Casting Ships are a Kingston, NY based nautical folk punk band who grew up on hardcore and cut their teeth on a deep love for the scene. The band is now a duo made up of Rob Samps on vocals and guitar and Nikki Mayone on cello. They are about to drop one of the gems of the Summer with new release From The State Of New York on Burning Capital Collective. The five song EP was recorded Nada Studios by the great John Naclerio (My Chemical Romance, I Am The Pilot) and will likely turn the head of anyone unfamiliar with the group who hears it as well as please older fans.
I caught up with Samps and had a lengthy chat about the record, the country and a LOT more. Casting Ships are about to open for famed ex-Faith No More and Bad Brains vocalist Chuck Mosley and will have cds available at the show. They have a lot of other stuff on their plate as well.
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How does it feel to be playing this show with Chuck Mosley and being back on the East Coast? You recently returned from Portland. I see you have been rocking your Stockade FC shirt on the regular.
Rob – I feel like I’m always going to be rocking a Kingston Stockade FC shirt. I realized the other day. I bought the black jersey, a pin and water bottle at their last game. I’ve got one of the hoodies that were only supposed to be for volunteers (laughs). It’s great to be back on the East Coast where we can grow and have conversations with people. It was a little more reactionary where we were before. We always knew it was gonna be a temporary thing. We just kinda wanted to get out and live life a bit. But we never thought we’d become a West Coast band permanently.
So, From The State Of New York…
Yeah. That’s the name. We recorded with John Naclerio. He was absolutely excellent to us. So we’re really excited about it. The content is a real look at what’s going on in the state and stories about living your life.
How do you feel your sound has shifted? Your early stuff was more spare.
Having Nikki play on this record and contribute to it was a huge deal because she is really good at taking songs and running with them. Compared to I’m good at writing a base but she is good at taking an idea and expanding on it. Having John Naclerio part of the process allowed it to go one step further. We brought in Mike Pistone. He was originally drummer in Afterhours and is now the drummer of Hellkeeper. Casting Ships apparently only records with hardcore and metal drummers (laughs).
It took him one day to learn it and one day to record, which is kinda huge since most people can’t even play to a metronome anymore. We finished up on five songs in four days and I think it’s the best of what’s been released. Also John didn’t want me to sing as guttural anymore.
That kind of Hot Water Music influence?
Yeah, my voice is on the deeper side anyway but he wanted to bump it up without the growling. I went in to record and the first line I sang he stopped and said ,”I know what you have done in the past but that is not really you.” It was cool to find a guy who would be that honest with you to tell you something to provide a positive change if you are open enough to listen to it. This is a guy who has recorded however many records and is very, very successful. He dropped out of high school to do this thing and now has his own property and family and kids. To not listen to his pro advice after hiring him to do something professional for you would be foolish.
But he also cares about people. He isn’t just about making things more commercial.
Yeah. I would say that where in the beginning the band was very punk inspired. I come from that and will never deny it. With this we went more folk. Also to be able to come back and immediately be able to fall into Kingston, NY again and be playing the great venue The Anchor, something important to say about the booker Brandy is that if you were to take two people who sit down and disagree on some things, Brandy and I come to more disagreements but Brandy’s way of running The Anchor…Like, I am more Libertarian than Brandy is and that’s ok, but Brandy is never excluding us from the business model they set up. Brandy treats everyone with respect no matter where you are coming from and has a really cool perspective. There might be some things we disagree on but normally in the scene people will not give you shows if they don’t agree with everything you might be about. Not give you opportunities. Brandy has almost the opposite opinion, which is rare. Mostly today people will drop you off their social media pages. She has done a good job of taking in people she might not agree with on a social or political level but giving everyone opportunities. They don’t owe us anything, so for them to turn around and let us play with a guy like Chuck Mosley, it says a lot.
So you feel some shows are less about discourse now?
We used to go to venues to learn about different social issues. You’d go see Earth Crisis and there was a monitor playing for animal rights. Now people go to shows to escape that because it is on social media all the time. I do wish people would get off their cell phones more. Kind of take in everything. Nikki and I went to see Lucero and a band called Banditos before that and the band Banditos were unbelievable but a lot of people were on their phones. Back in the day no one had cell phones so the scene was a lot different. Come out and enjoy being in the environment with each other.
It’s kind of an honor to open for Chuck being a huge Bad Brains fan. Also, Faith No More. I am saying the Bad Brains thing though cuz I come from more of the hardcore scene.
