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Knuckle Puck

In this episode we speak with Knuckle Puck guitarists Nick Casasanto and Kevin Maida. The Chicago suburbanites tell the story behind their name, describe their first gig, and explain why they all get along so well. Kevin pitches the Sopranos as the greatest show ever created and Nick tells the story of a fan who turned out to be a long lost relative. Other topics include guitar strings, blink-182, and Knuckle Puck’s new album, 20/20.

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Transcript

Evan Ball:
Hello and welcome to Ernie Ball's Striking A Chord Podcast. I'm Evan Ball. Today I'll speaking with Kevin Maida and Nick Casasanto of the band Knuckle Puck. I caught up with Nick and Kevin of Knuckle Puck just prior to the release of their latest album, which is titled 2020. We discussed the choosing of their band name, how their writing process works, their band relationships and common bonds they have, such as coffee and movie quotes. We talked about The Sopranos, listening to Blink-182 as kids, some interesting encounters they've had with fans, and more. Ladies and gentlemen, Kevin Maida and Nick Casasanto.

Evan Ball:
Kevin and Nick, welcome to the podcast.

Nick Casasanto:
Thank you.

Kevin Maida:
Thanks for having us.

Evan Ball:
All right, let's go down memory lane. When and what was Knuckle Puck's first gig?

Kevin Maida:
July 2011.

Nick Casasanto:
I can't believe you remember the date. I would never remember it.

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. I don't know why I always specifically remember that it was July.

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah. It was at a bowling alley in Tinley Park, Illinois, and we actually got the name of our band because we needed a name for that show and we didn't have one.

Evan Ball:
That's good. Deadlines are good.

Nick Casasanto:
Exactly. It's what made us go with Knuckle Puck. We were throwing names back and forth and eventually John came up with Knuckle Puck and we all thought it was cool and we were like, "Why not? Let's just tell them Knuckle Puck so they have something to put on the flier."

Evan Ball:
So was the sound of the name or did it have special meaning or just rolls off the tongue nicely?

Kevin Maida:
It was neither. John saw it on the back of a T-shirt at a music fest and like Nick said we just had a show coming up and they needed a name to put on the flier. Nick, it's funny. Why did we even have a show if we didn't have a band name yet? That's something I've always thought about. Like, who agreed to have a no-named band on a show that they've never heard of? I always thought that was kind of funny in retrospect.

Nick Casasanto:
Wasn't John friends with somebody in one of the bands that was putting the show on and they needed an opening band and John was like, "I've been jamming with some guys." Isn't that how...

Kevin Maida:
Or it was Joe. Maybe Joe knew someone who was putting on the show or, again, another band that was playing or something like that. I think it was just like a leap of good faith.

Evan Ball:
Was there bowling going on at the time or was it just using the bowling alley as a venue for a show?

Kevin Maida:
It was in... You know how sometimes you go to a bowling alley and there's like a side party room if you have like a birthday party?

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Kevin Maida:
It was in one of those. So there was bowling going on. It was still fully functioning and open. It's funny. It's this bowling alley in Tinley Park, Illinois, called Centennial Lanes and we've since played... It's kind of become sort of like a local venue since. I know Dave and Kyle from the band Real Friends would book shows there and there was always local shows happening there after then, so it's kind of cool to play it when it was like, "Oh, this is kind of a weird circumstance. We're playing in a bowling alley." But then it morphed into a normal venue for local shows. Kind of cool.

Evan Ball:
That's cool. Do you have video of the first show?

Kevin Maida:
Nick's brother does.

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah. It is somewhere. I'll be interested to see what that looks like some day.

Evan Ball:
It didn't make it on the internet yet, huh?

Nick Casasanto:
No. We'll see if it ever does. He likes to break that stuff out years later as like a prank. I mean, I guess less of a prank and more of, "Hey, remember this?" And he shows you something crazy that you thought you would never see. But we definitely have it on video so maybe one day it'll hit the internet.

Evan Ball:
So keep your eyes peeled, people. All right, so Knuckle Puck. You got the name for the first gig. Is it puck like in hockey or do you guys think of Puck as the little mischievous mythical... what is it... fairy or something?

Nick Casasanto:
I'm not even aware of what that is.

Kevin Maida:
I thought it was only hockey and that was the extent of the name.

Evan Ball:
No, in ancient mythology... I don't know whose mythology... there's some character named Puck. Hockey, then. All right.

