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The Pencilstorm Interview: Casey and Jesse Cooper of The Receiver

The Receiver are made up of brothers Casey and Jesse Cooper. Their latest record All Burn is out on kscope music and getting rave reviews. The boys are heading out on a grueling tour to take their music to the streets and were kind enough to answer a few of my questions before hitting the road. You can find all their music, tour dates and videos by visiting Thereceivermusic.com  Do yourself a favor and check it out. - Colin G.

CG) Your tour starts February 17 in Thomas,WV and you play 18 consecutive nights and 31 shows in 32 days. That is a crazy schedule, so I have to ask some band questions to start. What do you guys travel in? Is it reliable?

J: Ha, well, we hope so! It’s a 1999 Ford E-150 van. It’s beat-up but beautiful. I’d like to think it’s been sitting pretty, just waiting to shine in this moment. I guess time will tell. We’re trying to prep it as much as possible. The last thing we want is to be broken down in the middle of winter.

C:  The most important thing is that it’s comfortable, and boy can I sleep in it.

CG) Where do you guys stay when you are on the road?

J: This is a TBD situation after every show. We’re really hoping each night someone will want to host a couple of dirt heads in a band at their home. We do have a plan ‘B’ of sleeping in the van.

C:  I have no problem sleeping in the van.

CG) Who decides what you listen to when traveling?

J: We’re pretty good with taking turns with the stereo but the moment Casey passes out, it’s fair game.

C:  I’m really picky when I’m awake.


CG) Who decides where you eat?

J: Budget is going to decide on this tour. We’re really trying stretch our dollars on this outing since it’s a long one. We will be completely open to gift cards, grocery store samples, and road- kill this time around.

C:  I’m saving the fast food for special occasions and congratulatory meals.  Otherwise, I’m sticking to grocery bought items.  Sometimes those double arches are hard to resist, though. 

CG) Do you bring anybody to help on the road?

J: We’ve taken a couple of friends to help out here and there but this tour is looking like it’ll be just the two of us. We wouldn’t want to put anyone else through something like this with little or no pay.

C:  It would be great to take someone to help, but it’s cheaper to travel as light as possible.  Plus all the deals we’ve made for the clubs and lodging have only included us two...and we don’t want to mess that up.

CG) I was watching your performance on the Mug & Brush sessions, is that the gear you tour with or was that just for the show?

C:  That was a stripped-down performance, and a lot of fun.  Although we will be playing some shows just like that, we tour with quite a bit more.  Jesse will be using his full drum kit, as well as the sampler.  I’ll be bringing a bass head/amp & guitar, pedalboard, three synths, and my keyboard amp to use only when necessary.  Plus we have a road case with DI’s, in-ear’s, a small mixer, and cables galore.  It’s my goal to make being a two-man band as inconvenient as possible.

- Let's take a quick break and check out a performance from the Mug & Brush Sessions

CG) Ok, switching gears, Obviously, both of you guys have some serious musical gifts. What's going on in the Cooper family? Where did it come from?

C:  Well, thank you for that.  For me, it isn’t so much about having any gifts as it is about being too stubborn to give up.  Plus, I’m not more interested in or better at anything else, so my choices are slim.  But our mom started us on piano very young, which always sets a nice foundation for anyone.  Then I continued to be a band nerd all the way through high school and college.  But now I have long hair which makes it cooler.  Jesse was always in some pretty awesome bands, and I couldn’t help but follow his lead and play in bands myself.

J: I’ve always just been a huge fan of music and bands as far back as I can remember. Like Casey mentioned, our mother pushed us to learn piano at a very young age. Casey actually stuck with schooling in music, while I drifted more heavily towards playing in bands and relying on my ear to get me through.  

CG) Where did you guys grow up? Did you start playing together at a young age?

