The Casket Girls Exploring Dreams, Time Travel, and the Opposite of “Very Lo-fi”

Philthy first met The Casket Girls a year ago.  I chatted with Phaedra Greene about how she and sister Elsa were “discovered” and enlisted by Ryan Graveface (of Graveface...

Philthy first met The Casket Girls a year ago.  I chatted with Phaedra Greene about how she and sister Elsa were “discovered” and enlisted by Ryan Graveface (of Graveface Records, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dreamend, etc…) to be his postmodern take on the Shangri-las.  The three released their debut, Sleepwalking, to critical acclaim in 2012 and they’ve spent the past year and a half touring sporadically, alongside other Graveface artists, but February 11th will see the release of their sophomore LP, True Love Kills The Fairy Tale, and they are about to embark, as headliners, on the Graveface Roadshow (which will also feature The Stargazer Lilies and Dreamend), which will stop at Johnny Brenda’s on February 19th.  The album is a quirkily morose anti pop album of sorts that’s quite indebted to the ethereal.  And the Graveface Roadshow also sounds like it’s going to be an uplifting celebration of dealing with the more existentially difficult aspects of the human experience.  Elsa Greene and Ryan Graveface recently took the time to explain it all to me.

Izzy Cihak: The last time Philthy chatted with The Casket Girls was last April.  What have been the project’s highlights since then, in addition to the recording of your sophomore effort?

Elsa Greene: Phaedra and I have been doing a lot of dream work lately and really trying to cross over into the great unknown. It has led to a lot of writing. More like free-form writing, but we have been drawing from it for our songs as well. We are feeling inspired for our road trip and eager to share the songs we have been working on. We spent the first few weeks of this year reverting back to our childhood, making up dance moves in front of the mirror for the show. So fun.

Izzy: You’re about to release True Love Kills the Fairy Tale.  How would you characterize the release, compared to your debut?

Ryan Graveface:  It’s like a super-powerful break up record that’s not really about breaking up. We spent a bit more time and loot on the recording end of things and got our live drummer, Peter, involved this time around.  All the drums were done to tape and they sound super-huge and radical thanks to Andy LeMaster.  All in all, it’s focused and emotionally heavy.  LP1 was very, very lo-fi. This is the opposite.

Elsa: The writing process was both different and the same in ways. It was different in the sense that we mostly wrote all the lyrics and melodies in one night, in some kind of a stream of conscience fashion for the new album, and it was the same in that we recorded our very first listens to what Ryan had sent us, and stuck with our initial gut instincts on both albums. But I do feel we have grown together a lot as a unit and are feeding off that movement.


Izzy: And what were the album’s biggest influences, conceptually?  As someone whose existence and identity are almost entirely indebted to the likes of Morrissey, William S. Burroughs, and Lars von Trier, I quite like what would seem to be the album’s starting point.

Ryan:  Like a really pretty (early) Nine Inch Nails, mixed with loads of absinthe.  Lots of Beethoven sonata and symphony nights and crying myself to sleep, whilst actually recording the keyboards.  Yes, I fell asleep whilst recording the song “True Love Kills the Fairy Tale.”  Woke up with a finished part and 45 minutes of dissonance.

Elsa: Well, our process is unique, as Ryan creates the musical landscapes, and then we trample around over and under them… But Fay and I were listening to Janelle Monae a lot. And we always listen to a lot of classical music.

Izzy: Do you have a particular favorite album track? I actually think that my favorite track is closer, “The Chase.” I hate to be romantic, but I love when an existentially morbid work of art can end with a bit of melancholy optimism (Does that make sense?)

Elsa: Haha!!! Yes, that makes perfect sense. But also, I would add that to me the sentiment throughout is hopeful. It’s a question mark to the unknown, an acknowledgement to the tragic, but still pines over the beauty in all things. My favorite to sing is “Stone and Rock,” for whatever reason. But in “The Chase,” I am obsessed with that line Fay wrote, “Chasing the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heels that crush it.” Damn.

Izzy: You’re about to embark on the Graveface Roadshow 2014, including a February 19th stop at Johnny Brenda’s here in Philadelphia.  What can be expected of The Casket Girls live?

Elsa: As I mentioned earlier, Fay and I have choreographed the show, unable to escape the influence of our 7-year-old selves. We also plan to include the themes of mirror and tea drinking.

Izzy: And the tour has you sharing the stage with Dreamend, The Stargazer Lilies, and Dott, who are all totally fucking incredible.  I realize that your response might be slightly “subjective” because of your association with Graveface, but what are your thoughts on the acts you’re touring with?

Elsa: We are truly so honored and inspired by the talent and creation of all three bands that will be gracing us with their presence. We have all instantly adopted each other as family and will be playing in each other’s bands as well. I just feel so lucky to get to hear their music every night. You must check out Stargazer Lilies video, if you haven’t, it’s incredibly beautiful.


Izzy: What are The Casket Girls’ plans for the rest of 2014, after the Graveface Roadshow wraps up?

Elsa: We plan to release an EP sooner than later, and also travel abroad to play more shows! We love playing live and hope to do so as much as possible. And while we’re making plans, time travel?

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.