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah. Ours was [inaudible 00:04:28] hockey. Definitely a Mighty Ducks reference in one way or another, which is funny because when Kevin and I met the first time we hung out it was at his cousin's birthday party who I went to grade school with and that's how I met Kevin. At this birthday party we watched The Mighty Ducks and Knuckle Puck is the term from the movie that they say in the movie. The first time Kevin and I ever hung out we watched the movie where our band name originated from.

Evan Ball:
How funny.

Kevin Maida:
Nick, I did not know that.

Nick Casasanto:
What do you mean you didn't know that?

Kevin Maida:
I don't recall that specific detail. I didn't recall us watching that movie together. I don't doubt that it happened. I don't think you and I have ever talked it about that specifically, though.

Nick Casasanto:
I guess we didn't. I talked about it before to other people because Alex was a hockey player. A lot of those kids at that birthday party were hockey players so they kind of grew up watching The Mighty Ducks, so it was something that they always watched every year at his party. Anyway, yeah.

Evan Ball:
So you kind of alluded to this: did you guys all know each other before you were in a band together?

Kevin Maida:
Nick and I were like the only two people that actually knew each other before. Like Nick just said, he grew up with my cousins, so I've known Nick since we were kids, but in terms of everyone else we all met through mutual friends and some of us went to school together and we would always see each other around at local shows and stuff like that. That's kind of funny. Nick and I were the two people that knew each other outside of the band.

Evan Ball:
Does the band come up in high school? Or is it after high school?

Kevin Maida:
For Nick and I... So it came up for me right after I started my freshman year of college. Joe and John, they're a year younger than Nick and I, so they were still in high school. They were seniors. For them high school, but for me and Nick we were college aged.

Evan Ball:
Okay. And you guys are just outside of Chicago?

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. Southwest suburbs, generally speaking.

Evan Ball:
What's the town called?

Kevin Maida:
We're all... Nick actually grew up within the city limits but the rest of us are from the suburbs, but we're all kind of spread out within a 20, 30 minute radius of each other kind of thing.

Evan Ball:
To see shows at that point did you guys have to go into Chicago more? Or were there stuff around the suburbs?

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah, there was stuff definitely all over. A lot of shows are in the city but some of the smaller shows... like there's a venue called Mojo's that we would always go to shows at and that was out in the suburbs. Oh, and Fiesta. That was in Tinley Park, too, right Kev?

Kevin Maida:
Yeah, and Mojo's was in Orland Park, which is where I grew up. There was Mojo's, Fiesta... Fiesta was like a iteration of Mojo's, so it was like the same people who ran it. Like, smaller... Like, touring bands would always play there but the smaller scale... I remember one time we saw The Wonder Years was at Fiesta. A bunch of smaller touring bands... they were smaller at the time... would play at that venue, Mojo's. I remember seeing All Time Low there when I was in high school and I would hear about, I think, A Day to Remember used to play there way back in the day when they would first start touring. But like for bigger shows at bigger venues, yeah, we would mostly be going into the city at venues like Metro and Riviera and [Aragon 00:08:04] and stuff like that. Hustlers, too.

Evan Ball:
All right, so there's a new album coming out soon. Actually, I should say when this podcast airs your album will already be out, so we're, in a sense, living in the past here as we talk about it. 2020? Is that the title?

Kevin Maida:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Evan Ball:
I know you've released a few songs already but how many songs are on the album?

Nick Casasanto:
There's 11.

Kevin Maida:
11?

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah. I had to think about that.

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. I said 11 with a question mark. I was like, "Oh, I actually don't know."

Evan Ball:
I know you've released a few. How do you decide which songs to release before the album is out? Because there's got to be some tension between putting your best foot forward to create interest versus not showing your full hand and saving certain songs for the actual release.

Nick Casasanto:
Right. I feel like we just kind of all give our opinion about what should come out first. Our manager and Lisa from Rise will give their input as well. From there we see what songs have the most, quote unquote, votes, but I do remember for this record... For our previous records we were all usually on the same page, like, "This one definitely we'll put out first and then this one." With this record I feel like everybody had different choices of what the first single should be, particularly the first one, but after that one we decided on a few more that would come out. We knew that we want Earthquake to come out in the summertime because it's a feel good song. We wanted people to listen to it in good weather, so we knew that. But other than that, yeah, I guess we just kind of would say what we think that it is and whichever had the most feedback that's the one that we went with.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Is there a balance between how much you release in advance?

Kevin Maida:
I guess because of COVID, Nick, I feel we've released way more singles than we normally would have for a normal rollout. How many singles are out right now? Like four?

