Interview With Nightbird Casino

What was the beginning point for your music career? How did it all start?

I mean if we want to go back to the very beginning, it started when I [James Moore, vocals/guitar] was sixteen trying to start a “band” with my friend – we couldn’t play our instruments but we made a lot of noise in my parents garage and the police showed up. If we want to jump forward a little, Nightbird Casino’s career – if we can call it that – started in 2017 in a little rehearsal studio in Anaheim. There was a similar amount of noisemaking, but less police and a little more proficiency on our instruments.

Was there any bumps on the road? What kind of challenges did you have to deal with?

I can’t imagine it’s ever been smooth sailing for any artist. I think the first challenge we had as a band was shortly after we recorded our first EP – this was in early 2018, and we were living in LA – my dayjob transferred me to Texas and the other band member, Kelly (we were a two-man project at the time) moved to Davis. So the band kind of went on hiatus almost immediately. Eventually I relocated to Oregon, where we are now and Kelly came up here from Davis and we did our first two records, Gregorian Nap and Russian Carpet. Then he left to pursue solo work and I went through the challenge of finding band members. It’s hard enough finding musicians, but finding musicians who you get along with who are willing to sit down and learn dozens of songs you’ve already written? It’s damn near impossible. Thankfully, I’m lucky to have found Oliver [Collins, drums], Amanda [Moore, keys], and Landon [Strine, bass] – all of whom are very talented and pretty great human beings too. 

Of course there’s the challenge of competing against the 70,000 plus songs that are released onto streaming platforms every day … the challenge of building an audience when you’re in a small town … the challenge of having great content on the internet when you’re a band in your 30s. The list goes on!

What was the most fulfilling and satisfying moment so far?

When Taco Bell brought back the bacon club chalupa. If you’re talking about musically, I’ll let you know when it happens. It hasn’t happened yet. Dat Chalupa tho.

How would you describe the music that you typically create?

I guess to the average music enjoyer, I’d say it’s alternative rock or indie rock. For someone with a bit more in depth genre knowledge, I guess I’d call it post-wave, or maybe shoegaze inspired post-punk indie rock? I’ve heard us described as art rock too but that just sounds pretentious. I think it’s gonna change every album though. LP3 will definitely be as I described. LP4 might be entirely electronic, who knows?

What is your creative process like?

It varies by the song, but I think we all bring an equal amount to the table, so to speak. We’re all multi-instrumentalists, so generally a song will start evolving when one of us brings a riff or chord progression – usually written on guitar or piano – and shows it to everyone else, either at rehearsal or just a video or quick demo. I tend to make videos of myself playing whatever I’ve written and send it to everyone else. Then everyone adds whatever they can and it kinda evolves from there. Of course sometimes one of us just isn’t feeling it, and the idea can get scrapped or end up on the backburner. Right now we’ve got a list of about 20 partial songs we’re working on for LP3. Eventually that’ll get pared down to maybe 10 or 11. The last thing to add is the vocals and lyrics … that’s my homework I do separately. After we’ve figured out the song structure we’ll record a rough demo and then I’ll lock myself in the studio and listen to it a million times until I start hearing a vocal melody. I’ll record myself just singing random syllables – just nonsense really – to the melody and then listen back to that until I start to hear words in it – and eventually the song comes from there. It’s kind of like automatic writing and it’s why my lyrics tend to be kind of abstract and esoteric. 

If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?

The fact that record labels care mainly about a band’s TikTok presence and social media following is pretty sad. I understand the industry has changed, but still, it should be about the music. Labels used to sign bands whose music they resonated with and help them grow. Now they’re looking for ready made products and really just looking at your video content. It’s exhausting trying to be a content creator when that isn’t what you are. As a band you’re pouring all your free time into writing, rehearsing, recording, mixing … etc your music. Now on top of that you have to paying attention to TikTok trends and recording lip sync videos and such. That just doesn’t sit well with me. Of course I shouldn’t say all labels are like that – they aren’t – but the major ones are, and of course there’s still people who discover music the old-fashioned way. They’re just harder to find and reach.

If you were asked to give a piece of advice to upcoming bands, what would that be?

At the end of the day, you gotta make what you like and don’t worry about what’s popular or trendy. Just create the music you want to hear. 

What has been the best performance of your career so far?

Lollapalooza 2010 … just kidding, every performance we have generally tops the previous one and becomes the new best performance. We’re still learning to refine our show, tighten up our music, and work together as a band. Every chance we have to do that we get better. 

If you didn’t become a musician, what would you be doing now?

I’d probably be a coal miner, if you really think about it.

What is new with the band at the moment? What are you currently working on and would like to share with the world?

We’re putting the finishing touches on our next single Radio Anxiety – look for that in April. We’re having it mastered and finishing up the music video over the next few weeks. We’re also still working on material for LP3 … I think we’re getting close to being able to announce the title and at least part of the track list. We’re really excited about it.