Interview: Brian Kraus
Well it’s been a slow process trying to put together content for the blog, but I’m happy to kick things off with an interview with my friend Brian Kraus. Brian is the frontman of the Upstate NY band Casting Curses, a contributor to AltPress.com, and is working on an Upstate NY hardcore/punk compilation. Here’s what Brian has to say about life on the road, life in Upstate NY, and more.
Could you introduce yourself a little bit?
Currently I live and work in Syracuse where I was born and raised. On the music front I cover news for Alternative Press, interviews for Adequacy.net, help out with Panic Records promotion and play in Casting Curses. I used to book shows on a monthly basis, occasionally I get sucked back in. I started out studying Music Industry at SUNY Oneonta, but changed my major to Mass Communications and added three minors. Somehow that only tacked on one extra semester (which was the greatest). I spent two summers interning in Albany, commuted to Utica for a year after graduating, and was mostly in Oneonta for all my college years. So my roots are spread all over the state.
When did you start going to local shows? What was the scene like in your hometown? Has it gotten better or worse over the years?
I started in the early 2000’s, with rock concerts like many others, then I took a liking to smaller bands. Some of my first ones were Hellfest, Snapcase and the Shaun Luu benefit where I went solely to see Isis and missed out on a lot of bands I should have watched. That kind of thing happened all the time when I was younger.. sometimes I’d regret looking back at old show fliers. I was lucky to see bands at sketchy clubs on school nights all the time though. There was nothing stopping me (besides a Glassjaw show being 16+). The package tours and DIY shows alike have overall stayed consistent for my time here, I’m still attending.
How did music become such an important part of your life?
My uncle gave me his radio promo copy of Oasis’ What’s the Story Morning Glory? when it came out and it was nonstop from there. I was sent to a small Catholic high school where my classmates were big into mainstream sports, music, theater and Jesus. I didn’t fit into those boxes so I continued to do my own thing in and out of school. Fall Out Boy, The Starting Line and other far from underground bands played Syracuse during that time and no one in my school had any clue. That was bizarre to me. The early setting for my interests definitely could have been better, but it didn’t stop me from pursuing them.
What does being from Upstate NY and being a part of that music scene mean to you, on a personal level?
When you’re a part of something for so long, it becomes a part of you. Oneonta was a full tilt life renaissance while it lasted, that’s really where this upstate mentality was born for me. It’s a timeless college town close to the woods where everything you need is in walking distance. People get to know you and you can’t put a price on that. I would recommend the school to anyone considering it (just double major in Music Industry if you must). Polar Bear Club, Fireworks, This Is Hell, Trap Them, Latterman and countless others all played in classrooms. I started the band there and made tons of great friends along the way. We grew up in those dorms and became (an extended) family. Every visit makes me remember this – and even though the scenery makes me nostalgic, it’s a college town – probably not somewhere I’d thrive as an adult fixture.
Can you tell me the details surrounding the compilation you’re putting together in conjunction with Hex Records?
Hex is helping me pick the bands, put together the artwork and spread the word. There are about ten bands that we chose from the Syracuse, Rochester and Binghamton areas. The finished comp will be on Bandcamp where people can stream and download it.
What sparked the idea for this compilation? How do you feel it will benefit the bands and the scene?
I saw a similar idea done in Massachusetts, and it had hundreds of “likes.” I figured it was worth a shot in this area, especially with nothing financial to lose. It’s a team effort when all the bands repost. Best case scenario it generates more local attendance and new support for the less active and internet savvy bands.
How do you feel about the current state of the Upstate NY punk/hardcore scene?
There’s a lot of talent here to showcase, which is a goal with the comp. Newer bands like Summer People, Oak And Bone, and Like Wolves and mainstays like Polar Bear Club, Engineer, Ed Gein, and Earth Crisis are all releasing new albums this year. A lot of people also don’t realize upstate natives play in touring bands like Thursday, Emarosa, Hit The Lights, Ra Ra Riot, Gym Class Heroes and Foundation. I’m into a good deal of those bands. It’s far from what I’d consider “dead” here.
What is the status of Casting Curses, as a touring band? Describe some of the things you’ve had to struggle with as a touring band.
We’re more like stay at home dads…but every band has their challenges. Ours exist in the form of long distance, communication, inactivity and all the costs that go into releasing music. Breaking even is pretty much a thing of the past. It’s harder to hustle a record when you only play a couple weeks worth of shows a year, but having realistic expectations helps. The bands who tour their asses off get all the glory. I admire the relationship between sacrifice and reward. It’s just not within our collective means to be a full-time band.
Casting Curses last released a 7″ on Panic Records – what is your relationship like with Panic? Is there pressure from the label to tour?
The signing came at a crucial point where we could have gone in two directions. I’m excited about what we’ve been working on since. I was happy to finally be a part of something legitimate when Panic contacted us. Timm was vital in handling the vinyl. I had no experience with that. There’s no label pressure to tour, though I would like to again. If anything, I pressure myself to spread the good news and sell records so we can continue to put them out.
How do your friends and family feel about your lifestyle?
Being productive while having freedom equals fulfillment to me. I work, freelance, travel, and just stay involved with music and the gym. I don’t think anyone has a problem with my lifestyle, but it can’t make sense to everybody. I’m not pursuing an entry level position or master’s degree for the time being. I started an online business last year and it’s grown to the point where I have time to figure out the next step. I’ve rubbed many people the wrong way in the workplace so all of this is probably a blessing.
Describe your favorite or most memorable tour experience.
We went out for a week around New England right after a bunch of us finished college. That was kind of our graduation present. We played Boston with The Carrier, Maintain, Beartrap and The Rival Mob. I’d do it again the same. We played at Rocko’s in New Hampshire, some girls made out during the set and a guy did a backflip. We were the soundtrack to a metalcore circus. I’d also play there again with no fewer than seven twizzy locals. There was almost a fight over “pizza math” during a food stop in Providence, RI. Crust was ripped. A pamphlet in Plattsburgh, NY entitled “The Protein Myth” bummed out about 3/5 of us. We played a gymnasium deep in New York (basically Vermont) and an army of boys battling puberty went nuts. They fucking loved it!
The real highlight was an intoxicated man who tailed us to a Taco Bell drive thru after our Albany, NY show. I waved him ahead out of genuine kindness so he wouldn’t have to wait for five guys, but then instead of ordering food he threatened my life and accused us of “stealing his flowers” (we pulled over earlier so someone could urinate, he must have thought otherwise). Well, we had no idea what that meant so we snitched to a nearby officer and it looked like he was getting arrested when we rode away with mouthfuls of cinnamon twists. And we didn’t play there, but we definitely drove through Swastika, NY and confirmed its existence on an atlas. Google it.
What is the worst moment or situation you’ve encountered while on tour? How were you able to overcome the situation?
Last time we were in Toronto, hands down. It was pouring out the entire day. We played to about nine kids in a kitchen and received a ziplock baggie of foreign coins for our efforts. The beating continued later that night. I was shot down by multiple women at Sneaky D’s as the band enjoyed delicious dinners and took compromising photographs of me. I ended the day wrapped in a blanket like ET longing for the familiar shores of Buffalo.
That’s it for now – anything else you’d like to say?
Our Dirt Road EP should be dropping real soon on Panic Records. The comp won’t be far behind.