Nick Casasanto:
I think there's five. I'm pretty sure we have five singles out right now, which is definitely more than we usually would have put out.

Kevin Maida:
But I think we kind of compensated for that because we're like, "I mean, the release of this album is delayed now so might as well just keep putting new songs out. What's the harm in that?"

Evan Ball:
Okay. So it would've been out earlier, right?

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. It would've been out in May. Like, May 20-something, so right at the beginning of summer. For our other records I don't think we ever really premeditated the release date in terms of the kind of songs we wrote and the kinds of songs we included on the recording roster, but like Nick was saying, with our single Earthquake that, to us, was like a quintessential feel good summer song and we kind of approached the album like that because we knew it would be like a fresh summer release. It's funny that the first time we actually premeditated the release of the album it just kind of didn't happen. It got pushed back a couple months, but it's okay. I think the feeling is still there.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, like you said, you were able to put certain songs out and control the rollout.

Kevin Maida:
Right.

Nick Casasanto:
In May there would've been like probably only three singles.

Evan Ball:
So for this album did the stage in your career or vibe or context around creating this album differ from previous albums in any noticeable ways?

Nick Casasanto:
Well, I guess one big difference is I had moved out to Los Angeles a couple years ago pretty much right as we started writing the record, because I remember the first song that was written for the record was Breathe and we had started working on that before I moved out here. Then I moved out here in September of 2018 and the big difference in working on this record was that obviously I wasn't with the guys for the majority of the time, but I would fly to Chicago at least once a month whenever we were off from touring to work on songs for the record. Like, Joe and Kevin and John would meet up and write songs at Joe's house and then I would work on stuff on my own in Los Angeles and then when I would come to Chicago or before a tour or whatever we would work on stuff together at that point.

Nick Casasanto:
So that was, I guess, the biggest difference in working on this record, I think. But even then I feel like even that was pretty similar to how we would write our past material because generally how we work as a band is it's like somebody comes up with a riff and brings it to the rest of the guys and then we finish it from there. It was pretty much the same here. If I worked on a song at home in Los Angeles I would record it, send it to the guys, and then the next time I saw them we would flesh it out and finish it together. Even though I wasn't really there we still kind of wrote the same. I guess that was the biggest difference.

Evan Ball:
Okay. The rest of you guys, are you all in the Chicago area?

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. I mean, John and I live in the city and Joe and Ryan live in the suburbs, but it's all generally the Chicagoland area. Still pretty close to each other, reasonably speaking.

Evan Ball:
Nick, what prompted your move out to LA?

Nick Casasanto:
My wife got moved... She got offered to move within her company that she works for and it's not like had a 9:00 to 5:00 where I had to be anywhere specific, so we just kind of decided to go for it and see what it's like living out here. She no longer works for that company any more. She moved to a different one since. But we've been out here for the last couple years and it's going pretty well. I've been enjoying a change of scenery and the weather's also a big plus as well. But I do miss Chicago, though. I miss Chicago very much. I really miss the seasons. It's very different out here. I do really enjoy whenever I get to go back to Chicago, which I'm actually going to Chicago tomorrow to practice with the guys and play. We're playing a live show with Audiotree. They're going to be streaming a show. We're setting up and playing in Lincoln Hall, a venue in Chicago. They're going to mic everything up and film it and it's going to be a livestreamed show for the release of 2020.

Evan Ball:
So how much will you guys practice together before that happens?

Kevin Maida:
So far it's just been the four of us getting together but that's only been weekly, like once a week and kind of like dusting the cobwebs. But now that Nick is coming to town I bet we'll practice a whole lot more. I don't know. Nick, what do you think? We have to talk about that.

Nick Casasanto:
Let's figure this out right now. I would imagine that I get into town tomorrow. The show's in a week. We'll probably practice just about every day, if not every other day, for sure.

Evan Ball:
Do you guys have a room somewhere or someone's house?

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah, we have a-

Kevin Maida:
We have a practice space.

Evan Ball:
You mentioned how you guys generally write songs. Does Joe, your singer, weigh in on the music side, like the instrument non-singing side? Or would he come in after you guys have a song fleshed out and add his vocals?

Kevin Maida:
He writes a lot of guitar as well and will record guitar as well, so he's very much well versed in that sector of writing as well: like, the instruments.

Nick Casasanto:
He definitely contributes to all of the music as well.

Evan Ball:
Are the vocals normally the last layer? Or sometimes are they written and presented together with music as a song idea?