I saw some of the video footage online with Chuck live from years ago and it was fuckin’ dope.
Yeah, with HR, Chuck or Israel, it was all good. We have friends coming from Connecticut, Massachusetts. We’re blessed we were able to go to the West Coast and learn some things about ourselves and then grow as people and musicians then come back and fall back into it.
We’ve talked as friends about “voting with dollars”. Say a venue books Ted Nugent and I am opposed to him. You think the best thing to do is not go?
That’s really the easiest thing. I’m not a huge Ted Nugent fan but I have never met or talked to him. So I don’t really know where he is coming from.
Well, you can kinda tell from his online rhetoric or videos of him talking.
Sure, but you don’t have to go see him. It’s a voluntary thing. We live in more of a volunteer society than people understand. If you are treated like shit in a deli because they don’t like the way you look, the easiest thing to do is give your money to another place. That’s essentially how you are voting every day. Pulling a lever every few years, this is more intense than that. It is how you spend your money. I didn’t like what was going on in the meat industry so I stopped giving them my money. I’m also on the other side not really gonna tell the venues they have to be apolitical. I just am a fan of people who are more interested in talking about their ideas. Let’s have a civil conversation, if possible. That goes from right side to left side. You can book a show and do whatever you want. I might not show up, but that’s the best form of voting. I don’t need to like Ted Nugent. He doesn’t need to be in my life. But if I met him and smoked a joint with him, I’m not saying I’d agree with him but maybe I would understand how he came to a conclusion that he did. I don’t need to agree with it. He might be a total bigot. I’m not in a place to speak for anyone other than myself.
On that note, what did you find yourself wanting to talk about on the EP? Did you have the lyrics ahead of time or were you lead by the music?
I didn’t have anything ahead of time. Nikki got so mad at me cuz I didn’t even finish most of my lyrics until we were almost done with the session! I really wanted to hear how the music was all coming out. The very first song on the record is called “Refugee”. I was living in Nyack, NY and part of the reason we moved to Oregon was to find some relief from the financial pains we were having. We found it was better living in Upstate, NY than the suburbs of New York City. But we didn’t find that in Portland. We found a different set of things we weren’t ok with.
We often look at people coming here from other countries not as refugees but as illegals. We don’t see it as being refugees. Through the American drug war we destabilized that whole area of the world. We don’t have to build a wall. We just have to end the drug war and stop the stupidity. So, I started writing “Refugee” about, it’s not paranoia to say there is a hidden thing behind it. We were living in Portland, OR and by the time we were leaving they were making all these hats for the Women’s March. Without trying to say the march was irrelevant, it’s that Portland has one of the highest homeless rates in the country. So we can make hats for this political event but not homeless people?
We were talking recently about sort of Get Out style racism where you mentioned you lived in an area that some “progressives” would never think of living. It would disturb their comfort zone.
I lived on 157th and SE Stark Street in Portland. When we started working in the city people would tell us they never pass 82nd Street. Why? They said it was dangerous. Meanwhile there was nothing but kids in my entire complex. There were some shootings in the area but it wasn’t a super dangerous place to live in general. You have people talking about an area they don’t actually live in. That they would never go to. That they would never support financially with their dollars. The only time they do it is when things get super expensive and they get priced out so they move into other communities.
So they are fleeing being priced out but not generally, say, supporting black businesses.
Right. The regulations on businesses in black business areas are so high sometimes. They have to send like 300 letters to get approval for a sign to let people know they have a business. So it is like $3000 later in postage. But some people do not come down there to support that part of the city and will only stay in one particular section of the city/stay in what becomes the hipster area. In so many cities. People have the right to live wherever they want but we realized maybe we were part of the problem. I worked with a girl who’s bedroom went from $650 a month to $950. Where do you expect that money to come from. And so many times you see backhanded racism and people don’t even see or understand it. You see companies moving up from San Francisco that are buying up all the properties, flipping the property. There is nothing wrong with increasing a properties value, but when you are not from there and go to a neighborhood just to make money…we lived there seven months and never met the landlord. That’s the system I am talking about. You talk to the caretaker who has no interest in helping you out because the company he works under is a few States over. When people start getting moved out of their neighborhoods because of certain things, out here we can move to the suburbs but out there they don’t have suburbs. It’s not easy to just move to the countryside. A lot of people don’t have cars.
