Contributor’s Note: Leigh Celent, lead singer and guitarist of Castle Black, is one of the most dynamic performers in Brooklyn. We were lucky to be able to ask her a few questions about her band, her touring experiences and where the name Castle Black came from. I highly recommend you check them out, their upcoming release is sure to garner interest from major record labels so get into this band before they blow up! Fans can find Castle Black at the following locations:
Your guitar playing seems very riff driven, evocative of Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, or The Stooges, who were some of your guitar influences on your most recent ep, ‘Trapped Under All You Know’?
You’re absolutely right, I love riffs and I love a good hook, especially within heavier music. I like all of those bands you named a lot, and definitely appreciate those types of guitar styles and tones. In a similar vein, I love Jack White’s playing. Every riff is memorable, which is also something I admired about Kurt Cobain’s playing as well. Radiohead has always been one of my favorite bands, and I love the way Jonny Greenwood uses the guitar in unique ways, it’s like an extension of the sound. Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth is another favorite. I once saw him do a performance where he swung the guitar around the room, just making interesting sounds from this very simple movement.
What can we expect from your upcoming EP? What did you do differently this time around?
The EP makes sense to me in the context of the other EPs, but we definitely did some things differently. This was our first time recording at Behind the Curtains Media, with Mike Abiuso, and Mike really helped us get the sounds that we wanted. He also mixed Part A of the album. For Part B of the album, we worked with Mark Plati for the first time (best known for his work with Bowie), so that was a bit of a surreal experience. Mark just added a whole other dimension to the songs on Part B.
And dividing the EP into parts was a new thing, we hadn’t done that before. It felt like a very dramatic and conscious decision – Part A, ‘Fucked,’ consists of two songs and Part B, ‘Adored,’ consists of the other three. Part A is just more straight-forward rock, really driving, more raw. Part B gets into the more ethereal and epic songs. And the story of the EP kind of flows in that way as well.
While touring around America, do you ever feel maligned or underestimated because you’re a woman?
Well, I’m sure you’ve seen what can happen out there, being in a band with a woman yourself. There are unfortunately a lot of truly really awful at the core people out there, and their hatred or entitlement doesn’t just stop with women. I also dislike generalizations in general, as I truly believe I get along best with good people, regardless of any identifying group. And I want to surround myself with good people, with similar values and beliefs.
There are still a lot of issues on a systemic level with the treatment of women in general. There are also a lot of systemic issues with the treatment of many groups of people, in general. I really dislike group generalizations, and I prefer to see it as there are lots of really disgusting people out there, who still have very messed up views of women, or anyone who isn’t like them. And that spans both women and men. In addition to some men, there are some women out there who still have messed up ideas of what it means to be a woman etc. So, my point is that I’m more of the mindset of aligning with like-minded people on just being a decent human being, as opposed to seeing it as divided groups.
It’s hard because I like to think when these things happen, well is it truly driven by someone who is sexist or misogynist or would this person treat anyone they deemed less than them, the same.
That being said, I have countless stories from the road of weird stuff happening, by entitled, misguided and oblivious people. One that stands out is our sound person at a venue in Nashville was clearly and evidently from the start not thrilled to have women asking for what they needed during sound check. My choice of reverb was laughed at, my request for more vocals in the monitor was ignored even though I had requested it several times, and he just generally spoke to both me and my female bassist as if we had no idea what we were doing. He did not treat my drummer like this, and the only thing he said after our set was to our drummer, “that’s my kind of guy.” We’re still not sure what that meant.
We stayed with someone I knew once who came on extremely hard to my female bassist when everyone else was sleeping.
What’s the reaction to your music like when you’re touring around the country?
We’ve had some of our best shows when touring. People just seem to connect with the music and the emotion behind it. In Norfolk, VA, a guy told me after the show that he was sitting at the bar in the other room, and had to come into the music room because what he heard was so raw and so emotive. Someone in Hoboken, NJ randomly heard us at a bar when he was going through a break-up, and found comfort in the songs; he’s been coming to shows ever since. In Greensboro, NC, I had a few women come up to me and tell me that they specifically came out because we were a band with a female singer/guitarist and female bassist. Someone in New London, CT told us that we were the best thing to come through that town in a long time. At a house show in Buffalo, NY, several people told me that we were refreshing, because the music was really different than most bands who played there. It’s those things that you don’t get quite so much of here in NYC, because there are so many things going on, and so many choices. In some places, there are only a few locations people go to regularly to hear music, so they are really appreciative and complimentary when you come their way. Some of the best reactions to our music have been in smaller towns and we love playing for those people.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since you started Castle Black?
There are tons, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes for sure. I am a person who feels every little thing, it’s the only way that I’m capable of writing music and expressing myself as I do. I’m driven by emotion, I can make decisions on impulse and for emotional reasons, when a different, more calculated decision might be better for the band and the music. To be so driven by emotion and to have to actively work to be any other way is something that very few people understand, even if they think they do. So the biggest lesson I guess has been how to manage this, how to make the right decisions for the band, without always making an emotionally-driven decision. Stepping back, seeing the bigger picture, trying to let the emotion pass or at least dissipate before deciding certain things. It’s definitely a challenge.
And I’m sorry but I have to ask, is it a Game of Thrones reference?
Yes, it is. It’s really from the Song of Ice and Fire books though, as when I was thinking about band names I was reading those. The show of course really set Castle Black on the map, so sometimes I think maybe the name would have been better off as Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
Check out the music video for “Broken Bright Star” below.
Castle Black will be taking their show on the road this summer. Check out tour dates below.
Thursday, June 28th- EP Release Show at The Well in Brooklyn, New York
Thursday, July 5th- West Side Bowl in Youngstown, Ohio
Friday, July 6th- The Comet in Cincinnati, Ohio
Saturday, July 7th- House Show in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Sunday, July 8th- Bremen Cafe in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Monday, July 9th- New Dodge Lounge in Hamtramck, Michigan
Tuesday, July 10th- Middle Earth in Columbus, Ohio
Wednesday, July 11th- Melody Inn in Indianapolis, Indiana
Thursday, July 12th- Best Friend Bar in Lexington-fayette, Kentucky
Friday, July 13th- Spruce Goose in Indianapolis, Indiana
Saturday, July 14th- Camp Champe in West Branch, Michigan
Sunday, July 15th- Kelly’s Bar in Hamtramck, Michigan
Monday, July 16th- Strum Around Productions in Sandusky, Ohio
Tuesday, July 17th- Skate The Foundry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Saturday, July 21st- Mother Pug’s in New Kensington, Pennsylvania
Saturday, July 28th- The Alibi Room in Ocean City, Maryland
Friday, August 3rd- 9th Annual Elephant Talk Indie Music Fest in Mays Landing, New Jersey
Saturday, August 4th- Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sunday, August 5th- Boontunes in Boonton, New Jersey
Friday, August 31st- The Pharmacy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Thursday, August 6th- Brooklyn Bazaar in Brooklyn, New York
For tickets and further information on any of the shows listed above, click here.