Nick Casasanto:
They're usually the last thing that is written. Joe and myself do the vocal writing. So generally we'll write a song, we'll have the instrumental, and then we'll put the vocals on top of that, but for 2020 a lot of the songs... I would say at least half of the songs... I had written the vocals alongside the music while the music was being written. That's something that I've been trying to improve on, is having an idea for the vocal while the song is being written so it can kind of guide and make a lot of the decisions for the music. So for this record, like I said, a lot of the vocals were sort of baked into the songs already, which is really cool. I think that's a really positive thing to do when you're writing.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. So Nick, when you and Joe are both singing on a song do you collaborate on lyrics? Or would it be more likely one person would write it and then split up who sings what?

Nick Casasanto:
It's kind of both. Generally if Joe came up with... If Joe or Kevin got together and they demoed out a song Joe will come up lyrics and I'll help. On this record, Tune You Out, Joe and Kevin met up and wrote that song and sent it to me and immediately I was hearing all these really cool melodies so I went and I threw vocals on top of that. It's kind of different depending on the song. Sometimes Joe will have an idea for a song or a melody for a song that I really can't... like, I'm lacking inspiration on, I can't really hear a melody for, and vice-versa. For this record and, I guess, for our records in the past it's just kind of once the instrumental is written anything that either of us hear we just kind of sent it to the other and hope that the ideas are bounced off of each other and develop from there.

Evan Ball:
How does Knuckle Puck get along as a band?

Kevin Maida:
I'd say pretty well. We've had other people tell us who've been around us, they're like, "You guys seem like you're all friends. It doesn't seem phony or forced." I mean, all bias aside, I've even noticed that objectively as well. Sometimes you're just around bands and you can kind of tell, "You guys aren't really friends first." No judgment. There's nothing wrong with that and not like that needs to be a requirement to be in a band, but it does make me appreciate that more when I know that even we weren't playing music together, going on tour, recording, or doing any of this we'd still probably all be hanging out with each other, and that makes me feel good.

Evan Ball:
What kind of common interests do you guys have? And also, what would you fight about if you were going to have a band fight?

Nick Casasanto:
That's a good question.

Kevin Maida:
Common interests, I'd say it seems to me at this point we're all pretty into coffee. We just did a coffee collaboration with Metro Coffee, which is a coffee [inaudible 00:19:07] based out of Chicago. When we were posed with that idea we were all super into it. And what would we fight about?

Nick Casasanto:
We would fight about the accuracy of movie quotes that we were quoting.

Kevin Maida:
Yes, good point. We're all pretty big quoters, as I'm sure a lot of friend groups are.

Evan Ball:
Then again we're getting back into common interests it sounds like.

Kevin Maida:
That's a good point. Movie quotes, that's another common interest I suppose.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. I'd think when your lives are so intertwined you must develop common interests, beliefs, sense of humor. It just is probably going to happen naturally.

Nick Casasanto:
Definitely. I think Ryan, our bassist, has had a huge impact on our collective sense of humor. He's just such a funny guy, man. He is always just saying outlandish things and quoting funny things and doing impressions and it just rubs off on everybody. The things that he says become common things that we say as a band and become our inside jokes and yeah. I guess a lot of our interests are movies, music... Like Kevin said, we all really like coffee. Joe and I really like weed, not just smoking it but from...

Evan Ball:
Studying it and knowing about it.

Nick Casasanto:
Exactly. So yeah, there's a lot of stuff that we connect on as band members and as friends. Like Kevin and I really like gear and we talk about amps and pedals and stuff like that. What else, Kev?

Kevin Maida:
John and I like film photography. We all like cookie butter. That's a pretty big... That's a base layer. I think Nick would agree.

Nick Casasanto:
Are you a crunchy or creamy cookie butter guy, Kev?

Kevin Maida:
Crunchy, and I recently... Nick, I have not bought a jar of cookie butter in actual years, but I just bought one the other week and I was just eating it the other night.

Nick Casasanto:
You're lying. You're lying because I also haven't had cookie butter or bought one in well over a year and I just bought one a week or two ago from Trader Joe's.

Kevin Maida:
No way. You got the good stuff. Do you know why I bought it, Nick? I sent you a video of it. I got it because I was at Jewel and I saw... Jewel sometimes will market things as vegan and it's hilarious. They'll have a little sign that says vegan with a plant leaf next to it and I saw the tag first that said vegan and I looked up and it was a jar of cookie butter. I was like, "All right, I'm just going to grab that."