So you came back appreciating New York in other ways?
Yes, but we have problems as well. I want to know why the profits are rising but the taxes are also going up. When the taxes go up we have less money to spend. So for the contents of “Refugee” I called out an old commercial where Cuomo said ,”check out the new New York. It will impress you.”
What’s impressive? It’s more oppressive. The further you go up the line now it is getting worse. That’s the only song that’s really political though on the EP.
It’s interesting. I like what you said about the disconnect between people and landlords. I hate generalizations, like saying all people from Syria are would be terrorists or that all immigration is a threat. It’s a twisted way to look at the world. How do we break it down to a case by case basis. There is no easy fix. It is work.
I don’t want to sound like a defense of Trump. The Syrian ban, all of these countries have been destabilized going all the way back. Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize for dropping a ton of bombs on the Middle East. George W. was the same way. Clinton. George, Snr. Clinton had some of the most aggressive policies towards immigration. As far back as I remember there has been a war. Now that we ran into your house and knocked everything over, pulled everything out of your drawers and throw it on the floor, the new guy comes in and says ,”Dude, why didn’t you pick this shit up.”
Without a defense of it, American policy has been destabilizing these parts of the world for decades. Maybe we should reform it but maybe we need to chill for a second and figure things out.
I don’t think it helped that he had tons of countries banned that weren’t on a list of aggressors or left off because he did business there.
Totally. 100% agreed.
We do have a serious vetting process already. It’s not bad to want to be safe as much as there is a lot of blame shifting. You can’t talk about destabilization with a standard Republican. They think almost any of our aggro foreign policy has always been right.
People don’t drive to different parts of the country anymore. They don’t just drive to Wyoming or pick a place on the map like Kansas City and just goes and vacations there to see how people live.
I met a sweet waitress once in Nashville and she was like ,”I’ve never been all the way to New York City.” Like it was the BIG city in an old movie. And I was like ,”honey, it doesn’t take that long to drive there.” (laughs)
Right. That’s what I mean. We don’t travel enough or have conversations with one another anymore. When our farmers are saying they are having major problems because of regulations through a private company nobody says anything. Everyone says they hate Monsanto but don’t back it up. Like, in the regards that they can have a seed patent and corporatized the farming system through regulations.
Like the flip side of Wall Street, in a way. Which had no checks and balances that mattered much for a long time.
Well, instead of allowing independent farmers to do the best job, now if the wind blows and seedlings blow onto their property they get in trouble for infringement. And at the end of your yield you have to hand your seeds back in. People don’t look at that as being…yes, Monsanto is bad but so is the regulation that goes along with it. We can’t grow good food anymore.
Quality standards are nice but if the process is corrupt and favoring a fucked up company that isn’t helping anyone. Like subsidizing messed up businesses. Google fast food subsidies and most people would not be stoked.
You can’t sue the government the way you can sue a private company.
Is there really a difference anymore? Aren’t they the same thing? (laughs)
Part of what delayed this record is I had gotten into a six car collision. I was in and out of the hospital for a month and a half and some PT and stuff. A lot of therapy. More on a mental and emotional level. I was going thirty and was hit by a guy going sixty five from behind. We had a pile up. I was told by my insurance company that because if I had been hit by a government vehicle I would have 90 days to sue whereas because it was someone in the public sector I had three years. So, my point is that when you look at anyone who has ever sued the government, they make you jump through so many hoops. Just today walking to work the parking enforcement guy almost hit me while I was walking through the crosswalk with a “walk” sign cuz he ran the crosswalk and when I called him out on it he yelled at me. And this is the dude who is giving people tickets. He almost clipped me. If I had tried to sue him it would take years. One of my favorite movies in the entire world is Daniel Day Lewis in In The Name Of The Father. All these terrible things happen to him and we all knew he didn’t do it.
