«Scandinavia’s premier pop-tronica outfit,» reads NME’s description of Casiokids; most playful spawn of the Bergen vogue. The name relates to the band relying on vintage Casio synths, and with an almost equal emphasis on theatre, props and on-stage performance, their aim is to make electronic music more visual. Casiokids is a new concept, not just a hot new name in electro pop; their dance- and joy-inspiring amalgam has taken Britain and Europe by playful surprise. I had a talk with Casiokids’ singer Ketil Kinden Endresen during the troupe’s recent brief stop in Norway and the first feeling was, again, surprise. Predisposed as I was, to think of Casiokids as a fun-only albeit ingenious outfit; a group balancing on the borderline between pure toyishness and adult dance-floor feel-good, I was immediately intrigued by the diverse perspectives presented by Casiokid Ketil.
-I think many people around in Europe appreciate the West African vocal harmonies we make use of, says Ketil. We’re very inspired by Fela Kuti and music from Mali. It just aligns very naturally with our love for western pop, techno and electronic music. There are no dogmas involved, we just follow the natural flow of our ideas and the sound.
Casiokids have just finished part one of a mammoth European tour, more akin to a campaign really, with 45 gigs in three months. The first leg, which has seen them zigzag western Europe, was in support of Of Montreal.
-It has been overwhelming, says Ketil, with every night sold out and between one thousand and fifteen hundred people every time. We didn’t realize how popular Of Montreal are, and for us it is a great band to tour with because we share many artistic ideas.
This tour must be one of the most extensive ever undertaken by a Norwegian band. Were you prepared for such a long and intensive bout?
-We have never toured as intensively as this before, but the fact is that it becomes easier every night. A rhythm develops, which makes it easier to just focus on the playing itself, and on having fun
The fact that you attract large crowds across Europe singing in Norwegian may appear as something of a puzzle. How does this work really?
-We play dance-based music, driven by rhythm with catchy melodies and distinct harmonies. Like I said, people seem to really appreciate the harmonies and the layered build up. It becomes a totality where the meaning is just as much in the structural aspects of the music as in the words, and where you kind of “get it” just by getting into the music itself.
But most of the time you present a visual performance too, in the form of the shadow theatre of Digitalteateret (The digital theatre). The visual expressions, are they meant to underline and explain the lyrics?
-To a certain extent yes, but it is not as explicit as that. The content of the lyrics is intimately connected with the music, and so the visual aspect is a continuation of this combined atmosphere. It is a way of underlining the themes, but not an explanation.
This notion of bringing in visual aspects and the general idea of a kind of gesamtkunstverk, as it were, how did it present itself? And why is this a natural expansion of a musical landscape based on Casio synths and a fun-based aesthetic?
-We have worked with children and with different ways of visualizing our music from the start. We found that it is a great way of experimenting and getting new inspiration. When doing workshops in kindergartens we always base what we do on one of our songs, and then we play around with it and explore different ways of expanding the music, visually and in other ways. Working with Digitalteateret is a very fruitful approach to making music. Currently we are working on a play with them, and in this case it is the stories and themes of the play come first, and we make the music afterwards.
And how do you go about writing songs normally? Is it done collectively? And what is the framework?
-It can be anyone’s idea in the first place. But usually we are all involved in the creative process at one point. The most important thing for us is to keep the music immediate. We started out writing songs so that we would have something new to bring to parties, and we want to retain that feeling. Since we have our own studio, we basically want to issue the songs the minute they are recorded. This way there is a freshness and immediate feel to the songs, also for us when we play them live.
You have decided to only release singles. The first one, Grønt lys I alle ledd, came in October in Norway and the UK (it was the first-ever Norwegian language single to be released there, and they loved it!), and the second, Verdens største land, is due in March. What is the idea behind this strategy?
-Well the way the record industry has developed, we figured it was a good time to think differently. Our plan is to release four singles (each featuring two tracks) and then release an album, which will be a collection of these, before the end of the year. The thing about releasing singles at a steady pace is that we keep this immediate and exciting atmosphere around the songs. And the distance from the studio to the audience is kept short. We want to release the songs almost while we’re making them. That’s how we’d like it to be anyway, but it sometimes takes longer than one would like. The apparatus around is growing, which is necessary and of course a very good sign. But at the same time it slows things down a little. However, we have so many plans and projects going on, so there is no danger of us losing that all- important immediate approach.
The March single is already available in Japan. And Casiokids’ markets seem to be expanding faster than they can keep track of themselves. So there is no end in sight to the live-campaign of this happening band. Of Montreal liked them so much that a tour of the US is being planned. And then sometime before the year closes there will hopefully be an album available, for those who would like to bring the party-package home. Casiokids is, as has been made apparent, a toy story, a pedagogical principle and an ever expanding, motional musical vision.
Casiokids' MySpace site.