Connections are one of the greatest tools an artist can have, so make sure to involve yourself with your genre’s community and get familiar with people who dig your vibes. ❤
Wave Cave admin and amateur producer, Caleb Welch (Kaebl), had a chat with up and coming indie musician and producer Casey Groat (GAIAXIS) about inspiration, live performance, top 40 and (briefly) Taylor Swift among other topics. This is the first interview hosted by WAVE TV in a series of artist to artist interviews with talented, undiscovered artists.
Hey Casey! How’s it going!?
Pretty awesome! By awesome I mean really, really occupied all of the time, always.
What’s occupies your time most; school, work, social obligations, music?
I’d have to say it’s a terrible mix of them all at once, haha! I want to make music a priority at all times but sometimes that’s just not possible when you’re exhausted. Music is also my part-time job though, so I guess that’s work, too, right? Let’s go with that.
Would you like to give a shout out to anyone?
So, let’s get to know you a little bit; where are you from, where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Sacramento, CA and still reside here today.
What was it like to grow up there?
It’s been pretty alright, haha. I wouldn’t know any other way to say it. During my first 12 years I was raised in the more “country” side of the city; we used to have a bunch of land to ourselves and no neighbors around for a mile or two. At the time I hated it, but looking back now I’d much rather live in that atmosphere for sure.
What are your hobbies? What do you do for a living?
My hobbies include being a complete nerd. I’m a Nintendo junkie, but I also spend all of my money on records and cassettes. As for my living I work a pretty boring side job part time, but on the side I also run my own recording studio called “Groat-esque Studios”, located in a shed that’s been pimped out in my backyard.
A shed? That sounds pretty epic! Got any pictures to show us of your setup?
I do! Gimme a sec.
Doesn’t look much like a shed, does it? Haha. I’ve put a lot of work into it. Pretty fancy.
Looks awesome, dude! Back to your hobbies, what drew you to them?
I’d have to say what drew me the most was the need to help people. It takes a certain type of ear to be a great producer; you can have the greatest gear in the world and the best equipment but without a proper ear, there’s a big difference. I’ve always wanted to help people, and I love making people’s songs in their head come to life in a final, finished product.
Hard question: What’s the best and worst things going on in your life right now?
Oh boy. Well, I’m still currently single so that kinda blows. Had kind of a rough break. But hey, it makes great lyrical content for the new album! I guess you could say I’m the next Adele of the electronic scene HA. On the flip side, I’m excited to be playing a couple new shows within the next coming months, including a “chiptune” set where I’ll be playing my Gameboy-sounding material for a gaming expo. Should be pretty sweet!
Songs about relationships and breakups are pretty common but also some of the most powerful; do you think going through those kinds of things makes an artist a better songwriter?
All artists get their inspiration from one source or another. In my personal experience, I get more emotionally responsive from bad news than good news. I feel like that’s just how the human brain works. It’s easier for me to write about something tragic rather than news that’s lighthearted and easy to come across.
The gaming expo show sounds pretty sweet! How did you land that gig?
The Facebook event for the expo popped up on my feed one day, and I saw it was right in town so I decided to just hit them up and ask if they needed anyone to perform. I’ve never had a chiptune set before, so this will be exciting for everybody!
So! GAIAXIS! How did that name come to you?
Haha, so basically I’ve had this name for all my electronic projects since high school. I really like the greek word ‘gaia’ meaning earth. So the earth rotates on an axis, right? So I guess “GAIAXIS” is the axis of the earth. I dunno. It looks pretty great. Hard to pronounce, tho. #yolo
I guess I’ve been pronouncing it “GUY-YA-AXIS”, is that right?
It’s a bit tricky to get the pronunciation right if you have no idea what you’re doing, but almost! I kinda of think of it as “GUY-AXE-SIS”, so there ya go!
What was your initial draw to music?
I come from a very different background of music that I’m still currently pursuing. I started learning piano by finding a dinky old Casio keyboard in my attic when I was 12. The built-in songs were a real tool, so I just learned those songs by ear and began to craft my own compositions. From there I was like “okay, let’s try guitar now”. And from then on bass, drums, and even vocals. The genres of music I’ve been exposed to and experienced are a lot; anywhere from folk to jazz to even punk! Haha. Good times.
What’s your favorite instrument to play?
Playing the drums has always been the funnest for me. I don’t even technically own a drum set, just playing through my keyboard drumming program on my computer.
Why are you pursuing retro music now?
I started my retro-inspired revival with my first album that I released in 2013, called “Hypnophobia”. I was just starting to develop my 80’s sound. I didn’t want to sound too 80’s based; like synthwave, but definitely incorporate traits from the genre. Mixing this style with alternative acoustic drum kits and super sweet guitar licks leaves room for a different electronic experience.