Nick Casasanto:
And also, one more thing is like when we first started the band and we were practicing before we even knew it was going to be a serious thing we would jam for a bit and then when we were done we would just watch YouTube videos of people we thought were funny, like Kyle Mooney. He's now on Saturday Night Live, but back then he just had a YouTube channel where he would go to conventions and stuff and interview people and be really awkward: basically just make people feel really awkward. We'd just watch YouTube videos like that and just laugh and then go to Taco Bell. That's kind of band started, is we would jam, goof off, watch YouTube videos, and just hang out.

Kevin Maida:
Even now when we jam... I mean, even last week when it was just the four of us, Nick... a lot of it is still just us shooting the breeze and just talking. It's probably equal parts, like 50% jamming and actually diligently practicing and then the other 50% is like, "Dude, have you guys seen this video?" It's the same kind of dichotomy as it was when you and I were 18, which is kind of refreshing to think about it in that sense. I think it helps everything feel still like you're just a young kid playing this kind of music and you don't really care whether it succeeds or not.

Evan Ball:
Strong relationships, strong bonds, built on multilayered foundation it sounds like.

Kevin Maida:
Such as YouTube.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, you guys are good to go. All right, we got a lightning round here. If you could tour with any band or artist, past or present, who would it be?

Nick Casasanto:
Kev, what do you think? I know what you're going to say, but go ahead.

Kevin Maida:
Oh, I said Storyline.

Nick Casasanto:
Oh really?

Kevin Maida:
What'd you think I was going to say?

Nick Casasanto:
I thought you were going to say Blink-182.

Kevin Maida:
Oh, well...

Nick Casasanto:
Not the current lineup.

Kevin Maida:
I guess Blink, yeah. I don't know. Storyline was the first one that came to my mind. I don't know. I was thinking, "How realistic is it that we toured Blink?" I was like...

Nick Casasanto:
He said past or present so you could say Led Zeppelin.

Kevin Maida:
That's a good point. Look at me putting realistic structures on a purely fantastical scenario. I would have to say Blink for sure, then. Blink or Storyline.

Evan Ball:
All right.

Nick Casasanto:
Man, honestly I would probably say Blink just because it makes too much sense in every sense, but for the sake of having a unique answer from Kev I feel like it would be really cool to tour with Third Eye Blind as well. I really like that band and I feel like they play some pretty massive shows.

Evan Ball:
Interesting. And back to Blink. It sounds like they're a big influence.

Kevin Maida:
Maybe not so specifically with Knuckle Puck when we first started but individually in our lives like a million percent, at least I can speak for Nick and I and Joe and Ryan as well. I don't think John was traditionally a huge Blink guy but generally speaking I think he likes them. But yeah, for Nick and I, huge influence.

Evan Ball:
Okay. I'm trying to think. I don't know how old you guys are, actually.

Kevin Maida:
I'm 28.

Nick Casasanto:
I'm 28 as well. We're all 27 and 28, except for our bassist, Ryan, who is 24, 25. He's going to be 25 in June.

Evan Ball:
Okay. I'm trying to think back. Ernie Ball, we first did the Warp Tour I went on... it was '97 and Blink was on there, so I feel like that was kind of the beginning of them breaking through to bigger audiences. I'm guessing you guys were pretty young then when you first got into Blink?

Nick Casasanto:
Definitely.

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. I mean, I was 11 when I was getting into them. I'm not sure how old you were, Nick.

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah, it was probably around then. I remember I was always into music but music wasn't always my thing, if that makes sense, until... I think I was probably 11 or 12 when my older brother bought me the Take Off Your Pants and Jacket CD.

Kevin Maida:
Nice, me too.

Nick Casasanto:
I would just listen to it over and over in my little portable CD player and I would fall asleep listening to it. I think that was the first band and the first record where I was like, "Wow, I really like this music. I'm interested. I want to do this." Definitely very influential band for me for sure.

Evan Ball:
All right, touring. What's the idea set length?

Nick Casasanto:
25 minutes.

Kevin Maida:
Regardless, I would say 20, 25 minutes. Not that there's anything wrong with playing for 45 minutes to an hour but it's kind of hard trying to maintain that same level of enthusiasm over that period of time.

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Bust out a nice potent set and then enjoy yourself.

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. That's why I like playing Warped was fun. I mean, like any tour is fun but that's what, I guess, made Warped special and stand out was that it was only 25, 30 minute sets and you only had time to play so many songs. I don't know, it just kind of makes it more special.

Evan Ball:
And then there's so much going on when you're not playing that you can go and see.