The argument I have heard is if you are on a private road and hit a tree that is down, that company is responsible for it. I’d like to see more volunteerism. If you come into a place I am not gonna arrest you. There’s a line in the song “Refugee” that says ,”prophets rise like the rent/they beat the homeless instead.” I don’t have a problem with profit, but then what ends up happening is “prophets” rise up and tell you to show up on Sunday and they will take care of you. I’m a spiritual type of guy but don’t believe in performative religion. Or raising the rent so high that we force people out. I met a guy on the side of the highway in Portland who was in his 80’s and had a sign that said “No Drugs. No Alcohol.” He had a walker. I used to see him all the time in this Taco Bell parking lot. I stopped by during the holidays to give him a scarf and a hat and some money. Even before we left we tried to find him. Taxes have been pushed so high this guy is out on the street. Now if he occupies a parking lot someone will call the cops and they’ll beat the shit out of him. That’s not ok. That needs to stop. The same thing happened in New York City with Giuliani. It wasn’t “let’s lower taxes so more people can house themselves.” It was beat ’em up and throw them in cages so Manhattan can be a wonderland and everyone in Brooklyn doesn’t remember what it was like when Biggie rapped about it. It is easier to have people displaced.
We’re both big proponents of local business. It’s a good way to be able to work out things in your community and have mutual growth.
I want so many local businesses that there are no lines.
Sometimes with complete de-regulation there is predatory privatization as well. I mean, often. Some taxes are put to good use. Sometimes they don’t create jobs and trickle down is bullshit, I believe. But sometimes they do create business growth. The truth is sort of situational.
Right. I mean, I don’t want anyone waiting in lines. I want so much competition it drives the price down. We are seeing that now with Uber and Lyft. How do the biggest cab companies in the world not own any cabs? Cab companies, it was like a million dollars to have a medallion for a yellow cab.
It has gone down but it is still super pricey.
It’s so expensive to buy a cab that they all drive like lunatics. If you have Lyft and Uber it is taking care of a problem the local government doesn’t have to take care of anymore. This guy driving by right now can give me a ride. The car won’t have no seatbelts and smell and probably they won’t drive crazy. And it is not cuz the yellow cab driver doesn’t want to. We have to stop with this idea that all the cab companies have no right to exist. But those cab companies are complaining now about competition. Providing a service. You might make a friend or contact through Uber cuz you realize you know his cousin. We used to have these interactions more. I go to the breakfast place Sissy’s in Kingston and you meet the people that work there and find out that they care so you go back. So many times that doesn’t happen. Like in Portland where I didn’t know the landlord. Here in Kingston my landlord comes over and has a cup of coffee when she picks up the rent. That’s the type of relationship I want. It is a circle.
We were talking a few weeks ago also about “democratic” property owners buying buildings in predominantly black neighborhoods – even here- and raising rent and demanding people change things in their yards.
I grew up in Ossining right near Sing Sing Prison. An infamous prison. I grew up there and we were the only “white” family. Irish/Italian. I say that cuz a lot of Italians I know do not identify as being white. And I have family from Argentina. No one would ever know that looking at me. So much of what I have been seeing all my life is this racism of locking people out of fair competition. How many search engines can you name on a computer after Google or Yahoo? We live in a paper and plastic society where it is either agree or disagree. I would have no problem paying taxes for certain things if I didn’t have to drive down the road and still see potholes everywhere. We’re 25th in the world as far as education. We are defending keeping the educational system the same and people used to flock here in droves. This country had mistakes and awful growing pains. We are spiritual beings hurled through the universe at the same time and trying to figure out how to get along.
The systems that are in play are often built on racism built in without you thinking about it.
It would be nice to have a level playing field but there is institutional bias and also a lot of psychic pain. I can’t imagine people demonizing, say, a guy sells drugs cuz he made very hard choices but you don’t know what it is like to be told you are going to fail and life is hopeless because of your skin color for as long as you can remember. Even when we had a black president. Or we were chatting about public school being unequal the other day.
Not every kid gets the same education. Anybody who says they do doesn’t know what they are talking about. Someone working with public schools had a problem with me the other day because I said I had a problem with the public school system. This is due to the education I personally received. I grew up in the 80s in a divorced family with an undiagnosed reading disability until I was in my twenties in college.
Did it seem like they just didn’t care?
I grew up in a predominantly black and hispanic neighborhood. My highschool was predominantly white. My father lived in a town that was a hotbed for the KKK. I have seen both sides of it, lived in both neighborhoods and both making me feel uncomfortable. When you grew up with the early school system pushing Ebonics not because of it being a language or dialect in its own right but because they think the kids are only gonna work as a cashier someday or drop out, when they don’t get equal grammar lessons in common English because they let go of kids from six, seven or eight and don’t teach anyone to put sentences together, you aren’t helping people.
Yeah, I mean the more ways you know how to communicate the more agency and leverage you have in society. The more chances.
