Inteview: Professor Caffeine & The Insecurities

Professor Caffeine & The Insecurities dropped their first full-length just about a month after several years of diligent work, member changes, and all the challenges that accompany life during your 30s. That said, the record seems to have drawn in a pretty decent audience and reviews in other languages have graced the group with praise. Their effort seems to be paying off after several years of obscurity.

I had a chance to talk with the band about the album, the creative process surrounding it, the use of video in their marketing, and so much more. Read on below.

Thanks so much for talking with me. If you wouldn’t mind, could you please introduce yourself and your roles in the band?
Hey Casey! Dan plays bass and covers lead vocals. Anthony plays guitar and yells sometimes

How did you both first meet? How’d the rest on the band come together?
Ant- Dan, Ken (our drummer), and I went to high school together. Ken and I were in a terrible band that opened for Dan’s pretty good one. Years later (2014~) the three of us had an instrumental prog-metal project. Dan started Professor Caffeine around that same time, and I ended up joining by the end of 2017/early 2018. Ken joined in 2022. For the bulk of this album cycle I was the sole guitar player, but a lot of these songs perform better live with two. So we went through a couple other guitarists before adding Jay, I knew him from yet another previous project. Dan met Derek (keyboards) through our previous guitarist and drummer, Paul and Jesse, I believe. A lot of it is just from keeping your pals close and finding out who you work well with. 

Even though I’m not a particularly good musician, piano is probably what I’m best at. Could you talk a bit about the choice to include piano/synth in your songs? It doesn’t seem like a common choice for your particular style.
Dan- I’ve always been a huge fan of big synths in songs. I’m a huge power pop fan, The Cars, Motion City Soundtrack, The Rentals, etc. When I was tracking the first record it was an obvious choice to include them. They became such a big part of that album, that when we first started rehearsals the songs felt empty without them. And tieing into the last question: after a couple of piano players we found Derek and the rest is history. 

Your new album just dropped. What was the process like? When did you first start working on these songs, and what’s one thing that changed the most during this period regarding the record?
Dan-  We tend to send tracks back and forth until we get a full demo to work on. It’s very collaborative, and can change at any point when one of us inevitably finds a better idea than one of us originally wrote. These songs are a product of everyone and that’s a big double edge sword. They can constantly evolve and tracking them is the only way to stop the process. Songs are never done in Prof Caf, they are abandoned.

Ant- I have a demo that Dan sent to us in 2018 for what would become ‘Make Like A Tree.’  So we started around then. The most obvious thing that changed was band members. We actually ended up recording and rearranging this record twice, and contemplated calling it quits for a short-while. Those pandemic years were rough… but it forced us to reassess some things and really remember why we were doing this in the first place. The whole process was made fun again when we met (our producer/engineer) Kevin Billingslea at The Halo Studio. After we shelved the first iteration of this record, we went to him in 2022 to work on ‘Chunky’ and ‘Astronaut.’ We had such a great time and he immediately nailed the sound we were after. We decided shortly after to bring the record back from the dead. He helped breathe new life into each track and this project. We’re excited to head back his way with some new ideas very soon! The process never ends.

How did you land on having your first LP be self-titled? You’re not going to pull a Weezer, are you?
Ant- Funny enough, Dan does play in a sick Weezer tribute band…

Dan- I do!! I love Weezer especially Blue and Pinkerton. This is our first full length after two pretty lengthy EPS and honestly this version of the band has felt the most like home. So this was an appropriate time to make this one the self-titled. 

What track is your individual favorite and why?

Dan- My favorite is ‘Wolf Fang Fist!’ because it’s about my dog. I love my dog, and he also loves the song. 

Ant- ‘Mr. Sleep.’ It’s a weird one… and we may not ever play it live, but it’s just so moody and ominous. Might be one of the few songs we’ve done that’s really dark and doesn’t hide it. Derek also added such a beautiful counter melody to this song.

If you feel comfortable discussing the lyrics at all, was there anything in particular you hope people will take away from the record? Personally, how important is the lyrical side of this versus instrumental?

Dan- I’ve always felt good lyrics make a song. They’re the most up front. So if the lyrics and the vocals aren’t great, you kinda muddy up the rest no matter how crazy or good the instrumentation is. 

You did a Tiny Desk video of “Unreal Big Fish”. Could you tell me a bit about that?

Dan- It was great! We worked with an awesome videographer friend of ours named Will Hall, (he plays in a local band called Nervous.) We tossed it together super quick in his basement and it was a blast to record.
Ant- Will’s been awesome to work with, and this one was a fully last minute idea, honestly. I’m a huge Julien Baker fan and saw she posted about the contest on a Friday, we went in and filmed this on the following Monday, uploaded and submitted it by the end of the same week. So real fast turnaround and making it was a blast. ‘UBF’ is kind of a bare bones tune for us, so it was easy to reimagine it stripped down. It felt like an obvious pick for a Tiny Desk video.