C:  We lived in the Sharon Woods area of Columbus originally, then Mt. Vernon for a couple years.  I ended up with our mom in Hilliard through high school, and Jesse ended up with our dad at DeSales.  We’d play my parties in high school when my mom was on business trips and Jesse was way older than everyone else, which was sweet.  A lot of that was jams that went nowhere, but we thought it was cool.  Plenty of E and A.

CG) Can you remember your first public gig together?

C:  I joined Jesse’s band, Lucid’s Dream, for a couple different songs at South Heidelberg on keys and trumpet.  But I’ll never forget our first “real” show because I was scared to death.  Jesse’s band had a gig coming up and their bass player had just quit to go to some music festival for the weekend.  So I was asked to fill in, and I really thought I hit the bigtime.  I was 18.  We had a couple rehearsals, and then the show at Little Brother’s.  I remember forgetting the chord progression in the last song, and the guitarist had to shout them to me on stage.  And there was a dude sitting in a chair in the middle of that huge room with nobody around him, reviewing us with pen and paper in hand.


CG) Many brother combos in music are notorious for being combative such as the Davies or Galleghers. Do you guys ever feel like beating the shit out of each other?

C:  It never really escalates to anything like that for us.  Sure we get on each others’ nerves, but we’ve been playing together and living together for so long that it’s sort of just white noise at this point.  We sure do love to argue about things that really don’t matter, though.

J: Yeah, any arguments usually blow over within minutes. As Kansas would say, “Everything is dust in the wind.”

CG) How do you feel like All Burn differs from your previous work?

C:  I think it’s our most complete album yet.  A lot of our older material sounds a bit young now when I go back to it.  So it’s paying off to get old I guess.  But we had a clearer idea of what we wanted for this album than any other.  The songs feel more complete, the fat is trimmed a little more, and the album as a whole moves more willfully than the others.  And we wanted everything to be dreamier and loftier than anything else we’ve done.  So that was a common thread we stuck to throughout the entire album.

J: I’ve never been so excited about anything we’ve done. Every song on All Burn captures a mood and is distinctly its own yet is a just a piece of the big picture. I’m a huge fan of the classic album format and I feel we finally got it right on this one.

CG) Which songs are your favorite to play live?

C:  I’m really enjoying a lot of the newer material right now.  The aggressive tunes like “To Battle An Island,” “Collector,” and “The Summit” are great for gritty bass and loud drums.  But others, like “All Burn” and “Dark Matter” are refreshingly laid-back but not at all boring for me.  I’m sure we’ll be sick of everything by the time this tour wraps up though.

-- Let's take a break and check out your latest video for the song "Transit"


CG) You guys have made some great videos. How did the latest for Transit and working with director Youssef Nassar come about?

C:  We met Youssef Nassar through our label, Kscope.  He had recently shot a video for Steven Wilson, and it was Kscope’s idea to bring him in on “Transit.”  We were open to anything.  So we gave him the green light to conceptualize and shoot whatever he wanted.  It was a little scary not knowing at all what is going on, but the end product turned out much better than we expected.  And it’s a lot of fun giving someone free reign to reinterpret your music through a different medium like video.  We have a newer video coming out very soon for “To Battle An Island,” shot and directed by our friend Matthew Smith.  And the same idea applies here.  He had a concept, and we let him run with it.

CG) How has signing with KSCOPE records changed things for the band? 

C:  It’s great to finally be part of a team and a roster with Kscope.  And the label has such a loyal fan-base, so it’s helped us a lot to be exposed to their fans.  They’ve helped a lot with merch and promotion.  We’re always in a tricky spot though.  In some ways, we’re not quite “proggy” enough for a lot of their fans, and we’re not poppy enough for people who don’t care at all about prog.  I guess it’s not a bad problem to have.  But we’re fighting the good fight every day.  And there’s nothing more to do than get busy touring and writing the next album.

Thanks again to Casey and Jessie and don't forget to check it all out at thereceivermusic.com 

 

Colin Gawel founded Pencilstorm in the downtime at Colin's Coffee. He also plays in the band Watershed. His latest solo record is Superior - The Best of Colin Gawel.