Putting the pieces together
Erik Hanson of the Cassidys gets by with a little help from his friends
Erik Hanson, singer, songwriter and guitarist for the Cassidys—the latest band to emerge in the Sacramento rural-rock scene—is uncomfortable with labeling. When pressed to describe his band’s sound, Hanson reluctantly responded, “I guess you could call our sound boot-gazing or dream country, but I really hate that question. I just think that we make good music. If you like good music, then you’ll like the Cassidys.”
It’s not surprising that, when asked who his influences are, Hanson lists leading roots-rock musicians like Gram Parsons, Ryan Adams and Jay Farrar. But his list isn’t limited solely to bands that fall under the umbrella of “alternative country.” Added to the list are shoe-gazing groups like My Bloody Valentine and Ride. And, of course, what list of musical influences would be complete without a mention of the Beatles? “The Beatles are the reason I’m even playing music today,” said Hanson. “When I was learning to play the guitar, I learned to play Beatles songs first.”
That was 15 years ago, and since then Hanson has played with several local bands, most notably as a keyboardist for Forever Goldrush. “I was a fan of Forever Goldrush long before I joined the band,” recalled Hanson. “So, when they asked me to join the band, I was like, ‘Yeah!’ The funny thing is I didn’t even know how to play the piano. I lied.”
After spending two years honing his keyboard skills with Forever Goldrush, Hanson felt that there was something missing. He split from the group and began penning his own songs—along with the help of bassist Skip Allums, guitarist Joe Carlson and drummer Garin Casaleggio. The group became the Cassidys. Hanson took the band’s name from a character in DC Comics’ Preacher series—an Irish vampire with a lust for women and booze.
The not-so-subtle messages in Hanson’s songs have much in common with the group’s namesake. Take, for instance, the boozy ballad “Too Drunk to Fall in Love Tonight” or the crowd-pleasing “Love Letters from a Bar.” Perhaps the connection is most evident in “Love and Whiskey,” in which Hanson declares, “Singing along with Willie, Johnny and Hank / don’t do any good to forget the heartbreak / Things around here just aren’t the same / I see your name in every bottle I drain.”
The members of the Cassidys are a pretty busy bunch: Allums has his main project, Estereo; Carlson plays with the Double D Trio, a rockabilly band; and Casaleggio performs with the pop-driven trio the Miles. Still, the band has plans to release an album early next year. “Scott McChane is going to record us. Hopefully in January, at the Hangar. Originally, we were set to do a five-song EP, but I’m going to see if we can’t just do a whole album,” explained Hanson.
With such a busy schedule, when does the band find time to practice? According to Hanson, the group doesn’t need to—they’re just that good. “We won’t practice for, like, two months. Then, we’ll get together and play all the songs perfect. They’re just really good musicians, and they catch on pretty quick.”
Although Hanson is responsible for writing the bulk of the band’s material, he admits that it’s often a collaborative process. “I might give some direction on what I think a song should sound like,” Hanson explained. “Like, I’ll say, ‘OK, so this song should sound really maple-syrupy.’ And Joe will be like, ‘I kind of think I understand what you’re talking about.’ Then, he’ll play something kind of drippy,” Hanson continued.
When asked about the possibility of an upcoming tour, Hanson was quick to answer with an exaggerated laugh. “Well, since my bandmates are all in different bands, even booking one show is like solving a puzzle.”
So, if you happen to spot a flier for an upcoming Cassidys show, make sure to clear your schedule. Who knows when all the pieces will come together again?