The Third Degree with Eddie Solis (Part 1)

This weekend I sat down with Eddie Solis, the local renaissance man of Metal.  He does it all.  He's got a band, works at Southern Lord, and manages the Relax Bar.  And he's a hell of a nice guy.  If you're a local band and Eddie doesn't know you, you've probably got a long way to go.  In the first part of the inteview, we discuss his band, It's Casual, who happen to be playing tonight (Wednesday, January 21st) at the Blue Monkey in Thai Town.  

So tell me about your band.

It’s Casual is what I call a two-piece hardcore/doom duo, that originated here in Los Angeles. For a slight moment in 2001, we were actually a full band – two guitarists, bassist, drums. But then I met W.C.E., the drummer in Co-Ed, and we shared a lot of the same interests – like The Melvins and Black Flag. We were into the same kind of arena rock, like Kiss and AC/DC, and had a lot of punk roots. He told me, “Let’s do this as a two-piece.” So we went to The Guitar Center, bought the necessary pedals, and just acquired this amazing sound. In 2002, we actually had a handshake record deal with this Orange County label called Criterion Records. We played the Warped Tour that year on Criterion’s stage with Big Blue Monkey – now Story of the Year – and Bullets and Octane. Those two bands got deals coming off that tour, and we kept trucking along, doing what we do. We played punk shows and metal shows, and a lot of shows where nobody was there, but I’d justify that by saying that is where we developed our chops – live. We conditioned ourselves to give a really good live show.

The punk influence in your music is pretty profound, but you seem firmly established in the metal scene now. Was that your plan?

We stopped playing the straight-up punk show, because we go up there with a lot of gear – that’s where our metal influence comes in. We take stacks upon stacks, and get that really big sound. We don’t have the Hot Topic uniform on. We’re not mall metal or mall punk. And these kids are looking at us thinking, “Who are these guys?” So we had to go search for our crowd. I found that a lot of people in the underground metal scene these days – whether it’s progressive, black metal, thrash – a lot of these guys are the old-school punks that outgrew punk. When they hear some of the Black Flag nods, like some of the guitar work that I’ll do, they understand where I’m coming from. At the end of the day, they are all equipment geeks and music nerds, and it goes a lot further in those circles, when we play those kind of shows.

Your last record, The New Los Angeles, is a collection of observations about our fair city from a unique perspective.

Absolutely. I live in the East Hills, and by choice I commute via public transportation to Hollywood where I work at Southern Lord. I started doing this in 2004 and saw more than I’d ever seen, going through all these neighborhoods. It’s amazing what you can learn at a bus stop.

One of the songs, “Too Many Kids,” is all about children - are you a dad or do you just care a lot?

I am not a father, but I love children, and devote Saturday and Sunday mornings to my nieces and nephews – you know, breakfast at the skate park and all that! But that song is about the times when I’m on the bus, a dad is up front paying the fare, and all his kids are coming on. The bus takes off and they all go flying. I’m like, “Dude, you got too many kids! You have to take care of your kids!”

It's Casual @ 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA

So what does It’s Casual have planned for 2009?

I was fortunate to make friends with a gentleman named Shannon who is the buyer at Criminal Records, the flagship record store in Atlanta. We actually were handpicked by Mastodon to play with them in their hometown of Athens, Georgia last October, and we did an in-store at Criminal the day before. That led to Shannon becoming a fan, and he’s agreed to reissue The New Los Angeles in late-February or March on his own label called International Hits, which is distributed by Sony Red, with a better cover and extensive liner notes. We also in pre-production for the new studio record which is titled Less Violence, More Violins. It’s going to be the ultimate hardcore record. Real heavy with more social commentary on Los Angeles, and how it has let its children down.