Playing a show in Asbury Park, New Jersey, is not uncommon for Deal Casino. But the dynamic rock band’s Dec. 1 gig at Asbury Lanes is more than just another hometown concert: It’s part of a fall U.S. tour opening for The Wrecks.
With about 30 minutes to spare before their soundcheck at the renovated Asbury Lanes, Deal Casino’s Joe Parella, Jon Rodney, Joe Cowell and Chris Donofrio slide into a booth inside the concert venue’s small diner to order coffee and talk about their travels — not just the current tour (which began Nov. 10 in Oregon) but also recording their latest album, LLC, in North Carolina.
The previous night, Deal Casino performed at Baltimore Soundstage, and the band concurs that it was the best show of the tour so far.
“You can tell by how well the audience sings along with the house music,” singer-guitarist Parella says. “However nuts the crowd goes for those songs, you can tell they’re excited.”
“At this point [of the tour], you can feel the rooms,” drummer Donofrio adds.
Having been away from Asbury Park for a few weeks on what he’s called his band’s first “real tour,” Parella sees his home state — and his hometown — a bit differently.
“I appreciate it more,” says Parella. “We went to few different towns on this tour, and when we did get a chance to walk around, I thought, ‘I really like the food we have in New Jersey.’ And coming back to Asbury Park, it’s so nice to be by the beach.”
Not far from the Asbury Park beach is the multifaceted Lakehouse building, where Deal Casino recorded several EPs and its 2017 self-titled debut album. For the nine-track LLC (released in November), the band traveled to Fidelitorium Recordings in North Carolina with their longtime engineer, Erik Kase Romero, serving as producer.
“He let us do our thing, rather than it feeling like we had to make sure it was good enough for the producer,” Parella says of Romero. “He did a good job of Jedi mindtricking us into thinking, ‘Oh yeah, he’s the producer,’ when it felt like he’s the fifth member of the band.”
As for trekking more than 500 miles south in January to make LLC instead of making music once again at Lakehouse, Parella says, “We tried to do as many simple, yet drastic things to change the way we recorded. So the first thing was to go somewhere else, and we did.”
“Making records [in Asbury Park], you can’t go to the sandwich shop without having four conversations,” adds Donofrio. “That’s not a bad thing; we just know everybody because it’s a small town. When you’re making an album, I think you need to go to an ugly place, and we kind of went to an ugly place to make this record.” By “ugly,” he doesn’t mean unsightly, nor is the word used as an insult: Donofrio says he’s referring to a place that felt alone and isolated, which turned out to be Kernersville, North Carolina, the home of Fidelitorium. (The facility, which has a wide range of vintage and modern gear that dates back to the 1950s, was founded in 2000 by Mitch Easter, the former Let’s Active leader whose studio credits include R.E.M.’s first two albums.)
The band members stayed at the Fidelitorium guesthouse, keeping to themselves and remaining inside most of the time, only leaving occasionally to stock up on supplies. And according to Donofrio, the band’s studio sessions ran deep into the night: “I think the nocturnal recording schedule definitely affected how this album turned out — a little darker.”
Near the end of LLC is a song titled “Cookman,” inspired in part by the bustling street in Asbury Park that’s come to represent a prime example of the city’s revitalization in recent years.
“It’s not based on any one person; it’s not based on anything in particular,” says Parella. “It was like a feeling, and I think going away helped me to scope the lyrics a little more. It was like a movie in my head.
“On this record, every song has its own thing,” he adds. “It’s not like, ‘Oh well, that means we’re alternative rock now’ — or indie pop, or whatever. … There are no rules within it; there’s no genre that we’re trying to aim for.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Deal Casino on tour with The Wrecks (schedule subject to change):
• Dec. 4: Purgatory at The Masquerade — Atlanta
• Dec. 6: The Vanguard — Tulsa, Oklahoma
• Dec. 7: 2513 Deep Ellum — Dallas
• Dec. 8: The Secret Group — Houston
• Dec. 9: Stubb’s — Austin, Texas
• Dec. 15: The Troubadour — Los Angeles
Clockwise from top left: Deal Casino’s Joe Parella, Chris Donofrio, Joe Cowell and Jon Rodney during soundcheck on Dec. 1 at Asbury Lanes in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Photos by Chris M. Junior