Beringer coalition provides an infectious, instantly memorable sing/shout hydra-headed attack that immediately carves the lyrics n’ melodies into your brain with an old stone arrowhead. Yonki grinds the riffing into a molten sludgy lava crawl giving the vocals room to soar amidst a sundering cyclone of psychedelic, head shrinking rhythm work that’s a split difference of unapologetically deep/heavy playing and crystalline, uplifting triumph. It’s like getting caught tripping on shrooms in a circle pit. A lengthy instrumental workout sees Stef bullrushing into manic roll overdrive full of precision, never-ending tom fluxes and bone-crunching snare fills that collide with Francis’ walking, progg-y bass lines. Andrew chooses to let the pair run off on their own as he constructs a tower of rising tide, My Bloody Valentine-esque glory. There is no doubt CC can jam in flurries of technically astounding complexity without losing vision of a song as a whole. They return to the tune’s main punk n’ roll curmudgeon before phasing into a slab of thick, mercurial 70s heavy blues.
To call by name every twist, turn n’ writhe in each track is a battle I’m not gonna win but I’ll die trying. “Show some Shame” is very reminiscent of the faster, peppier tunes on Torche’s Meanderthal. Beringer’s fathoms deep vocal melodies are certainly respectful of Steve’s sugary bellow but when Zaenker harmonizes with him on the chorus it adds an aggressive push/pull dynamic brimming with more nervous energy than even Torche usually musters up as this particular vocal duo delves into some angry shouting and engaging trade-off hooks that yield an individual identity. The music is also dirtier, grimier and stuffed to the gills with acidic 70s stoner riffage taking acidic punk swerves whilst shifting like the sands of NYC noise-rock. Rhythmically, things are combat-ready at all times; the bombastic drumming continually layering the beat with devious polyrhythms that place Stefanie in a realm that criss-crosses the stylistic change-ups of Ronnie Kalimon, Damon Che, Brendan Canty and Bill Bruford. The same goes for the bass lines which ride pocket punk/heavy rock grooves one minute then sail into Geddy Lee/Blacky waters the next. Andrew’s guitar prowess is also constantly shape-stealing like a chameleon from Hell…never content to allow his riffing to occupy a single style as he frequently transcends genres. Even the dueling vocals end with a killer resolution that goes from a Therapy?-chiseled, harmonious pop punk twitch to full on Neurosisian shouting during the song’s climax.
An ominous, soul-swallowing bass line drenches “Elect my Best Friend for a Better World” in doom syrup alongside delay n’ echo bombed guitar reverberations, lending the track a deceptive psychedelic visage that’s soon overthrown in a cultural sonic uproar of propulsive low-end growl, schizophrenic snare fills and sliding minor key guitar surgery. This track is rich in dramatic atmosphere with Zaenker providing short, punk-y exclamations of the song’s title with Beringer delivering authoritative spoken word. You never know what’s coming around the bend…the weird quirks reeking of Fugazi, the thought-provoking rhythmic interplay straight 70s prog, the frenetic pacing more in tune with Minor Threat, the demonic dirt-rock riffs resting somewhere between Kylesa’s To Walk a Middle Course and Akimbo’s stoner-noise classic City of the Stars… I can’t pin the band’s sound down still but I know it fuckin’ rocks. Even Andrew’s hard groovin’, centerpiece riff never stays quite the same in tone, volume or notation throughout the entire track and the threesome lays into a homerun of a lengthy instrumental closing that beats the ever lovin’ baseballs outta McGuire and Sosa put together.
