The St. Louis, MO modern rock band Cavo, just released their second major label recording entitled, “Thick as Thieves.” The band which consists of members, Casey Walker – vocals/guitar, Chris Hobbs – lead guitar, Chad La Roy – drums and Brian Smith – bass, were able to side step the dreaded sophomore jinx that has derailed so many bands in the past. However, to get there, Cavo did have to overcome a bit of adversity, when they decided to “walk away” from their contract with Warner Brothers Records before recording commenced. But as it turns out, they were able to find a better home by signing with Eleven Seven Music, a label that focuses solely on modern rock bands.
The new recording, “Thick as Thieves” is an impressive and solid eleven track recording that really showcases the band musical progression and maturity since their moderately success
2009 debut release, “Dark Days, Bright Nights.” An unique aspect of this release was that three different producers worked on it, giving in a sense of diversity, without losing it’s cohesiveness. The band’s first single, the hard-hitting title track, was well received by fans and radio stations across the country. Cavo and the label are currently deciding on a follow-up single with leanings towards another rocking track, “Celebrity.”
What follows is an exclusive RockMusicStar interview with Cavo’s lead vocalist, songwriter, Casey Walker. During this chat, we discussed the new recording, their new label and much more.
RockMusicStar: I really enjoyed your last CD, “Bright Nights, Dark Days” but you really stepped it up on the new one “Thick as Thieves.” It’s really great record.
Casey Walker: Yes, thank you. One of the things that impressed me the most about the new songs was that there were a lot more aggressive and musically driven then our first record, “Bright Nights, Dark Days.” That one was more based around melodies and things like that. On our new record, the guys really wanted to showcase that they are all very good players. And that in turn, made me try to write better melodies and things that I wasn’t used to. There were a lot of times when they would write something, and I would write the first thing that came to my head. And I would put that to the side and then try to write others things to see if it would be as good or better. I think that it drove us to make a better record.
RMS: It’s a bit more modern sounding as well.
CW: Yeah, you have to be with the times, and it’s fun to be able to explore and do things to enhance the song. But, we were careful not to do too much, because we certainly didn’t want to make an electronic album. But it was fun to take things like loops, and see how far we could actually take it. But, I think the CD still sounds like us. But, you should hear the stuff that didn’t make it. (Laughs)
RMS: Were there a lot of tracks that didn’t make it?
CW: Yeah, we had about 15 to 20 that didn’t make it. But out of those, only two or three were fully recorded. We had one song, that had a loop in it, that we knew wasn’t going to be on the record. So we took everything out of it, and just played the loop and the lyrics and it sounded like a rap song. (Laughs) It was awesome. We’d have a couple a drinks and want to hear the song again.
RMS: Were all the tracks on the new CD, written recently or was some of the material left over from the first record and re-worked?
CW: Actually, they were not. But, we did think of using a few when we started writing for the second album. We thought, hey lets go back and re-visit some of those songs that weren’t quite finished, but then after doing that with one or two, we decided not to look in the past and just move forward. We want to grow as a band and progress and start with a fresh slate. It was kind of scary, because we felt that we had some good previously unreleased songs from the past, but we wanted to push ourselves to write better material.
RMS: You are on a different record label right now, Eleven Seven Music, what happened with your prior label, Warner Brother Records (WBR)? Did you leave or did they drop the band? What happened there?
CW: When we were going to make our second album, WBR want to offer us a tiny bit of money to make some demos. And we felt that if they weren’t willing to commit to us, then we didn’t want to stay with them. We actually asked them if we could walk away and they agreed. So, we didn’t get dropped, we walked away from WBR.
RMS: I don’t think too many artist walk away from a major label deal. But in your case, I think that you are better off now. Eleven Seven Music is the perfect label for a band like Cavo, in that their entire roster is all modern rock bands.