How do you feel about mainstream music and the current music industry? Who are your favorite pop artists?
Oh lord. Well, if I’m going to blunt about it, the mainstream music industry has little room for hope. Bruno Mars has some pretty great basslines actually, so I kinda dig that. Streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are deteriorating outlets for smaller artists to gain their proper royalties, which is slowly getting worse. Makes me sad.
How do you feel about Taylor Swift?
She needs to pick a friggin’ genre and stick with it. Is she country? Is she terrible mainstream pop? Can she PICK ONE PLS. Pretty sure she doesn’t even know what she wants at this point.
Do you feel like modern top 40 is a reflection of our current culture?
Current top 40? WHAT IS THAT? Ha, nah really I’m not too up-to-date with the times, but it definitely shows where all of the money in the industry is being spent, for sure. If it was really based on talent, in my opinion, we’d be seeing smaller artists in the headlines.
And what about the indie scenes and it’s many venues: who are your favorite contemporary artists?
These are my favorite avenues for finding new artists. I’ve found so many new artists through sites like Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Facebook. Anywhere from future-funk to vaporwave, hip hop, new wave, etc. Saint Pepsi was one of the first few artists I found out about when first exploring the internet for that style of genre, along with artists such as HOME, FM-84, Night Tempo and the like!
There’s lots of resources out there for up-and-coming artists; which venues did you participate in?
The resources I’d definitely recommend would be the online communities through Facebook and Soundcloud. There are so many helpful people that are willing to give you time of day if you approach your own craft with respect and not just making a quick song to post and never see the light of day again. Personally I’ve found the most help through the Vaporwave, Synthetix FM, and of course the Wave Cave Facebook groups. Receiving proper feedback and having promotional tools and your disposal are crucial for a successful project, for sure.
I would describe your style as singer-songwriter oriented chill-wave and retro funk. How would you describe your style?
Thanks! I never really thought of my stuff as retro funk, but I dig it! My style would probably be considered a mix of New Wave, alternative rock, and synthpop/chillwave. The singer-songwriter aspect of the music I feel is what gives the music a different vibe rather than most instrumental tracks that I listen to with the genre. Neon Indian is one of the artists I look up to for managing song structure, because he too has choruses, lyrics verses etc., so it makes the songwriting process a little easier to work with. In fact the song “Online” from my last EP has a very very Neon Indian vibe, you should check it out! (https://gaiaxis.bandcamp.com/track/online) The new album I’m working on has hints of other genres too, such as synthwave and future funk.
You’ve made music before in different genres, why did you change it up?
The different genres I’ve worked with don’t bring me as much enjoyment and ease of productivity as my current electronic project does. That’s not to say I’m not working on those projects, but this stuff is just so much more fun! Also being a one-man band has proved to have its benefits. Doing my own drums, guitar and synthwork on the project makes the music have a clearer vision and helps set a new medium apart from similar genres.
Should artists endeavor to be more eclectic or should they stick to what they know?
Of all the artists I like, I tend to favor ones with more originality and a creative difference among other artists. So yes, I definitely think breaking norms within genres is a nice way to shine above the crowd and get more attention. Even if you’re like, super terrible, you have the chance to gain more traction than you might think. Just look at Ice JJ Fish! What a star.
Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Which artists helped pave your way?
A lot of my inspiration comes from personal experiences which i incorporate in my lyrics, as well as other artists that I aspire and look up to. Some of the artists that helped carve my sound would have to be Washed Out (look up “Feel It All Around”, you’ll probably recognize it), Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian, and Phoenix. I’m also pretty big into a genre called “Math Rock”, so I incorporate a lot of technical drumming into my project (done with a program called EZDrummer2 in real-time with a keytar! Pretty sick actually). I also love 80’s funk with their muted Stratocaster guitar licks, so those type of lines are also put into play with my music.
What’s a songwriting process for you?
It’s not as tedious as people might make it out to be. Usually the music comes first, as a full 3-5 minute track. I’ll start off a track with a cool synth line, or a sample or drum pattern. Bass typically comes later through my tracks. Chord progressions are one of the most crucial parts of the songwriting process; it determines whether a song is sad, happy, funky, or slow. From there I start to build the song up with extra synths, background sounds if needed, EQ edits and extra percussion or drums. The lyrical content is saved for last, as well as harmonies and such.
What’s the hardest part of production for you and how did you get past it?
IT’S ALWAYS, THE MASTERING.
But really though. The mixing/mastering process takes almost double the time of actually composing the tracks. I’ve paid a lot of money for having other third parties master my albums, but seeing as I’m an audio major and already know how to do it myself, might as well do it and make sure it sounds A-OK. You just have to keep at it and the more practice you get, the more well-equipped you become for future projects.