Francis’ vocals take on a lower, throatier Elvis from the underworld personality on the stoner/punk sleaze of “Quezalteca Deathswitch Blues.” The guitar riffs are kissed with the poison lips of Joshua Homme (trace elements of Welcome to Sky Valley and the first QOTSA abound). It’s an intense jam swapping spritely trickiness for no frills, no nonsense heaviness that oddly sounds like it was written around “15 Men on a Dead Man’s Chest.” They hit a goldmine on the outro vocal mantra where the harmonies have a religious cult’s fervor to ‘em (I’ve been walking around the house singing, “We are the pure and chosen few, the rest of you are damned, there’s room enough in Hell for you, we don’t want Heaven crammed…”). If a DC punk band headlined a generator party in the Southwestern desert, Caustic Casanova would be THAT house band…at least on this cut.
“The Forgiveness Machine” is all about black hole bass vacuuming, wandering sludgy blues riffs that ain’t seen water in years and snare-driven death marches. It takes its time like a rattlesnake readying its fangs for unsuspecting prey as Francis narrates with commanding sung/shouted poetry atop the band’s sandy murder mesas. Never content to just travel one path, these crazies explore every possible route that the music can take; leading to a cathartic, uptempo doom riff cleaning house at 1:55 with every instrument breaking away from the laidback build-up. Prepping the scoreboard for the album’s closer, “No Sky July” introduces extensive clean instrumentation, Yonki’s improvisational space-rock licks (eschewing riffs at first for atmospheric warmth until exploding into heady doom riffs and a massive, heart-stopping solo later on), tribal percussion, freeform vocal flows, Middle Eastern modes molded for taking mescaline in the heart of a great pyramid and a purely 60s psychedelic spire stretching to the album’s forefront. Cutting through the dense drug fog are violent screaming shoves of vicious post-rock upheaval but leaping bass lines cut from a Claypool cloth spiral the ambience into towering riffs which constantly change speeds as the drumming embellishes progressive insanity ala Gentle Giant. The jamming here shows what a true jam band is capable of…fuck Phish with a ten foot fin; this is how you do it! Album ender “The Painted Desert” is composed with a similar psychedelic softness in mind but flies south, embracing heartbreaking blues and wayward twang. Submerging bass lines, endlessly roving beats and Gilmour-dipped guitar reflections are the perfect canvas for Beringer to utilize his colorful singing and yearning spoken prose in downward brushstrokes. Everything congeals for an atmosphere of heavy hopefulness that again doesn’t sound exactly like anything that came before on the album or exactly like any other bands that I can think of.
Breaks is an inspired piece of audio art. It excels not only as an attitude injected punk rock album but as a hefty platter of doom wielding hard rock, an instrumentally impressive lost 70s prog masterpiece, a late 60s/early 70s psych rock freakout, a brazen post-punk wall of majestic white noise, a landmark example of how you can combine metal’s ruthlessness with slick pop sensibilities and as a true heavy album that defies categorization. I’ll be seeing Caustic Casanova again live any chance I get and will be sure to buy as much as their discography as I can find based upon the sheer might of this sonic behemoth.
Review of Breaks by Jay Snyder HERE
Andrew Yonki on guitar, Stefanie Zaenker on drums/vocals and Francis Beringer on bass/lead vocals is Caustic Casanova, the heavy rock group from DC. Their passion for savage riffs and the pleasure they take in their craft was palpable throughout the packed bar venue, O’Briens in Allston, MA.
Beringer’s vocals, reminding me of Queens of the Stone Age, were forcefully spot-on as they resonated throughout the crowd and out onto a rainy Harvard Avenue. Zaenker’s percussion was crushing. She hammered out drum fills in response to Yonki’s oscillating riffs with loud authority which crowned the beautiful aural assault unleashed by CC. Anyone who’s witnessed Caustic firsthand has adamantly attested to how loud their music is, and CC certainly did not disappoint on this fall evening. Despite being on the tail end of a massive, 10-week, 56-show tour celebrating the release of Breaks, the trio had plenty of energy left to deliver a shocking, visceral performance.
