It's Casual Are Citified
Listening to the title track of It's Casual's The New Los Angeles reveals a man—no, a beast—who seems absolutely sick to death of his city. "The! New! Los Angeles! No one has language! We've got to put a stop to this!" Eddie Solis bellows, with his Damaged-era Rollins voice oozing a relentless frustration that makes you think he's watching his foot get sawed off. The music does nothing to belie his bile: The thorny guitar sounds as though it's trying to induce itself to throw up, the drums stomp and kick, and the song's tempo is a contortion of stop-start fits. It's all dramatically unpleasant.
As Solis explains, the "this" mentioned in the track refers to a prevailing rudeness he finds in LA folk of all demographics. He finds people just can't walk in a straight line or maintain any politeness, so he half-jokingly proposes the creation of a universal etiquette encyclopedia. Even though that outburst appears to indicate an utter disgust for the city, the reality is quite the opposite. Turns out, Solis is smitten with the place he's spent his life in, and he discusses it with the affection of someone who has spent a lot of time contemplating its traits. "I believe I'm as LA as LA gets," the Boyle Heights resident says.
It's Casual are a band so deeply entrenched in their terrain that Solis has characterized the sound as "LA hardcore or LA skate rock." The singer/bassist/guitarist, whose conversational style contradicts his presence on record (he's agreeable, soft-spoken and long-winded in our interview), started It's Casual in 2001. The band have undergone several changes, shifting from a quartet making "SoCal punk rock" to a duo dedicated to much rawer sounds. (Nowadays, Solis performs alongside a revolving cast of drummers.) The front man takes great pride in the band being a two-piece hardcore outfit, and to handle more responsibilities on his own, he has devised a pedal setup that allows guitar and bass signals to simultaneously emanate from the same amp.
Both his love for LA and the ferocious music he's making seem tied to his interest in the idea of sincerity. When he talks about how much he enjoys taking public transportation in the city, he's very serious. (What others call "harsh" and "time-consuming," he finds "fun.") That interest in public transportation allows him exposure to LA's endless details, its many different neighborhoods, areas, foods and people. He's planning to reissue The New Los Angeles, a record containing at least two songs about transit, with the subtitle Through the Eyes of a Bus Rider on his own label this month. He has also been assembling The New Los Angeles 2, delving deeper into his city's properties and characters.
One new song named "Stoned Cholo" is about Solis growing up with friends whose interests have moved from punk, hardcore and metal to gang culture. They still might attend concerts, leading Solis to write the line "Iron your clothes before a show," which creates the amusing visual of said cholo preparing to experience chaotic music by tidying himself up.
Realistically, this character could be found in any number of places, but as Solis discusses him, "Stoned Cholo" sounds like pure Los Angeles. "I want to go out of my way to paint a picture that is not really painted. I'm not talking about coming here trying to 'make it' or living in Santa Monica and taking yoga all day. There's nothing wrong with that, but people are moving here from different parts of the country," Solis explains. "I want to paint a clear picture that's simple, direct, full of passion [and] hard-hitting enthusiasm, which, to me, goes back to what punk is all about."
Although It's Casual tend to stick to performances on their home turf (they did, however, open for Nails at the Slidebar recently), Solis is enthusiastic when talking about Orange County. "Skate or Die" off The New Los Angeles owes a hefty debt of inspiration to his days spent skating at Huntington Beach High School in the 1990s; he also praises our county's beaches, the now-defunct Club 369 in Fullerton, and OC punk staples such as the Middle Class and the Adolescents. On the music front, he emphasizes the importance of bands in Los Angeles and Orange County maintaining solidarity. "There's the Orange Curtain [separating] LA and Orange County," he says, "but at the end of the day, we both need each other to reinforce each other."
This article appeared in print as "Heart of the City: It's Casual explore Los Angeles' many facets."
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