What’s the best tip you’ve ever got to help you make music?
I was taking a recording class at my local community college when the teacher said something that really got my attention. He said “if you’re not making a song a day, or at least thinking about music everyday, you’re not a true musician”. Some might think that’s kinda harsh; and I get it. Not everyone has time everyday, I certainly don’t! But if you can set aside at least an hour or so a day within your busy life, you’re refreshing your mind to new musicalities and ideas that you didn’t have yesterday.
It definitely can be tough to carve out time with the chaos of everyday life, do you ever find that you’re missing out on things when you’re making music alone?
Most of the time I do prefer making music alone, actually. It’s definitely more fun when working with others, but when you’re a bedroom producer like me, you start to grow to the feeling of having complete control of your music and the atmosphere just becomes a part of you, ya know? I can’t see myself ever leaving that atmosphere for good.
Do you collaborate much with other musicians?
I do, and am always open to work with others! It’s always fun to work on a track with another person involved as it creates a different dynamic. In the past I’ve worked with KING QUARTZ on a track for his compilation album “NEOTOKYOLIVE30XX” with our song “W A N D E R L U S T” (which you can find here: https://soundcloud.com/kingquartz/wanderlust-ft-gaiaxis). It did really well! Looking forward to working with him again. I’m also in a side project with Roman of Colosseum records, can’t wait to reveal more info about that. But for now it’s a bit hush hush. Shhh c:
Do you ever intend to perform live?
Last summer I had a live set almost set up with a drummer and everything! However this year he went to study abroad, so that’s had to be put on hiatus. I’m also busy with so many other projects and the new album, I wouldn’t have had time anyway. But come this summer we should be back together to bring it to local shows and perhaps even a tour! Who knows.
What’s your favorite piece of equipment?
In terms of really boring audio engineering stuff, I have a Steinberg UR44 which I absolutely love. It has 4 XLR inputs for mics and guitar, and two headphone jacks for two separate mixes, which comes in more handy than you’d think. I also really reeaallly love my keytar that I have, it’s just a MIDI controller though so it doesn’t have its own sounds or anything. It’s an Alesis Vortex, definitely recommend it. My guitar is a 72’ Telecaster Thinline, and my favorite mic currently is the Rode NT2A which I use for the majority of my vocals.
That Vortex Keytar looks bitchin’! So… last year you released an EP that will soon be available for cassette: How does that feel? Does it feel like victory or is it stressful in a way?
Unfortunately my promotional skills are kind of trash, so I didn’t really give the EP the proper treatment with its release. I have a music video I made for one of the tracks, but that’s about it in terms of promotion. Sending people the link on the day of release is definitely NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO DO. I did that and am regretting it. Not only does it make you look sorta desperate, but by that point you should have already established that this thing is gunna be huge so they should already know about it! I’m hoping that with this cassette release I can help spread the word about it a little more, but with the new album I’m making sure to set the proper time for promotion and getting people a little more hyped, stuff like that.
You have a full-length album set to be released around April or May, tell us about that.
Yes yes! Throughout this interview I’ve been kinda brushing on the topic, but the album will be called “Last Night”. It’s the first full-length I’ve done in a long time, so it’s good to be back. The album will have 11 tracks, one of them featuring guest vocals from a friend of mine! This album has been in the works since Fall of last year, and it’s nearing completion finally. So excited!
How will your new album differ from your previous EP?
This new album has much more variety than that of my EP. While the EP had a theme of love and discovery, this album will be on a much more darker tone and really just about the aftermath of lost love and self-reflection on what went wrong. The instrumentation will be much different too; there’s some frequent sample work in my album and way more synth sounds incorporated into the tracks than the previous album.
What’s a piece of advice you would give to anybody pursuing music right now?
Definitely most helpful thing I can say is stand up from the crowd, and don’t let the mass flood of artists on the internet bring you down. Anyone can be lucky, anyone can be in the right place at the right time. Connections are one of the greatest tools an artist can have, so make sure to involve yourself with your genre’s community and get familiar with people who dig your vibes. ❤
Anything else you’d like to talk about?
Not really, man. This is one of the first interviews I’ve done so far, but answering these questions has been an awesome experience. I’ll be getting some coverage via NeonVice sometime soon, so stay updated for that. A teaser trailer will be coming out later as well, and let me tell you it’s AWESOME. Thanks for giving me the time of day and have a good one!
Thanks Casey! Lookin’ forward to hearing more of your tasty tunes, keep up the good work!
‘GAIAXIS’ album, “Last Night”, is set for release late Spring.
A track off the album is available to stream exclusively here on WAVE TV!