Luckily, this show granted me the opportunity to witness one of my favorites from CC, “Quezalteca Deathswitch Blues.” The studio version is an interesting, heavy piece. A pleasant surprise, I somehow enjoyed the live version even more than the studio version. The sound at O’Briens was up to the task of cleanly blasting Beringer’s deafening, aggressive playing. Zaenker’s intense, echoing cry added an additional flavor to the already diverse medley of sounds. Three songs in, they played “Show Some Shame,” an excellent taste of Zaenker’s voice as she howls “We’re doomed, we are doomed!!”
Another facet of the show that made their set so captivating is that CC’s music firmly beckons you to head bang, pretty much from start to finish. The band used the variety of music in their wheelhouse to their advantage, giving the crowd songs that they didn’t even know they’d craved. Their last song of the night was a heavy, psychedelic track that was reminiscent of The Black Angels.
The intimate familiarity the three have with each other’s playing style has yielded a certain precision to their writing. Like an engineer tinkering with various parts of a machine, this meticulous precision was clear in their finished product. CC has a foot planted in several different genres. Variety and intricacy form a driving theme behind the group’s music; a big strength of CC is that they switch things up just enough to keep their tracks exciting and surprising without sounding manic or disjointed.
Having formed in 2005, the band has nearly broken up on two occasions, once after losing their original guitarist (which produced the serendipitous addition of Andrew Yonki) and again following a severe car accident involving Stefanie Zaenker. Like the phoenix that adorns the cover of their newest album, Breaks, Zaenker and Caustic Casanova have arisen stronger and louder than ever.
Taken from a review of the September 30th, 2016 show in Boston, MA by Matt Buonopane
There’s a line where musical repetition can go from being effective, hypnotic or hooky to annoying. The whole theme-and-variation idea can lead people to get carried away with the variation part of the equation or to take the restatement of an idea to mind-numbing extremes. (I could just keep repeating different iterations of my point and you’d either find it compelling or idiotic.) The Washington D.C.-based band Caustic Casanova have found an interesting solution to the problem. They have it both ways. Their music is riff-based, with phrases that demand to be played over many times to drive home their power, and yet the trio knows enough to keep tweaking the details so that sometimes when a pattern comes back around, a listener will realize that they’ve heard it, but something’s different about it.
Caustic Casanova play Greensboro on Sept. 22 at New York Pizza. I spoke to the band — all three of them — while they had a little downtime in Tampa Bay, Florida, following a show there. Caustic Casanova are heavy, with all the regular signposts of heaviness — with hulking bass lines, pounding drums, and frequently abrasive guitar textures. But the band — particularly guitarist Andrew Yonki — mix in some poppy post-punk with their sludge and prog-metal inclinations. One can hear Yonki’s fondness for guitarists like the Edge and Johnny Marr, with his tolling delay-heavy sound. The fact that the band can evoke the vibe of the Melvins, Rush and U2 within a couple of minutes without sounding stitched-together or disjointed is a testament to their skill and to the painstaking way the trio assembles their material.
The band formed in 2005, with a different guitarist and singer who left the group in 2012. Bassist/lead singer Francis Beringer and drummer/vocalist Stefanie Zaenker considered carrying on as a drums-bass duo, but soon realized they wanted to wait for the right guitarist. Further complicating the band’s progress, Zaenker was seriously injured at the end of 2014, requiring multiple surgeries on her wrists and drawing the band’s future into question. That patience and willingness to wait it out seem to come through in Caustic Casanova’s music.
Beringer says the songs often come about collaboratively, and the band likes to let the writing process unfold organically. “We’ve discovered that when something takes a long time, the ideas come eventually, maybe out of boredom,” he says. A basic initial idea might exist as a sketch in practice for a couple months, and the band starts adjusting accents, adding slight twists on a riff or coming up with another section entirely. The approach seems to allow the band to create a spiraling complexity that doesn’t flaunt itself as complex. But it’s a long gestation process. Deep familiarity with the core of a song allows for new parts to hatch without having to force it. “When you know something so well, like the back of your hand, and then you decide to add a section: ‘Oh, what if it went backwards for two bars here?’ — it doesn’t seem nuts to you,” says Beringer.