Speaking of video, that seems like it was a big focus this time around: Tiny Desk, full-band playthroughs, a new music video. Did you plan all of this from the onset? What surprised you most while working on this?
Yeah the videos and release of this record were a fully conscious effort. With social media algorithms and everyone’s attention spans fighting against you, it’s hard to get people to pay attention without sinking hundreds into paid ads. Will shot the playthroughs and TinyDesk video, and my longtime pal Kevin James did the music video for Astronaut. Our goal leading up to the record release was to post so many videos that no one following us could miss it. But in doing this, I’ve learned that creating content and running multiple social media pages is exhausting. It’s a grind and quite literally a full time job in itself. Definitely tough to do while working a 9 to 5, but the reception to everything has been overwhelmingly positive! And it’s nice to have a ton of videos to look back on.

For playthroughs – it definitely seems like something aimed at other musicians. As far as your (known) audience goes, would you say it tends to be people with some level of musical expertise? Would you ever consider releasing tabs or sheet music at some point if cost wasn’t a factor?
We definitely lean towards a “musicians band.” More often than not people want to know about our gear, or ask about our signal-chains… but we’re all that same person when it comes to music so it’s fully welcomed. And 100% yes to tabs. I’m terrified of being underprepared, so I extensively tabbed out every guitar part before we even recorded this record. These tabs are available if anyone is interested! I’ve been trying to push Dan, Derek, and Kenny to write their stuff out too but it just takes so much time.

Let’s change gears a bit. Are there any band “rituals” before/after shows or on practice days? What sort of things do you together for fun?

Dan- We’ve actually never really had any. It used to be just drinking a lot lol. But as we’re in our mid thirties now that’s gone away.
Ant- Haha, it’s now mostly just “did you remember to take your Prilosec?”

What are the local scenes like? What are some of your favorite bands you’ve played with? Any other trends you’ve noticed?
Ant- There’s always a scene for something you’ve just gotta find it. I’m fortunate enough to be near Providence, RI and the guys are near Plymouth, MA – there always tends to be something going on any night of the week. And we’ve played with SO many talented bands: Ghosts In The Snow, Parts Per Million, Toad & the Stooligans, Never Gonna Make It…

I always forget somebody but I’ve actually made an artist playlist for this. Most of our band pals are here:

Outside of music, are there any other artforms or storytelling mediums that inspire you?
Ant- We’ve got a few movie and show quotes that ended up becoming song titles on this record. A lot of the time they’re working titles but if they make one of us laugh they end up staying. Each of us are heavily inspired by movies, shows, and video games.

Releasing this album has been a huge undertaking and the effort clear shows. Beyond simply getting it out to the world, do you have any future plans, goals, or expectations you hope might follow?

Dan-  Honestly right now it’s play as much as possible. We’re just now back in gig shape and we’re ready to play whenever wherever.
Ant- We’ve done a few weekender tours, across MA/RI/CT/NY – hopeful to branch out further soon!

Any upcoming show/tour dates?

Ant- We’ve got a couple scattered dates throughout March but we’re working on a few more weekenders this summer. We’re at AS220 in Providence, RI on 3/10, we’re at Hutghi’s in Westfield, MA 3/16, we’re at the New World Tavern in Plymouth, MA 3/22 and then we’re back in Providence at The News Cafe 3/29

On that note, what is the most memorable show you’ve played?

Dan- We recently played at a pizza shop…. Not a pizza shop with a venue …. A legit pizza shop. We played next to the take out window. It ruled.

Ant- We opened for Elephant Gym at the MiddleEast in Cambridge MA on their first US headline tour, that was something- they’re insanely talented. We also opened for Thank You Scientist and In The Presence of Wolves, which was another very cool night.

Okay, lightning round:

Nintendo or Sony?

Dan– Nintendo all day baby
– Nintendo has Metroid, Pokemon, and Donkey Kong… But I’ve been on a very big Resident Evil Remake kick lately… and Playstation also has Helldivers, Demon’s Souls, and Returnal. Have to go with Sony

80s or 2010s?

Dan- 80’s without question

Ant- Gotta side with Dan here. Give me that shreddy aquanet metal and spandex

Hand-tossed or New York style?

Dan- tossed dawg
Ant- All pizza is better than no pizza- so long as it’s cut right. Get away from me with those al taglio rectangles.

Mario or Legend of Zelda?

Dan- Mario

A pill that instantly gives a full night of rest or a pill that instantly gives you all the calories and nutrients you need to survive at your current level of well-being?

Ant- Food pill all day, meal prep is the worst.

Having perfect recall but only with your eyes closed or being able to fly without being able to control which cardinal direction?
Dan- recall

Thanks again for taking some time to talk. Is there anything else you’d like to let people know?

Ant-  Word of mouth has always been huge for us, and everyone’s continued support over these years… we just want to thank everyone for sticking around, it really means everything. We’ve had such an incredibly positive reception to this new album. Also, we’ve got a ton of sketches in the works and are going back in the studio real soon. Hopeful to have a couple more releases by the end of the year.

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