Kevin Maida:
Definitely. Sometimes when you're up there for an hour I start to internalize certain feelings and I'm like, "Oh god, everyone in the crowd must be bored," or, "They must want to go home and get back to their lives." I don't know. Which I'm sure if you really felt like that in the audience you would just leave, but as long as people are still there I don't think it's really an issue. I don't know. Sometimes you just start to think like that, especially when you play for like an hour for a month, for four to five weeks, on a headliner tour. You just start to think of different things.

Nick Casasanto:
Eventually you reach a point where you're like, "What am I eating later?"

Kevin Maida:
"Did I eat dinner yet?"

Nick Casasanto:
"I wonder what they're going to have at catering."

Evan Ball:
Okay, 25 minutes is safer.

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah. I actually really like a direct support set, so like 40 to 45 minutes. I think that's great because it allows you to play maybe a couple deep cuts and play for a bit longer and you don't have to play for like an hour and a half. I would say 40 minutes is ideal for me.

Kevin Maida:
For sure. I agree.

Evan Ball:
Favorite way to pass your time on tour?

Kevin Maida:
Reading and watching The Sopranos on my phone.

Evan Ball:
Like watching it over or you're going through it for the first time?

Kevin Maida:
I'm watching it over. I've been watching it over and over for the last six years.

Evan Ball:
Okay.

Nick Casasanto:
How many times have you re-watched it now, Kev? What's your number?

Kevin Maida:
It's hard to say because I never... It's very seldom do I start from episode one and then watch it through the end of season six. It's always like, "I feel like watching this very particular episode from season four," and that's really it. Or I'll think, "I really like this one scene in season three. I'll watch that episode," and then finish the series from in the middle of season three. I do weird stuff like that all the time with it just because I'm so familiar with it at this point where I don't need the entire context. I just know what it is. I can just drop myself in the middle of any season and just already be comfortable, which maybe is a good thing or a bad thing. I'm not sure yet.

Nick Casasanto:
Evan, have you ever watched The Sopranos?

Evan Ball:
Actually I have not and I'm kind of embarrassed to say that. I've seen random episodes long ago but that doesn't really count. I guess I'm always looking for new shows to watch but I know it's good so I don't know why I haven't. I need to do that.

Nick Casasanto:
I just watched it for the first time during quarantine. I feel like I finally had an enormous amount of time in every day where I wasn't doing anything that I was like, "Let's watch The Sopranos." I think there was a couple days, actually, as well where I watched over eight episodes in a day.

Kevin Maida:
Dude, that rocks. I love that. Since March, throughout quarantine, I have never had so many people say to me, "I'm starting The Sopranos today." So many of my friends that haven't watched it before, but it's just because everyone has the time to, and it is a real commitment of a show. It's essentially seven seasons.

Evan Ball:
And I think that's probably why I haven't. It feels like such a big endeavor to start, and there's always new stuff coming out, but I am one who likes seasons over movies because I like to be engaged and know the characters and stick with it.

Kevin Maida:
It's very daunting, and I even feel like that about any new show I start now. But usually what I tell people is, "Try not to think of the whole series and just watch it one episode at a time. You can stop whenever you want," sort of thing.

Evan Ball:
All right. It's on my list.

Kevin Maida:
But it's cool. It's a pretty good show. I liked it a lot.

Nick Casasanto:
It's all right.

Evan Ball:
All right. Do you have a strangest fan encounter?

Kevin Maida:
Oh, a plethora.

Nick Casasanto:
Are any coming to your mind, Kev, off the top of your head?

Kevin Maida:
None of the ones I'm thinking of are inappropriate at all. They're very peachy friendly. I just...

Evan Ball:
Are there two lists?

Kevin Maida:
Not even that. It's just I don't want to tell a story and have that person hear it and then be like, "Oh no, that was about me." Just like funny interactions and stories when you don't have enough money to get a hotel and you stay at a random person's house for the night. Stuff like that. I just wouldn't want to embarrass any one even if they...

Evan Ball:
Nick, you want to embarrass anyone?

Nick Casasanto:
Always. No, I'm trying to think of something.

Kevin Maida:
I'll give a little snippet. One time we were staying at this kid's house and I remember we walked into his house and I thought this was so funny. We were walking up the staircase to sleep in a guest bedroom and the kid's dad grabbed the house phone, like the house line... it was wireless... but he grabbed it and said, "Do you guys need a phone?" and handed it to me. I just thought that was so funny because this wasn't like years ago. It was in 2014 but we all had iPhones. I just thought it was funny he offered the house phone to us. I always remember that. I'm not sure if you remember that, Nick, but I remember distinctly because he handed to me, like in my direction, and it felt like the responsibility was just thrown on me to tell him no, that we all had phones of our own.