Drummer Zaenker says that they’ve noticed that other bands seem to sometimes avoid repetition out of fear of monotony, perhaps, but end up missing out on the force of the effect. “We’ve figured out ways to keep something repetitive but make it engaging,” she says. One approach she takes on the drums is to vary the surfaces, even if she’s playing the same identical strokes and rhythms with her sticks, hitting cymbal bells instead toms will dramatically change the feel. Zaenker and her bandmates seem to almost have a clinical precision when it comes to gauging the effectiveness of certain parts or textures or contrasts. “If there’s a riff that we’re super stoked on, we’ll think, ‘Yes, the listener needs to hear that 16 times,’” she says.
And guitarist Yonki has a similar view with regard to mixing up the tone palette of his instrument. Listen, for example, at about the 4:45 mark in the song “The Forgiveness Machine” off of Caustic Casanova’s 2015 record Breaks. After some serious metal, there’s a moment where the song opens up and there’s a Nashville-style double-stop solo phrase on a Telecaster. It’s out of the blue, but awesome, and strangely ominous too. “I really wanted twang,” says Yonki. “We play the music that we want to hear,” he says, elaborating on the idea. “We want to hear country parts in stoner-metal songs. We want 12-minute space-rock two-hand tapping. We want all of that.”
The sensibility, to my ears, is defiant and punk rock, in that it’s about not being bound by a set of expectations or rules. The band doesn’t indulge in any whiplash stylistic mash-up just to be clever or show off their skills. There’s no reckless shoehorning of out-of-place parts for novelty’s sake. The variety makes its own organic sense within the context of the songs. A giddiness comes through in both the sense of possibility in the songs and in the titles and lyrics. (Song titles like “Squid Pro Quo” and “Titian Titillation” suggest a taste for absurdist puns and wordplay.) It’s nice that Caustic Casanova can make serious ambitious heavy music and still avoid the trap of humorlessness.
If there’s a lightness in the band’s attitude, Caustic Casanova still approach the business of playing shows and entertaining people with a sense of purpose. “Play the songs properly — yeah — but there’s got to be more to it than that,” says Yonki. “There’s a lot of high energy antics going on on stage. What’s the point if you’re not going to just go nuts on stage? For me, playing live, there’s a lot of headbanging, throwing my back and my arms and my legs into what I’m doing. I’m playing the guitar with my whole body.” When, on occasion, all of that effort doesn’t engage an audience, Yonki adopts a battlefield mentality from the stage. “If the crowd is standing there looking bored, I kind of view it as a declaration of war.”
Taken from an article/interview “DC’s Caustic Casanova Wage War on Musical Monotony” by John Adamian
Changing the pace and vibe of the show to a large extent, Washington DC rock trio Caustic Casanova, on their own extensive US tour much in a similar vein as Castle, took the stage next and presented a noticeably eccentric set of what could be described as organized chaos, the kind of musicianship fans of acts such as Faith No More, Melvins, Refused and Boris could easily appreciate. Caustic Casanova definitely came across as the oddball band of the lineup and may not have been a savory cup of tea for everyone in attendance, but showcased undeniably great musicianship and ripped the stage to shreds. Overall, the band created a positive impression and proved themselves to be an act certainly worth seeing again.
Taken from a review of the August 20th, 2016 show in Glendale, CA with Taarkus, Trapped Within Burning Machinery, and Castle by Andrew Bansal
It was a super stormy night, though; raining cats and dogs. I think the weather, and the fact that it was a Wednesday night teamed up to drive down attendance a bit, but that never stopped the rock, did it? After sitting through some other bands of, let’s say, varying quality, I was ready for Caustic Casanova.
The thought I had the moment they started their engines was, “well, I guess I am finally going deaf tonight”. The level of volume and scale of the frontal assault was staggering. I asked Francis about it in a text, post-show, and he said, “Ha ha, we definitely use volume as an aesthetic”. That is one way to put it. Another would be for me to say that I have seen a lot of bands over the years, and I am sure that Caustic Casanova is one of the loudest I have ever witnessed.
