MANILA -- Filipino-American indie rock legends Versus, out of New York City, have created a buzz with the release of a new extended play album and full length album -- "Ex Nihilo" and "Ex Voto," respectively -- over the past few months after keeping quiet for almost a decade.
Also making some noise in the American music scene is Fil-Am drummer Chris Icasiano who is the man behind the beat of indie pop legends Pure Bathing Culture.
Portland-based Pure Bathing Culture made a splash in 2013 with their album, "Moon Tides," that was a rich meld of indie and dream pop with the single, “Pendulum,” making many a year-end best-of list.
Icasiano, a veteran of many a Pacific Northwest band, recently joined the band that has also gained traction with the release of their new album, "Night Pass," along with vocalist Sarah Vesprille’s occasional side gigs with Midwest legends, American Football.
We spoke to Icasiano as Pure Bathing Culture took a break from touring (their next show is on October 2) in support of indie pop band Generationals that released a new album. The drummer talked about playing with his new band, releasing a solo album in 2020, and serving Filipino food for the rest of his bandmates.
“I was born in Redmond, Washington and lived in the Seattle area all his life,” bared Icasiano. “As far back as he can remember, I was always into music. I grew up in the '90s, so some of my main musical influences come from the R&B and hip-hop of that era as I was really into artists like Boyz II Men, TLC, Lauryn Hill, Jodeci, etc.”
“My parents are also big music enthusiasts, and at a young age they exposed me to bands like Earth, Wind & Fire, Chicago, The Beatles, and James Taylor. My mom is also a pianist, so I grew up listening to her practice piano late at night. In fact, she even released two records of her own that are both New Age solo piano music.”
Icasiano learned to play the drums at eight years of age and what followed was a life-long love affair with the instrument.
“I was always really interested in jazz and quickly discovered some of the classic albums like 'Kind of Blue' by Miles Davis, and 'Blue Trane' by John Coltrane. I was hooked and made the decision to pursue music at the University of Washington in Seattle. This is probably the time in my life when drummers influenced me the most because I was digging deep into the history and continuing legacy of jazz. My favorites being Jack DeJohnette, Jimmy Cobb, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams. Later in my education, I started listening to more experimental music and free-jazz and discovered the modern jazz greats like Rashied Ali, Brian Blade, Bill Stewart, Ted Poor, and Jim Black. I basically try to sound like an amalgamation of all these folks.”
PRE-PURE BATHING CULTURE
Prior to hooking up with Pure Bathing Culture, Icasiano played with jazz duo, Bad Luck, alongside his University of Washington classmate, saxophonist Neil Welch. “The band is a drum and saxophone duo with amplified effects. It comes directly out of our jazz influence, but also contains elements of all the other musical genres that we love. It's great because we can play in jazz clubs, and we can also play house shows with punk and hardcore bands.”
Speaking of rock bands, Icasiano also plays the drums for Ings, a band he describes as playing “lullaby rock” with an album coming out this November.
“My first solo project called 'Provinces' will be coming out in February 2020,” revealed Icasiano. “It's more of an experimental album that deals with themes of discovering and connecting with cultural identity. This is a very important project for me because this is my first venture as a solo artist and it is deeply tied to my experience as a Filipino-American.”
And Icasiano takes every occasion to cook for his bandmates. “I cook for them every chance I got,” he revealed.
“I first met Sarah and Dan of Pure Bathing Culture back in 2013,” shared Chris of his first meeting with the band.” I was playing drums in a band called Poor Moon, and our two bands went on tour together down the West Coast. We got along really well and became and remained good friends ever since. We always talked about playing together, and I even subbed on a couple shows shortly after that, but never anything regular.”
Fast forward to 2017, Icasiano received a call from Vesprille and Dan Hindman. “The band was in transition. They had left their record label and Brian Wright, the original drummer, left the band to pursue some other life things. They asked me to play, and I basically said, ‘It's about time! I've been waiting for you to ask me to play with PBC for years!’ It was a bit of a slow start because the band was in between records and things seemed to be in flux and uncertain for the time being. Fortunately, Sarah and Dan work tirelessly and we toured off and on for about a year and a half. Then, they were finally able to release their latest record 'Night Pass' in April 2019, and we were on the road for much of the spring.”
“It's been a really fun band to be a part of. Everyone is so talented and has very distinct artistic vision and voice. I think we are all able to bring a lot of our own personality to the live performance, while staying true to the recording and arrangement. Everyone in the band truly shreds and it's really fun an inspiring to be a part of. Plus, we all get along really well. It's a very familial feeling I get when we're on the road. And we laugh a lot.”