Below is a short interview I conducted with Raymond Raposa, the leader of space-folk band Castanets, as part of an attempt to get some information to help me write our first proper feature on a band. Though the interview is brief, it does paint a clearer picture of the band. Enjoy!
Do the Castanets approach recording songs as a band, in which each member contributes their own ideas and the group decides collectively how a song should be recorded, or is the band essentially your own project with studio musicians playing your ideas?
Columns A and B. The input of a Rafter Roberts in the studio for example can be an invaluable asset in getting a song where it oughtta go. He’s a good one.
What is your approach to writing lyrics? What inspires you to write the lyrics you do?
There is no approach. No proven method. Trains moving sometimes’ll do it. General trance-state stuff. Fixations on objects or notions and the nexus. Trinities.
This past summer you criss-crossed the country touring in support of “Cathedrals”/ How did you configure your songs to fit the live format, how were they received, and what was your impression of the whole experience?
The songs get configured by and in the service of the people playing and hearing them that night. They were received often in silence, followed by applause, then more silence. Ideally, the folks know that we will not be presenting the songs the way they have been presented on the recordings. Sometimes they don’t and fists get dodged. My impression of the experience is often wonder. It is nice to have people to sing to. It is nice to have strangers to stay with. It is nice to eat at “the coolest diner in town” almost every morning or at least grab an egg sandwich (Texas Toast) at Waffle House.
Do you have any musical or literary influences to your music and/or lyrics?
All things internalized.
First Light’s Freeze contains a slight shift into more abstract and ethereal textures, musically and lyrically. What was guiding this shift?
Does it? I’ve heard both sides on that issue. There’s a lot of positive “more of the same talk” and a lot of “that one song sounds like Modest Mouse” talk. I feel like a very concerted effort was made on a couple of the songs to make them more present. Less distant. Still not a pop record, though not an ambient or abstract/ethereal one either. The songs go where they go.
Did the knowledge that you have, at the very least, a solid fan base and relative notoriety, have any effect on the recording of First Light’s Freeze? How do deal with those expectations?
At my best, I ignore the hell out of it.
What themes do you tend to write about or address in your lyrics and music?
Which ones do you hear? You have the records and the bio. I have issues with making literal the things that I have made implied. If there is something that I would like to have explicitly stated in song, that is where I will do it. One thing: “No Voice Was Raised” is not a protest song and it is not a war song.
Much has been written about your past. To settle the question once and for all, how did your experiences impact your songwriting (if at all)?
Much has been written about very little of my past. Often about aspects of it that I feel have absolutely no bearing on the work that I am doing at present. You can look to question/answer number 4 here for some clearing up, but don’t look too hard. Everything I experience is a part of me, but there’s a lot more there than I would choose to make most people aware of.
What are the future plans for Ray Raposa and The Castanets?
Songs about bars and walking to work and dogs.