That is why the Warehouse was cool, we had all these like minded…songwriting weirdos…Everclear played here, Jesus Lizard, Babes in Toyland…it’s insane…

Casey Virock

Vocals/Guitar, Porcupine

Today we talk with Casey Virock of the band Porcupine, we chat influences, the all ages venue the Warehouse, the songwriting and recording process, the Covid intermission from performing, what’s next for the band and where can people find out more.

This podcast is sponsored by Balancing Act.  
Balancing Act.
Transcript
Casey Virock 01:12
My name is Casey Virock. I was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin. And I got into music probably, you know, as a kid I just kind of gravitated towards at that time, I suppose my parents had the eight tracks. So they played music all the time. And, I just kind of you know, got transfixed on the Beatles and The Loving Spoonful and Simon and Garfunkel and Neil Diamond, and just 70s stuff. And then my uncle had Kiss and Zeppelin and then Alice Cooper and I got into that. And then finally got a guitar and begged for one begged literally and, started playing guitar. Kind of, kind of late in the game. I think I was probably 16, 17, my grades were really bad, right? It was kind of like this, your grades get better, you can play guitar. You know, I was just like I just want to play my guitar. Yeah, so that’s about it. And then I got into a cover band when I was 18 or 19 with Lawn Braithwaite and Jeff Sheeran, it was called Disorient Express. We’re actually going to do a reunion show this year which I’m excited about. I had seen a local band doing all originals called Buzz Bottler. It was really powerful like to see that because that was I just thought man I think I could do that you know. And then I started dabbling and writing songs and that became kind of an obsession just, I just loved writing songs and that’s how it all started.

Brent Hanifl 03:10
You know, you just kind of mentioned even starting late, I remember you at The Warehouse. Which I’d like to know, you know, how The Warehouse fits in your journey. And in terms of music you guys playing with a number of bands and I was, you know, I was a kid, but I remember you playing a ton basically my whole life. You know from bands like with Bomb Pop.

Casey Virock 03:28
Oh yeah.

Brent Hanifl 03:29
And all the variety of different ones that it always, it was always Space Bike and three mind blowing original other bands that played for you know a couple bucks. Now I’m sounding old when I say it was 25 cents to get in, no it wasn’t but.

Casey Virock 03:44
It was great, too, because guys like Aaron and you know the guys in Arms Headache.

Brent Hanifl 03:49
Yeah.

Casey Virock 03:49
And in Hick. Like it was cool. That’s why The Warehouse was great because we had all these like minded, you know, songwriting weirdos, it was like, oh I found even Zero Dark 30 who were a completely different genre. They rehearsed right next to us. And it was just cool to bounce ideas off, like I listened to hear them in the next room. It’d be like, hey, that was really cool. You know, and, vice versa. Like there’s just this respected camaraderie. And Steve had, like Everclear played here, you know, and Jesus Lizard played here, Babes in Toyland, you know, Black Francis from the Pixies played here, Descendents. You know, the Melvins. Like if you think about it’s insane. And all of the time, if we got on the bill or not, like both shows inspired, all of us more to like kind of, alright, we could do this. Like it’s a lot of work and you don’t get that instant gratification when you go play out live. I mean, got to get used to playing to maybe three people and the other bands. But I don’t know, there’s some, I’m kind of stubborn. So I think that worked in my favor. Plus I was with Steve, who’s super supportive, Davey and Brian, you know, we’re all good friends and kind of it was a mission, you know, just let’s see what happens. Let’s see if we can see how far we can go with this. It’s been fun now it’s just kind of like, I can’t stop doing it. It’s, I just love it. I love it, writing songs and, and playing guitar and creating music, you know, with the band format. And as of late, it’s been a different situation, because it’s all virtual. Like you said earlier, there’s pros and cons. It’s a controllable kind of atmosphere, but then I really miss playing in a room with that energy, you know, creating that way. It’s been a learning process.

Brent Hanifl 05:59
You know, being a basically, you know, local for my whole life in some ways, I moved away a little bit, but, you know, and having The Warehouse as a place for, you know, highly original music. Were you always a fan of La Crosse in some ways? Or were you always trying to get away with the band in some capacity?

