A passion for music has led Taylor Casey east, south, and back west again. All the while fine-tuning his focus, and now all of that attention is geared towards making the most of it alongside Daniel Vasquez, Sean Renken, and Bijan Firouzan. Together they are Plastic Harpoons, an indie rock band out of one of the most picturesque places on the west coast; Santa Barbara. We talked to Taylor about his musical moves, love letters to the past, and Plastic Harpoons 2022 release, ‘Modern World,’ out on November 30th, in this back-and-forth exchange.
Kendra: Taylor, I wanted to kick this off by asking about the places you called home before heading back to Santa Barbara because NYC and Austin are two of the biggest hubs for music. With that, did you admire anything about those places and their music scenes that you may have inadvertently brought back with you to Santa Barbara?
Taylor Casey: During my senior year of college I really started to develop a passion for music. I had played guitar on and off since middle school but something changed and I found myself filling my free time with either surfing or music. After I graduated, I thought why not just go for it?
I found myself living in Manhattan and surrounding myself with music. I would go to any live music I could find, and there was plenty of it. I didn’t know many people so I signed up for music classes and put in my hours writing and playing. There are so many things constantly going on around you in New York City that there was always some source of inspiration that I would jot down in a notebook that I carried with me. During my two years there I filled up quite a lot of notebooks, which I still find myself coming back to once in a while. Specifically, on this album, the lyrics for “Cigarettes & Spanish Wine” were written while I was in New York. I ended up recording and releasing an EP under Taylor Casey while I was there with the help of my songwriting teacher, Larry Dvoskin.
After about two years in New York, the weather became too much for a California surfer boy so I moved home for a bit before deciding to venture to Austin, Texas. I had heard that it was the live music capital of the world so I thought it’d be a great place to put together my first band. I ended up seeing tons of shows, but it proved harder to put a band together than I thought. By the time I arrived, a lot of young musicians had been displaced by the city’s success. I did find a thriving singer/songwriter scene though and began to cut my teeth in songwriting and performing while I was there. That singer/songwriter scene helped build the confidence that I needed to get comfortable playing live.
After about a year there and with no luck putting together a band, I decided to come home, back to Santa Barbara where I had a much larger network and within a couple of weeks, I had a Craigslist band called Earl & the Love Dove. We released an EP before calling it quits due to people butting heads and I decided to start a band with people that I was already friends with. Daniel Vasquez and I started Plastic Harpoons, and he recommended his friend Sean Renken on bass. After a drummer or two, we decided on a mutual friend, Bijan Firouzan and that’s what you’re hearing today.
Kendra: Since we’re on the subject and it’s one of the most picturesque places in California, I’d love to know where in Santa Barbara you think is the perfect place to sit and listen to your November 2022 release, ‘Modern World,’ and why?
Taylor Casey: Probably the Douglas Preserve. It’s this big 70-acre public park on the top of these cliffs that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It’s full of trails that wind through live oak trees, Monterey pine, and Monterey cypress. It used to be used as a nursery so there’s a lot of other exotic vegetation, but I’d recommend grabbing a local beer from Topa Topa, and finding an oak tree to sit under that faces out towards the ocean.
Kendra: While the record is called ‘Modern World,’ it, in many ways, feels like a love letter to the past. Why do you think we’re a generation that admires nostalgia more than the present?
Taylor Casey: The music we grow up listening to really embeds itself somewhere deep within our psyches. I remember two records that played nonstop in my dad’s Landcruiser – “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young and “Wildflowers” by Tom Petty. I still know every word on both of those albums. I think the music that we grow up listening to reminds us of a simpler time when our minds weren’t so cluttered and it’s the kind of stuff that I still mostly listen to. Though this album is called ‘Modern World,’ The titular song states, “I don’t want no modern world.” I find it hard to get into a lot of new music that’s coming out these days. This album’s more of an homage to the music I grew up listening to.
Kendra: Listening to “East of State” I jotted down “funky Eagles.” Is that a band you have looked to as songwriting muses before?
Taylor Casey: Not really. I’m a huge fan of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Tom Petty, and James Taylor, so the Eagles aren’t really that far off though. Daniel, Sean, and Bij, all have different musical influences so I think that the blend of my songwriting with all of their musical influences is what makes this album unique.
Kendra: Speaking of songwriting, I can imagine when working on a record an idea for a song comes and goes. Never really getting its time to shine – yet. Did you have any songs that were almost there, but not quite ready that we could be hearing in the future?
Taylor Casey: We have this song called “Santa Anas” that I’m really excited about. It’s about 90% done but we’re still ironing out the kinks but I felt that it could’ve meshed with this record well. I’m excited to finish that one up, maybe as a new single in 2023. There are a few others that I feel go in a different direction and we’re excited to explore those as well.
Kendra: Time for a side note: With Thanksgiving having just passed, I’d love to know what artist’s discography are you most thankful for?
Taylor Casey: I mean Dylan is my guy, but recently, I’ve been listening to a lot of Dr. Dog and Houndmouth. Those bands don’t have any bad songs.
Kendra: Lastly, with ‘Modern World’ out on November 30th, what’s on the horizon as we head closer to 2023 because I know y’all got a couple of shows at home this fall, but are there any plans in the works for a full tour?
Taylor Casey: Definitely! We’re starting to put together the pieces of a tour, hopefully in the first quarter of 2023. It’ll probably start with one-week runs, but if the album’s doing great, the band’s down to ditch their jobs and do it full-time, so here’s to hoping.