They opened with two new songs (one hilariously called “Pontius Pilates”), before moving into familiar territory (for me) with Breaks songs “Show Some Shame” and “Thundersnow”, before finishing up their set with “Snake in the Grass” from 2012’s Someday you will be Proven Correct. No banter, no breather, it was one big face melter of a set. At one point I was pretty sure my eyeballs were being pushed through the back of my skull. Francis and Stefani’s vocals fought for the same space the racket coming from the guitar, bass, and drums, creating a visceral wall of sound.With all the aggression and noise, it is remarkable that the band was still able to coax delicate flourishes of ambience in the middle of the hurricane. Andrew, with his monster pedal board, was a big part of this depth. He was able to bob and weave amongst the low-end rumble of the rhythm section, and it made a ton of difference. This was not noise for the sake of noise.
In the end, I didn’t go deaf; not yet, anyway. It was a rainy, crappy night, but Caustic Casanova still delivered the goods, and I am excited for the next time I can see them perform. They are on tour all over the U.S. right now, so go on and get some.
Taken from a review of the August 10th, 2016 Show in Minneapolis, MN by Chad Werner
“Breaks Away” An Interview With Caustic Casanova by Chad Werner
The punk band from Washington, DC, Caustic Casanova, lit up the room at The Southgate House Revival on Thursday night. The band consists of Francis Beringer on bass/vocals, Andrew Yonki on guitar, and Stefanie Zaenker on drums/vocals. Their sounds is a little mix of punk with a little heavy rock. Think Queens of the Stone Age meets My Bloody Valentine mixed with a little Fugazi.
There were maybe 6 or 7 people in the audience when they started playing. The more they played, the more people started paying attention and bobbing their heads to the music. As part of their nationwide tour, Caustic Casanova, performed songs off of their latest (2015, with their vinyl version out since July 2016) album Breaks during their nearly hour long set. What is so interesting about this band is the insane amount of distortion that they use during and in between songs and their creativity that they bring on stage.
Yonki’s mind-blowing guitar skills and Beringer’s vocal and bass, along with Zaenker really creates a powerhouse of a trio. Zaenker really gives a Meg White-type-vibe when it comes to technique, energy, and the chemistry she has when performing with Beringer and Yonki. The number of instrumentals and solos that these guys illustrate on stage, really show that they really have a passion for their craft. Their music is very distinctive and they really illustrate that they are not trying to replicate any other band or artist.
Caustic Casanova have been releasing music since 2008 and have had two LPs out including their 2015 and latest album Breaks (Retro Futuristic Records). It is one of their best albums-to-date because it just shows how much they have evolved throughout the years musically and mentally. With a little over 2,000 likes on Facebook, this band is continuing their journey. They have previously played at shows such as SXSW and have opened for metal band Kylesa. The amount of confidence, musical skills, and passion that this band has will definitely put them on the map in the music industry, if they keep at it and continue to grow. They are definitely a band to keep an eye out for. The band is currently on tour and will be hitting cities such as San Francisco, Orlando, Boston, and will end their tour on October 5 in Rochester, NY.
Taken from a review of the August 4th, 2016 show in Newport, KY by Natalya Daoud
I just saw this trio, long one of my favorites, less than two months ago, so nothing changed too much from that review. A bit of tinkering with the set list as we began with the opening riffs courtesy of Mr. Nugent (he won’t notice, he’s busy this week) that work into one of their newer metallic crunching songs with the usual artistry within (something Ted could not touch with a ten foot bow). They keep the sonics coming with all the creative flourish that you come to expect and the crowd is enjoying it all. They unify all the elements previously heard tonight and add a few spices of their own to what is now a long but fulfilling night. Another cut reminded me of Budgie jamming with Led Zeppelin until some how a Rush song emerged. There is plenty of psychedelic intensity as well, as this trio knows how to play with all forms of metal and beyond to concoct something unique. And they continue to work hard and tour frequently. And next week they are off for TEN WEEKS. So if they come your way, do check them out. You will not be sorry.