Right. The more you know the more you start to think for yourself. I worked in the public school system as a teacher aid for a hot second. There was a teacher I had a confrontation with. There was a kid who was special needs and he didn’t get a massive project done I was helping him with because his mom was in a coma. His father was running around on the mom because she was in a coma. And the older brother would take massive amounts of drugs, go out for the night and leave. So this kid at 12 was left at home defending himself. He knew the assignment was late and asked for help getting it done. He was really trying. I called the classroom where the teacher was and the teacher completely blew him off because it was late and said ,”I’m on my lunch.” This kid has enough problems going on without a teacher like that. It isn’t right to receive a salary every year if you are like that. If I had that type of attitude in my work ethic and just showed up insulting people or not caring about working through obstacles with my peers or showed up drunk, I’d never make it.
So recently a critic of me, I was trying to make the point that he was paid by public schools. He essentially said I was calling him a fascist and I was saying he was defending a fascist system. They are trying to increase the amount of time we have to be in the system. I have many friends who are teachers. That’s not the issue. He’s defending it because they are cutting his checks.
That doesn’t mean there are no problems with common core (laughs).
Right. And he had said ,”How come it took you to your thirties to read 1984.” After I had posted about how everyone should read that book right now. And I said, well maybe it is because I was in public school and had an undiagnosed reading problem. I said to him it was a little fascist to just defend the system without hearing me out. He heard what he wanted to.
Not everyone reads the same books anyway in life.
I wasn’t happy I had to say that. It was a sense of sadness coming away from it because he had probably never heard this. I’m ok with involving a personal story and being vulnerable. I want to do that because I get to know the human behind the clothes, behind the attitude or know who you are and how you reached your conclusions.
I still sometimes debate on Twitter with little Pepes and Trump supporters who I know I don’t agree with to try and have conversation. They might attack me for being trans or for a lot of my politics as I am very progressive. I can’t say it has ever worked but I at least know I tried. Although sometimes it is not worth it because things are so hostile.
Right. Of course. Most of the time people don’t have many things to back up their beliefs about what people do behind closed doors or what they stand for. It’s like the system of good cops versus bad cops. The good ones can’t say anything because they get fired. The public school system is like that also. I used to pride the ACAB thing. When I started being a football supporter. I also grew up in a house where my mom eventually married a police officer who in 1989 was put on trial for beating the mayors son of Ossining just because he was black. I heard people say ,”that fuckin’ n**ger got what he deserved” and I knew something was very wrong about that. That that shit exists.
You physically just changed and looked ill as you said that.
Police organizations are afraid to acknowledge that stuff because they think it lessens their authority but really that erodes trust. I grew up around this piece of shit and saw what he was doing. On a regular basis. I had the displeasure of watching this guy. I am not associated with him at all anymore. So I grew up with the ACAB thing. But there is also something very wrong with walking up to an officer (Miositis Familia ) sitting in her car and shooting her in the head. She wasn’t being an aggressor. That’s still a human being. She was just sitting in a squad car. So, when I say something I am saying it because I have some personal experience. So going from saying “fuck all the cops” to realizing some of them don’t want to do what they are doing but are also scared and have families at home, it keeps us in a system of fighting each other.
There’s no snitch on one side and the thin blue line on the other and they are really the same fuckin’ thing.
It’s the same thing. If you are walking down the street just say hello to someone, if you can. They might be so floored if you do and it might be the only time anyone ever did that to them that day. We are so threatened by one another. Those are little acts of positivity. Or not censoring your friends. They don’t have to agree with everything you say but you don’t have to call them crazy. Or like the trans thing. Someone might not think it is real but it doesn’t matter because it is your experience. You have a right to what you want to say and live. And realistically what a person does with their life, how does it affect them anyway.
Right, unless there is active discrimination or removal of rights. I believe in freedom of expression and also think of consequences in that someone might be offended or respond in their own way. But at the end of the day we have to converse somehow.
My lab partner in high school was a big jock and slept with all these girls and a few years later he came out and does theater now. You get them in a human moment and find out people have hidden sides or struggles you never knew. Many of us want the same thing. We all want peaceful streets, prosperity. But I’m never about putting down someone else’s thoughts. Telling someone they can’t say something literally affects their brain. I don’t want to shorten the use of words. I want them to have a full impact. If we are going to be associates, neighbors or friends I owe it to you to say what is on my mind and I want you to do the same thing for me.