CW: I completely agree. When we walked away from WBR, it was the scariest thing that we ever did. We looked each other in the face and said, “We are going to walk away for WBR?” Being on a major label is what we were working very hard for, for twelve years of our lives. We weren’t sure that we made the right decision (walking away form WBR), but we just starting writing and writing and writing, and then Eleven Seven Music come along and were impressed with how we progressed. They were perfect because they know who to break a rock band, because that’s all they do. They don’t have all different types of music on the label, just rock. And we really liked that about them. But you are right, we are better off now.
RMS: Did you relationship with Eleven Seven Music start when you played on Cruefest a few years back?
CW: No, that wasn’t even part of it. It was the demos from our second album that got us noticed. I really wasn’t even aware of them prior to that. But we shopped the demo and they heard it, and they were really interested in the new stuff. They were blown away by our first single, “Thick as Thieves.” They couldn’t believe that the same band that wrote “Champagne” could also write a song like that, and that really got their attention and they wanted to hear more.
RMS: Yeah, that’s what I was saying about this album, it really was a big step forward. Now, between your two albums, you put out a digital only EP called, “Sounds of the Hallow.” What was the philosophy behind releasing an EP at that point and not just waiting to release your full album?
CW: Well, it was a while since we had something new out. Some people were chomping at the bit, and they just kept asking and asking about when we planned on releasing something new. And at that point, we already had some new songs completed. So, since people were asking so much, we decided to put it out, so they could get a sense of what direction we were headed in and to also get feedback from our hardcore fans as well. To see if they liked the new direction in which we were going.
RMS: Back to WBR for a second. Did you feel disappointed at all that WBR didn’t have more success with your first release. Because when I listen to it, I hear quite a few potential singles. And other than the first single, “Champagne,” it seemed as if WBR had difficulty getting Cavo airplay and on the charts. To me at least, it seems that they missed out on a few opportunities, especially the track,”My Little Secret.”
CW: I do believe that WBR did everything that they possibility could do for us. But, yeah I agree with you, there were some missed opportunities. In this business, it’s a slippery slope. When you go down a certain road, you are kind of stuck on that road, until you complete that road. I think that’s what happened when “My Little Secret “was put out as a single. The problem was that WBR went straight to rock radio with this slower ballad song. And the rock crowd, didn’t get it, they were going, “Hmm, how did this band go from “Champagne” to this?” I don’t think that they bridged the gap that well between those two songs. That’s really what I think. A lot of bands put out ballads, it’s just that they should have maybe put another song out before they went to the ballad. Overall, “My Little Secret” got a decent response. We had requests for it at every show that we played.
RMS: The formula back in the day was to release two rocking songs and then the ballad. I wonder why WBR tried to reinvent the wheel with Cavo?
CW: I think that they were just trying to be innovative. But, it just didn’t work for us. And it sucks. But, I’m not angry at WBR. I don’t think they did anything with the intent of harm, I think they were just trying to put a face on us.
RMS: Well, they did accomplish that with the first single at least. “Champagne “ was all over the radio. That song did certainly did get the band noticed.
CW: They did great with that one.
RMS: A very unique aspect of the “Thick as Thieves” album is that you have three different producers on it, David Bendeth, Kato Khandwala and Dan Kornell. Was that by design?
CW: Well, all three of the producers work in the same studio where we did our first album. And all three guys worked on that album. David Bendeth produced it, and the other two were engineers on it. And in the time from when we finished our first album to starting the new one, they had plenty of success on their own as producers. They all worked with Blondie and My Chemical Romance, under David Bendeth. And we had a conversation with David and he thought that it would be good if we had three different producers to give multiple angles to the songs. So he picked out the three that he wanted to do, and then Dan picked his and then Kato did the others. So we did our songs with David, and then when we worked with Kato, and it was a hugely different process. And that took us out ofour element. And that was one of the things that helped us grow, and helped us create a different sounding album then our first album.
RMS: Well, that was a good decision. The album is certainly diverse, but without sounding disjointed. I think that you got the best of both worlds with that decision.
CW: Thank you, I really appreciate that you said that. We never really tried to classify Cavo as a certain type of band that only writes a certain type of song. The bottom line is that we write songs, and if it’s a good song it makes it on the album. It doesn’t matter if it’s slow, fast, it doesn’t matter. If it’s a great song, it deserves to be heard.