Evan Ball:
It's a nice offering.

Kevin Maida:
Yeah.

Nick Casasanto:
I think I got one. The first year we played Warped Tour we were doing a meet and greet and this kid walks up to us and he says, "Nick, we're related! You're my cousin and I can..." And I remember being like, "What do you mean?" Quick backstory. My last name is really crazy. Basically nobody has the same last name as me. It's kind of just my family in Chicago and then there's maybe like one other pod of people with my last name on the east coast.

Evan Ball:
Casasanto.

Nick Casasanto:
Casasanto, yes. I tried googling it and seeing if we have family elsewhere in the States, which we really don't. So it was weird to me that this kid was coming up to me being like, "We're related." Obviously the first thing I'm going to think is, "Okay, sure. I don't believe you." But he was very persistent about it and obviously he showed me his idea. I was like, "Wow, we do have the same last name. How did you learn that?" He said, "I was always a fan of your band but I had no idea you were in it or that we had the same last name." He said that he was on our Wikipedia page one day and just randomly saw the band members section and saw that someone in the band had his same last name. He came to the meet and greet and he was like, "I have our family tree. I can prove it! We're related!"

Nick Casasanto:
His name is Angelo and ever since then every time we roll through Philadelphia, the Boston area, he comes out to shows. He's a nice kid and it was a funny thing to realize that you're related to one of your fans and it was something that we didn't know, or he didn't know, before he started listening to us.

Evan Ball:
That's a good one. So it's true. You guys actually are related somehow.

Nick Casasanto:
It is true.

Kevin Maida:
What would that make you guys, Nick? Like...

Nick Casasanto:
I really have no idea.

Evan Ball:
All right, next question. If you were a professional athlete what sport would you want it to be in?

Kevin Maida:
Volleyball.

Evan Ball:
Was that volleyball?

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. I used to play volleyball in high school and I'm not really physically or athletically inclined but I really enjoyed it when I played it and I would actually feel competitive about it, so I guess if I had to pick a sport I would probably pick volleyball. Yeah.

Nick Casasanto:
It's interesting because I would pick skateboarding because I am terrible at it. I'm not good at it in any way, shape, or form but if I could pick one I would for sure love to skateboard professionally. I think that'd be so cool. I always skated growing up, or tried to skate growing up, but just was... It just wasn't my thing. Now I'm too scared to skateboard because if I hurt myself that wouldn't be good for me.

Evan Ball:
Yeah, not good for a guitar player.

Nick Casasanto:
I don't know if you want to tell your story, Kev, about skateboarding.

Kevin Maida:
I grew up skateboarding and I fell out of it for a while. Then... What year is it? 2020. Three years ago, like summer of 2017, I got really back into it and I started doing it like almost every day. It was so much fun. But then in mid August of that year I fell and broke my elbow. I had a hard cast on for a couple weeks and then I had a moveable cast on. It looks like a robot arm. But for one of our music videos I had to wear a long sleeve shirt because I was still in a hard cast and looks like a... I'm going to sound really dumb here. What is the bone doctor called? What is the formal name for someone who works on bones? It starts with an O.

Evan Ball:
Osteo-something?

Nick Casasanto:
Yeah. That's definitely osteo-something.

Kevin Maida:
That person. When I was about to get my hard cast on... You know when you have a cast on your arm the back of your hand is facing up. Your palm is down when it's positioned like that. The reason for that is it's way more comfortable. But I was telling him, "Yeah man, I play in a band and we have these shows coming up and music videos and stuff like that. I'm kind of tweaking out about it." He's like, "Okay, we'll actually face your palm now in the cast so when you get out of the cast it'll make it that much easier to adjust back to playing guitar."

Evan Ball:
Wait, so it's your left hand then? Your fretting hand?

Kevin Maida:
It was my fret hand, yeah. It was helpful because for the music video I could still fake like I was still playing guitar even though I had a cast on my hand that wrapped around my palm.

Evan Ball:
What video is it?

Kevin Maida:
It's the video for Double Helix and it's funny because the whole concept of the video is it's a camera moving around us constantly, so you could see the cast sticking out of my sleeve, the long sleeve I was wearing, but I was able to get by and pretend like I was playing. I was not playing. I couldn't even press my fingers down on the fret board or on the strings, but it looked good enough I thought.