Casey Virock 06:17
Oh, I loved it here, Brent. I mean, I, and I’m not gonna lie, when I decided to move back from the cities it was kind of hard. Because I felt and this sounds dumb, but I felt like I failed. You know, like, I was like, ah, but with the pandemic, it just squashed everything. You know, it was like, everything just stopped. And we were, and there was like, so much momentum going on with Porcupine at the time, that it was really tough to, it was a tough pill to swallow. Because it was like, dang it, but you have no control over it. Who would have thought we’d be in the middle of a pandemic. Plus, at that time, there was the rioting going on up there. And all that other stuff. And I basically lived right in the middle of that. And my sister who lived outside of Minneapolis, lived there for 15, 20 years, she called me and said, hey, I’m moving back. Want to be back by the family. So are you coming? And I and, you know, I, I was homesick. I was really missing my son by that point. I said, Yeah, I think I’m going to come back. So that said, I like drive. I live in Holmen and I drive that stretch, and you know, you look out in Onalaska, you look over the river. And I’m like, man, this is gorgeous. This is a beautiful, beautiful place, you know, and my family’s here. And musically, I can do everything I want to do from here. You know, you just hop in a car and drive. It’s not a big deal. I never really had plans on moving. The reason I did it was because Davey was out of the band at that point. And everybody was based up there and it was just easier. And I had just left Dave’s guitar shop and I was like, it was time for a change. And it was amazing living up there. I mean, holy crap, like I worked in a great guitar shop and dealt with local musicians that I adored. You know, the Soul Sound guys, J hawks, Trip Shakespeare, Babes in Toyland. All those guys would come in and you get to chat about songs and play it out and it was cool. And I still get to do it just live back here with my peeps.

Brent Hanifl 08:36
With the peeps.

Casey Virock 08:37
With my peeps.

Brent Hanifl 08:38
So you kind of reference it from early iterations you know, I just know you basically from Space Bike on. Space Bike to Porcupine, there’s some things in between and even with COVID now, how is the songwriting, and probably even more so with COVID, the recording process kind of gone? How’s it changed? Has it always been fast and quick? Or is it something that’s been?

Casey Virock 08:58
Well with the virtual it’s been pretty pokey, and the reason being is it’s a different process. I’m working with Jason Knox and he and I do a project called Carousel Swan. And he’s a bit more hands on engineer wise and kind of wears producer hat, so he has his ideas and I have mine. And we, and you know Porcupine like there’s it’s start, I’m starting over basically with new people, but that’s all good. But it’s been like yeah it’s been slow. Honestly it well there’s no rush I don’t need to get anything out. Like before everything was like on a timeline. You basically like you got to get this out by this time and you know the artwork needs to be done, because you’re going to be hanging out with so and so for a couple of weeks. You know what I mean? There’s always like this timeline and pressure which is I work actually better that way. Cuz I’m gonna be honest Brent, I’m a little bit a little complacent, lazy, but I think I’ve just been kind of indecisive because personally, I’ve been like, am I gonna stay here? Like, what am I doing? Like kind of spinning my wheels a bit. But at the same time, there’s been some three, three songs that are getting wrapped up right now which Greg Eklund from Everclear is playing on a couple of those. We actually met up in Minneapolis, like right before the pandemic. And I was like, this is just the weirdest. So he’s playing out a couple of the Porcupine songs and I’m playing in his band. He just put out a record. It’s been a trip. It’s been a different process. But I’m actually going up Sunday to rehearse with the new Porcupine formation. I’m super excited because we’re going to be in a room playing guitars really loud and banging it out like we used to.

Brent Hanifl 10:58
So, speaking of that, you know, getting back into it. You mentioned the couple songs coming out. But what’s next? I mean, are you also going to be planning on touring a bit? Or what do you see on the horizon?