Taken from a review of the July 21st, 2016 show in Washington, DC with Horseburner, Borracho, Matter of Planets and The Ravenna Arsenal by David Hintz
Don’t get me wrong, I believe it because it’s Caustic Casanova and they did something similar toward the end of last year, but nonetheless, this is ridiculous. Look at this tour! It’s like the Washington D.C. trio — who released their second album, the J. Robbins-produced Breaks (review here), last year via Retro Futurist — sat around and were like, “Yeah, it’s July. Let’s just tour until October.” Absolutely insane. This band must really love each other.
Taken from a 2016 tour preview
My favorite homegrown trio is back and I am seeing them for the first time in a long, long while. Although I have missed them, it does offer an opportunity to take a more fresh view without the memories of recent reviews in my ever evaporating short term memory. All the signature moves are there: Stephanie’s accurate powerhouse drumming along with increasing vocal help; Francis’ vocal intensity and throbbing bass runs; and Andrew’s sonic assault guitar style that keeps it psychedelic in sound but metallically powerful throughout. The one thing that strikes me is that all the touring has paid off with an even more together and confident band that has the great noisy style that Hüsker Dü used to employ by keeping transitional noise going between songs that never allowed you to catch your breath. And the songs are distinct enough to have their own character, although tonight it was more about the overall effect. As usual they had my mind wandering around to all kinds of great music from different scenes and eras as their opening riff took me back to Ted Nugent’s ‘Stranglehold’ (?!) and their closing freak-out reminded me of the MC5 cutting into ‘Black to Comm’ but not quite hitting the Paik finish (which is possibly one of the best all-time). And based on the big ovation at the end, the sonic effect of the entire powerfully constructed set worked on all the enthusiastic rockers in attendance. They are off to explore the country further this summer, so if they head to your town, do yourself a favor and check them out.
Taken from a review of the May 27th, 2016 show in Washington, DC with Kill Lincoln and Psychic Subcreatures by David Hintz
Rounding out the bill is the sludgy prog-rock trio Caustic Casanova, whose latest album, Breaks, hits hard with huge riffs and thundering drum fills. Plissken would approve. Psychic Subcreatures performs with Kill Lincoln and Caustic Casanova at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat.
Taken from a preview of the May 27th, 2016 show in Washington, DC with Kill Lincoln and Psychic Subcreatures by Matt Cohen
Natürlich gab’s Metal, Hardcore, Heavy-Rock, Progressive und Stoner schon vor Caustic Casanova. Aber Bands mit der Idee, diese Stile zusammenzuwerfen, gibt es nicht viele. Die Auswirkungen dieses musikalischen Bebens spürt und hört man auf dem neuen Album „Breaks“, wobei die Saitenkünstler aus Washington im Dauerstakkato durch ihre Stücke hacken. Die drei Musiker metzeln von Beginn an trocken und abgehackt, ungemein präzise sowie brutal laut durch die Songs und spielen verschachtelte, untanzbare Stücke, die sich höchstens zum Kopfnicken eignen, aber entlocken ihren Instrumenten mit Unterstützung diverser Effektgeräte beeindruckende Krachgeräusche. Eine Kostprobe der Auswirkungen dieses musikalischen Bebens ist mit dem furiosen „Quezalteca Deathswitch Blues“ an dieser Stelle zu hören.
Review of Breaks by Von Horst Wendt HERE
Caustic Casanova–their performance moved through ebbs and flows of different soundscapes, keeping their set fresh and interesting as it went along.
Taken from a review of the January 29th, 2016 at Rock and Roll Hotel with Drop Electric, The Escape Artist and Boon by Mary Henkin