RMS: What really separates Cavo from so many other modern rock bands is that your songs all have their own identity. Every song doesn’t sound that same. Sure they have some of the trademark Cavo styling, but they all are a bit different. It also helps that you’re all solid experienced, versatile musicians.
CW: Yeah, that is one of our main goals as a band. We want to sound like Cavo, but we want to be able to travels the realms of anything. We grew up listening to bands like my favorites Pearl Jam and Blue October. Also, Alice in Chains, they came out with their first album and they were so heavy, musically and lyrically. And then their second release was an acoustic EP. I remember hearing that and thinking wow, what a diverse band. And as a band we talked about that, and that’s what we wanted to accomplish with Cavo. We want to be able to do anything, whether it’s an acoustic performance or our electric show or whatever we need to do. I’ve always took pride in that.
RMS: One of the songs that I really love from the new album is “Southern Smile.” I really like how different and moody it is. What was the inspiration behind that song?
CW: That song is unique in that it was the only song that we wrote entirely on the road. We would work on it during sound check. The chorus was different at first and we changed that when we got into the studio. The song was always meant to be a soundscape. Lyrically, the song is really a history of our touring. What I mean is that, every line is about a particular time on the road, of where I was at that time. A different town, a time when I was driving through a mid-west storm. So, it’s a very meaningful song to us. We play it every night live. I love that song, thank you for noticing it.
RMS: One of the other new tracks that I like very much is “Celebrity.” Is that the new single? It seems to be getting a decent amount of airplay on Octane Sirius/XM. And also, what was the inspiration behind the song?
CW: I don’t think it’s officially our new single as of yet. The label is still deciding between that one, and “Circles.” But I’m sure that “Celebrity” will eventually be a single. As far as the origin of the song, it was inspired by the scene in Batman, when Two-face was created. It’s when he fell off of a building and Batman and Commissioner Gordon were talking. As Two-face ran away, Batman said, “I’ll take all the blame for this and you take all the glory, so you can keep the city safe.” I know it’s weird, but that’s what I was thinking, “Where’s your Celebrity now?” So without Batman, the city wouldn’t be safe, but they blamed him. And that’s kind of how we look at some people in the media today. Everyone wants to glorify the horrible things that happen to people, and I get it, its good TV, its good press. But at the same time, I think it should reciprocate. If they do something good, it should be equally appreciated, but it’s not. But, it’s just the nature of the world. So, that’s my take on it. It’s also about us, as a band. We wrote a song called “Champagne,” and they just assumed that they knew everything about us. It was funny, when we started touring and doing these interviews and hearing the thoughts of what these people had of us, and how wrong they were. They thought they knew all about us form just a couple of lyrics. That’s also what the song is about.
RMS: Really, they thought that you were all coke heads just because of that one line in that song?
CW: Yeah, the first question that we got asked on that tour was “How much cocaine did you guys do on the bus coming up here?” And they were serious. And I said, “We don’t do cocaine, sorry. We couldn’t live this lifestyle and be doing that.” What bothered me the most, was that people didn’t really listen to the song. They just heard that one catch phrase. If they would have paid attention to the actual song, they wouldn’t have asked those questions. The song is about drugs ruining someone’s live, and certainly not an endorsement. It’s not a party song. My whole life growing up was ruined because of this. But, I’m grateful that people are listening, it’s just a little frustrating when it gets misinterpreted.
RMS: Alright Casey, we are almost out of time. But before we end this, what are Cavo’s tour plans for this summer?
CW: We are working on that now. There are a couple options we have on the plate, that I really can’t go into too much detail at this point. But we are trying to decide what tour would be the best for the band. Our promo team is really into doing things the smart way, and making sure that we do the right tour, not necessarily the biggest tour. We don’t want to sign on to a big tour and have nobody care about seeing us. We want to do a tour that makes sense, and one that helps us build our fan base.
For more on Cavo, please visit www.cavomusic.com