Evan Ball:
All right, I think we're just about there. Let's go one more. What are your favorite guitar strings?

Kevin Maida:
Come on.

Nick Casasanto:
Come on, there's only one answer to that. There's only one answer in the world to that question.

Evan Ball:
There we go.

Kevin Maida:
Ernie and Cobalt [Beefy Slinkies 00:38:14].

Nick Casasanto:
Sorry, what did you say, Kev?

Kevin Maida:
Ernie and Cobalt Beefy Slinkies.

Evan Ball:
Cobalt Beefy Slinkies. Nice. Okay.

Kevin Maida:
Which sounds like... Nick, I was just talking to my dad the other night about the strings we use and I was thinking about it and it sounds like an aggressive gauge to use. It's like a really thick gauge and it's also Cobalt. When I was saying that out loud to my dad I was like, "Maybe this sounds unnecessary to play it," but then any time I'm playing them they just feel right and I think they sound good, too.

Nick Casasanto:
I agree. I've tried going down in gauge. I've tried using letter gauge and I don't know. I just think I'm so used to it that I can't go back.

Kevin Maida:
And maybe in the past when I was younger I would try a different brand and I'm like, "These aren't the same. I don't enjoy these the same way." I remember when I first started playing guitar when I was like 12 or something. I think my dad was like, "When you're at school... Your guitar sounds like it needs new strings. I'll go out and put some new strings on there for you." He put on, I think, just a pack of regular Slinkies and I remember playing it and then being like, "Wow, this sounds seriously incredible. And it's not like I was playing well. I was 12. I would go to school and then just think about the sound all day and I would come home and I remember coming home and not even playing my guitar but just flicking the strings with my finger and just hearing the richness and vibrancy of it all. I was just like, "Whoa. This is..."

Evan Ball:
I like that. That's great.

Kevin Maida:
Yeah. I had that really odd anecdote about when I first started playing Ernie Balls.

Evan Ball:
We'll take it. I like it.

Kevin Maida:
And then it was even cooler getting the pack of strings and then scanning the back of the list of bands that use it and it's like all the bands I liked, like Blink-182 and No Effects and all those bands.

Evan Ball:
Yeah.

Nick Casasanto:
Definitely. My Ernie Ball anecdote is when I first started playing guitar I think that... My older brother gave me a guitar and he had a couple extra packs of strings and I think they were like [inaudible 00:40:34] or something like that. I just remember not really liking them so I went to Guitar Center to get new strings one day when I needed them and I remember asking the guy, "This is my first time buying guitar strings." I remember asking the guy behind the counter... because you go to Guitar Center and there's an entire wall of strings.

Evan Ball:
Right. And it keeps growing.

Nick Casasanto:
Exactly. I just remember looking at it being like, "I don't know what to buy." I remember asking the sales guy at the counter there and being like, "Hey, what strings should I get?" He just grabs a pack of Ernie Ball, like the regular Slinkies, and he just throws them on the counter and he goes, "There. Right there. That's all you need." I just remember flipping it over, like Kevin, seeing all the bands in the back. I think I saw Blink-182 or Green Day and then I just like, "Okay, that's it," and I never used any other...

Kevin Maida:
Those were the two bands I listened to exclusively so that's good enough for me.

Evan Ball:
All right, anything you want to let the people know before we sign off?

Kevin Maida:
New album, 2020, comes out September 18 and we're playing a livestreamed show via Audiotree that same day.

Evan Ball:
Can't really plan much more at this point, can you?

Kevin Maida:
No man. It's been kind of fun having something tangible to actually anticipate and like, "On this date we're doing something. We're doing this. We're doing it all together." It's a show, which feels good. We'll see what happens after that. Hopefully we could do something else like that again but for now I'm very grateful just to have this one day, this one opportunity, to do something like that.

Evan Ball:
All right. Nick and Kevin, thanks for being on the podcast.

Kevin Maida:
Thank you for having us.

Nick Casasanto:
Thanks for having us, yep.

Evan Ball:
Thanks again for listening to Ernie Ball's Striking A Chord Podcast. Go check out Knuckle Puck's new album, 2020, if you have not already. If you'd like to contact us please email us at strikingachord@ernieball.com.

Evan Ball:
That's so funny that we've had like 30 episodes. The last three interviews I've done we've talked about skateboarding and it hasn't come up previously.

Nick Casasanto:
Really?

Evan Ball:
Yeah. Weird little trend.

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