Castanets lore says bandleader Ray Raposa tested out of high school when he was a kid and spent the next few years roaming America on a Greyhound bus. You know, he saw the country, slept on floors, really cut his teeth. True or not (it is ... sort of), the 26-year-old singer and guitarist certainly has a tough time planting any roots. But while sticking around a city for a while (or hanging on to band members for much longer) might be difficult for Raposa, he stands firm on his music.
Castanets pits country-learned verse-chorus directness against the intimidating improvisation and academic display of free jazz. The influences he confesses are somewhat predictable: Hank Williams, George Jones, Bad Company, Man Is The Bastard, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp. He recorded heady improv jams under the name Womb a few years back, but he grew up on Tammy Wynette records.
The difference is Raposa keeps a reverent distance from jazz. ("That's work. That's putting ultimate stock in every moment. That's absolute being.") But with country music, he gets downright sentimental: "You drive all night, you put on a Merle Haggard tape. You do wrong by your lady, you put on a George Jones tape. You get to the bar you love, you play 'I Love this Bar' on the jukebox. What do you need? It's there for you."
Since country's so utilitarian for Raposa, he must cherish the genre's iconic drifter, right? At least that's what "Three Months Paid," a cut from Castanet's latest, In the Vines, might suggest. "Cherish wouldn't be the word. I was born into it," explains Raposa. "Lived in Lord knows how many states before I could even speak. I'm stuck, bound. I got fucked by Desolation Angels and back issues of Cometbus."
The first song Castanets ever covered was Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man" in a bar in Olympia, Wash. "Bad omen," he says. "Ask some of my exes how they feel about it."
Castanets play Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Nightlight with Deer Tick, Barghest (former Castanet Jesse Ainslie) and Extraordinaries. Tickets for the 9:30 p.m. show are $6.