Casey Virock 11:11
I hope so I just, I’m not thinking that far ahead. Because it’s, you know, now they’re talking about another wave of COVID. And I know where I work, we’re going to be putting the masks back on and so it’s, it’s like, man, I’m not going to get really excited and then have it. My balloon popped again, like last man, I was. I’m not gonna lie. I was depressed for a couple months. And ah, what the heck.

Brent Hanifl 11:42
I think we all were in some ways, you know.

Casey Virock 11:44
You’re right. I think everybody was, I mean, and it’s like.

Brent Hanifl 11:48
Like should I own a gun or not? You know, like.

Casey Virock 11:50
Yeah well, yeah, I mean, it’s getting, it’s getting sketchy. Like, and I was really worried about my family. I lost, my step dad passed away. That was tough. And, yeah, you’re just trying to rethink your priorities. You know, and that’s another thing like, you know, this is a priority. But then it can’t be sometimes because other things come up that are way more important than. You know, my family is way more important than. I’ve done a lot of cool stuff. If it all ended, I’ve done some stuff that I always dreamed of doing. And I can’t complain about it. I really can’t.

Brent Hanifl 12:35
Also, this is more for my interest, than anything else, but you’ve opened for the Meat Puppets, a few times?

Casey Virock 12:41
We went on, we went on.

Brent Hanifl 12:42
I love that band.

Casey Virock 12:44
They’re the best. We went on a tour and I’m serious they’re like, yeah, Kurt and Chris are really it’s fun to talk about songs with them. And like they’re really open about just talking about anything. They’re like, kind of like uncles like. And then Mike Watt was on that tour, too. And it was, he’s the, he’s the best. Like I said, like that experience alone was like priceless, because you just learn a lot about just musicality. And like, I don’t know, it’s just, it kind of puts you in a professional place. And yeah, and we went out with Flipper. We went out with Mud Honey, we went out with Flesh Eaters, which is like this crazy super group. It’s um, John Doe, from X, Dave Alvin for the Blasters, the drummer from the Blasters. Percussionist is, he’s the drummer for X. But he played like xylophone and then the saxophone player from Los Lobos is insane. And they were, it was we were out east with them. So I got to you know, play New York City and like, you meet other kind of. I can’t remember her, per se, but she was she’s from the LA Tango. She was at the Bowery Room show and you’re like holy crap. Oh, and Kim Thayil from Soundgarden was there. I’ve hung out with him a couple times. And that was incredible. Because you’re like, man, I saw you at summerfest with Jeff Buckley. So he talked about Jeff Buckley and of course Chris passing away which is insane. But yeah, I’ve been pretty damn lucky. You know?

Brent Hanifl 14:32
That’s awesome.

Casey Virock 14:33
The Meat Puppets. On a side note, yep, their records just get better and better and better.

Brent Hanifl 14:40
They are a band that I actually I try to buy every single one of their new albums that come out. When I first got into it I kind of bought a newer one just because I just don’t want to buy the you know, kind of like the hits sort of thing like after the whole unplugged.

Casey Virock 14:53
Sure.

Brent Hanifl 14:53
And so it is just they do and I have probably seen them play about seven times. It’s a good time, but.

Casey Virock 15:00
So you’ve seen him with Elmo, his son playing?

Brent Hanifl 15:02
It’s actually been a while, it was before that. It was before he came on board like I haven’t seen him in probably four years.

Casey Virock 15:08
Okay. Yeah, Elmo’s playing guitar. That’s Kurt’s son.

Brent Hanifl 15:12
Yep.

Casey Virock 15:13
He’s a funny dude.

Brent Hanifl 15:14
Meat Puppets forever. So if people want to find out more, you know, kind of find out what’s going on with this I believe EP coming out, maybe connect with you on maybe if there’s a tour that can be happening, what’s the best avenue for people to follow along?

Casey Virock 15:29
Right now? I’m going to revamp the website. So that’s in the works. So I would say probably the Facebook page, which is, I don’t I don’t know the website page.

Brent Hanifl 15:40
Yeah, it’s just Porcupine Band on Facebook. And then people can find the website from there once it’s ready to go.

Amy Gabay 15:51
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse Local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com. And you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.

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