Deal Casino on Their Origin Story, New EP & More

Photo found on Deal Casino’s Facebook Page

One of the cool things about being a journalist covering a music scene like Asbury Park’s is you get to see band’s ascend to greatness.

Three years ago, I remember seeing stickers on nearly every possible public space in the city that Bruce built, about a band called Deal Casino who were playing Sundays at The Saint. A few weeks after the sticker sighting I ended up sitting down with the guys of Deal Casino, and doing a lengthy, and fun interview. You could tell the band, who had recently moved to Asbury, was hyped to be playing live shows, and about the potential the band had.

Flash forward about a year later, and the band was performing at the annual Asbury Park Music Awards. Gone was that seemingly boyish charm, and uncontainable excitement, and in its place was a confident band that had transformed itself from a hopeful to a heavyweight. They blew everyone away, and to many in the crowd — this was a statement performance. That statement was simple — Deal Casino was for real, and the future was blindingly bright for them.

Since then the band has become a prolific performing and recording unit — taking their show on the road, establishing themselves in Philadelphia and New York as well as expanding their fanbase in various regions of the country.

Pop Break is excited to have the band perform as a part of its Second Annual Locals Christmas Party on Saturday December 9. We caught up with the band to talk about their new EP which they’ll be debuting songs from at the show, as well as their origin story, and their future.

Deal Casino is (band members & instruments they play): Joe P. – vocals/guitar, Jozii – guitar/keyboards, Jon Rodney – bass, and Chris Donofrio – drums.

Year We Were Formed In: 2013

We’re Based Out of: Asbury Park, NJ

The Story Behind Our Name: We got an opportunity to play Bamboozle the last year the festival was in Asbury Park. So, to pick up our passes we had to go to the “Deal Casino” beach club in Deal, NJ. The band didn’t have a name at the time, so the people running the show over there didn’t believe we were the band we said we were, so we ended up waiting seven hours to get our passes. A few months later, we started recording our first EP, and at that point we really needed a band name. Deal Casino seemed fitting.

Cool/Famous Bands We’ve Shared the Stage With: Actually, that year we played The Bamboozle, our set was at the same time as Foo Fighters. We played at the same festival at the same time as Foo Fighters. It was a huge honor.  Also, it sucked. If you play a festival, try not to play at the same time as Foo Fighters.

Our Sound Has Been Likened To: Deal Casino

It’s been a long time since I first met you guys at The Lake House in Asbury Park in 2014, and you had a Sunday night residency at The Saint. How do you feel like you’ve evolved in that time — as performers, as writers, and even as people?

We were all straight out of college back then, and didn’t know what it meant to live on our own, or in the real world. It was a great time, but we probably messed around too much. As for the music, we didn’t know what we wanted to sound like or say, so it was a lot of trial and error to find out what Deal Casino was all about. With our first full-length record, we could proudly stand by our material.

What’s the greatest lesson you learned about music up till now?

We’ve been very precious with our songs and recordings for the past few years, but the most obvious truth is that people have short intention spans. It’s important to release music more frequently, and this EP is the start of a new thought process for the band. We just want to put out music, and we plan on doing exactly that, with less obstruction.

You just dropped your first full length record this summer, and now you’re releasing an EP. Can you explain the decision to follow up with new music so quickly after the album?

The EP essentially makes a “deluxe” version of the album. Calidus is a medley of songs from our debut album, but with different instrumentation. We also added an acoustic version of Red Balloon, a different cut of Blueberry Pop, and lastly, a new, unreleased song, recorded acoustic into a four-track cassette deck. To us, it’s an extension of the debut album, rather than an entirely new body of work.

What can we expect from this new EP? Where is it taking us both sonically and lyrically that’s different from the full length?

The new EP is nowhere near an example of the new music we’ve been creating, but we are currently in the process of writing and recording a new record for next year.

We made a couple of videos that accompany the EP, and it all started with this video concept. We had previously recorded a series of videos at Asbury Park Brewery. The acoustic Red Balloon video is from that session. These videos were kind of dark and quiet. We called that Frigidus. The idea was to do a quiet, softly lit acoustic video, and a loud, electric, brightly lit counterpoint to that.

So the song “Calidus” was really a way to test ourselves as a band, and do something a little different with a music video. We found a junkyard space not far from Asbury, and brought our van with all our gear out there at 5 a.m. one morning in August. We set up as if we were doing a show out there. One of the guys who recorded and produced some of our stuff, Erik Kase Romero, came out with his entire home studio packed into an SUV, and set all his recording equipment up.

Our video director, Anthony Yebra, came out with a bunch of camera gear—film cameras. He’s a purist. And he had a computer out there in the junkyard with software to dump video and edit it right there. We were ready to go by late afternoon and then Anthony was just chasing the light, trying to beat the sunset. We ended up racing to get it done, because he had to get the whole thing in one take, otherwise it wouldn’t work when he edited it. The audio was recorded live, and we were all jumping around to different instruments. It was nuts. Ultimately, we got it done, but it was down to the wire. Erik still hasn’t gotten all the dirt and sand out of his studio equipment.

“Red Balloon” was the first single from the LP, and a lot of people have heard that song now. We recently did a shorter cut of Blueberry Pop, so that starts off the EP. That’s the second single. Then you’ve got this stripped back version of Red Balloon, then Calidus, which kind of showcases what we are as a live band, and then this ‘new demo’, which will give people an idea of where we are headed next musically.

One of the things you guys did was, you established yourself in Asbury Park and then made moves to work on establishing yourselves in Philly and New York. Why make this decision, and how do you think it’s helped you as a band?

When we were in the “infant” stages of the band, we didn’t have much direction, but we started working at Lake House Studios, which was based out of Allenhurst at the time, and we were able to see the scene in Asbury Park while recording there. We decided that if we were going to be serious, we would need some help, and a scene like Asbury Park would really help us cultivate our music. There’s an amazing thing happening there where there are lots of musicians and artistic people around and they’ve been able to develop in their own ways and at their own pace.  Philly and New York have great local scenes too, so as we have played more and more, we’ve just made some friends with other bands in other cities and we’ve started doing shows with them and expanding outward a little bit.

What do you guys love about being in Deal Casino? You dedicate your lives to this band — so what is it about it that makes you want to put some much time and effort into this?

We all have so much confidence in each other, it’s impossible to do anything else, we wouldn’t want to.  Also, we are thankful to be on same page individually and as a group. We want to explore and see how far we can take it. This is the greatest adventure of our lives.

How much of the new EP will fans hear on 12/9?

I believe we’re playing all of the new EP on 12/9, except for one song, but everything will sound a bit different.

What are you most excited for in 2018?

In 2018, we’ll be releasing a lot of new music, and that’s all we’re focused on right now.

Deal Casino’s EP Release Party is this Saturday at Pop Break’s 2nd Annual Locals Christmas Party at The Grand Arcade of Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ. Also performing are: latewaves, Gay Guy/Straight Guy, The Vaughns, and Taylor Allen.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites