The Casket Girls is a synthy indie-pop trio from Savannah, Georgia. They released their debut album in the autumn of 2012 and are hard at work on their sophomore album, which should be out by the end of 2013. They also have a self-titled vinyl-only EP scheduled for release on Record Store Day (April 20). Only 500 copies of this EP were made, and the cover features some “embossed embroidery” done by artist William Schaff. He’s not to be confused with Will Sheff from Okkervil River, but William Schaff has done a lot of album artwork for Okkervil River. Details on the EP are here.
The band’s name, by the way, isn’t a reference to death. “Casket girl” is a reference to poor women who in the first decade of the 18th century were shipped from France to the French-speaking parts of Louisiana and present-day Alabama and Mississippi for the purposes of marriage. They were, essentially, the first mail-order brides. Originally, one of these girls would be called, in French, a “fille à la cassette”, or “girl with a cassette”, because she came over on the boat with all of her belongings in a small suitcase known as a cassette. This name eventually morphed into “casquette girl”, then “casket girl”. And that’s your Colonial American History lesson of the day.
The band sort of came together by serendipity. A beautiful, brilliant accident. Ryan Graveface, who has been in a bunch of bands and is the founder of Graveface Records, was wandering around Savannah one day when he happened upon two girls (sisters Phaedra and Elsa Greene) playing autoharp and singing “weird songs”. He observed them for some time, then approached them about forming a band together. He is a big fan of The Shangri-Las, and there was something about their harmonies or their style that reminded him of what made that group so brilliant. Don’t forget that The Shangri-Las was comprised of one set of sisters and another set of identical twin sisters. I can’t say with any certainty whether the Greene sisters are twins or not, but I’m sure that the fact that they were sisters exaggerated the fact that they reminded Graveface of The Shangri-Las.
I got something in the mailbag about this band a few weeks ago, and after I read the words “Shangri-Las” and “they were playing autoharp”, I didn’t even need to listen. I knew that I was going to like this band. Then, when I clicked through to the songs, I was even more impressed. First I listened to another one of their album tracks — “Heartless” — which reminds me quite a bit of some of the songs on the newest album by Stars, and y’all know how much I love that band. I’ll admit that the 1980s synthy vibe of that newest Stars record caught me off guard, but I learned to love it. This isn’t about Stars, and it isn’t about “Heartless”. This is about “Sleepwalking”.
This is that song.
“Sleepwalking” by The Casket Girls
By the way, you can grab a free download of this song via soundcloud here.
Graveface does all of the music, while the gals do the singing. The song doesn’t feature any autoharp and isn’t particularly reminiscent of The Shangri-Las, but it’s still very easy for me to get wrapped up in the dreamy harmonies, the poppy synths and the slow, thick “drum” bits. In the way that it’s “indie rock with a very slight hint of hip-hop production”, there’s something about the whole thing that reminds me of Emily Wells.
While I say that the band’s name isn’t really a reference to death, this song has a lot to do with death. And about not being afraid of death. And about knowing that death is an end and not a beginning. Take the opening verse:
There will be no starting over
It’ll just be over
This road only goes so far
A firefly caught in a bell jar
We all know death is a big black (dot?)
But I’m not afraid to die
I’m willing to go before my time
You won’t see me sleepwalking
I’m not afraid of death
Maybe I’ll finally catch my breath
Then something later about
Sweet talking won’t get you nowhere
No devil deal is gonna end there
No angel on your shoulder is gonna save you know
You can’t fight it
Even though it’s about death, and even though it’s minor chord-y, I don’t find it to be a downer.
The more I listen to this song, the more I love it. Mostly, it’s about the harmonies. I highly recommend multiple back-to-back listenings. You’ll get mesmerized.
Remember to look for their limited release 12″ vinyl on Record Store Day. You can buy their debut record directly from the Graveface Records web store in your choice of CD, LP, or digital.