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Costa Mesa natives Casey and the Tall Boys are the best of both musical worlds: timeless and fresh. The band’s acoustic instrumentation and sparse, tuneful songs recall classic folk and country, but they are too jazzy and playful to be pigeonholed. Each member of the band put in work in several local bands: drummer Joel Williams and bassist D.A. Humphry were in the Quarter After, Alejandro’s Awesome Surf Band and the Sweet Sweet Things. They also played with the Blank Tapes, through which they found singer/guitarist Casey Filbey. Rounding out the lineup is guitarist/banjoist Sean Weikel of Love Your Mother. Drawing on influences as eclectic as the Kinks, Lee Hazlewood and Tom Waits, the band make old tunes sound new and new ones sound like classics.
Like the booze they’ve named themselves after, their sound is a heady brew, but it goes down smooth. Look for their debut album later this summer, along with a video project titled Complimentary Colors.
OC Weekly: Your band is called Casey and the Tall Boys. Where is your third Tall Boy?
Casey Filbey: Sean is trying to get into the Army. We’re working on finding someone else for his spot, but he’ll be here for the rest of the summer, and then he ships out in September.
Joel Williams: I tried to talk him out of it. He’s at a boot camp tonight in LA. They totally want to get him drunk and sign the papers.
You have all played in other local bands around Orange County. What made you guys come together for this project?
Williams: These things happen when you have a group of friends who all play instruments. It was beautiful to watch Casey grow musically and come into her own thing. When she talked about starting a project, I’d have been a fool not to do it.
D.A. Humphry: I haven’t written or played my own songs for other bands. I’ve been frustrated with that for a while. I’ve always wanted to play in an acoustic-type band.
How have the positive or negative experiences in your life affected your songwriting?
Filbey: My songs are about being in my 20s, single, frustrated and pissed-off at a guy. At my first guitar lesson, my teacher told me to bring in a song I wrote. “A Lot On My Mind” was the song. It’s about how I had a crush on him. I wasn’t planning on telling him, but we ended up playing it together. It took me a year to tell him, “That song was actually about you.”
You have a timeless Americana vibe. How did you come to sing this style of music?
Williams: I love to set up in the living room and not deal with knobs and feedback and all. You can play and sing with one another and actually hear the music.
Humphry: It’s all you, rather than the equipment. I like real pianos, not keyboards. I like the raw sound that comes out of your body and a piece of wood.
Filbey: My grandparents were musicians in the ’40s. My grandmother was a singer, and my grandfather played clarinet. They would play old records for me. That’s where I was exposed to this music.
What is an experience you all remember vividly that connected you together musically?
Williams: We all met at this house called the Hippie Compound on Ogle Street in Costa Mesa. It was this old, dilapidated piece of history from the ’30s. No renovations were done to it. It became a center for music and parties.
Filbey: It’s actually renovated into a fourplex now. I remember sitting on the hood of a truck and watching a tractor knock down the last wall and starting to cry.
Williams: The memory still lives on, forever. We all took turns living there. It was grassroots style, with a bunch of musical kids inspiring one another.
Casey and the Tall Boys perform at the Beach Pit BBQ, 560 El Camino Real, Tustin, (714) 929-7427; www.beachpitbbq.com. Fri., 9 p.m. Free. All ages.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: email@example.com.
This column appeared in print as "Americana Tale."