Tunes: Guerilla Toss

Famous for their energetic live performances, experimental punk noise band Guerilla Toss is comprised of members Kassie Carlson, Arian Shafiee, Peter Negroponte, Phil Racz and Sam Lisabeth. Originally hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, the band has recently moved to New York City.

photo credit: Walter Wlodarczyk, 2015

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am Kassie, the singer of Guerilla Toss. We’ve been a band for I think 3 1/2 years now and have stuffed a lot into that time. We have been through a couple line up changes in the past year but I feel like right now, this is the crew. With Phil Racz on bass and Sam Lisabeth on Keyboards, it feels right. Peter Negroponte (drummer) and Arian Shafiee (guitarist) are my best friends always and the core members of Gtoss. Peter works his ass off for the band doing tons of stuff behind the scenes. Arian is always there to be our lifesaver/rock/desert island/advice guy and of course shredding always.

In April we went on a month long tour down the East Coast. It was great to spend a bunch of dates in Florida and also rage at Austin Psych Fest. Some of my favorite dates on that tour were Austin, Richmond, Miami and Gainsville just to name a few.

A lot of exciting things are happening for us in the next few months. We are releasing a full length album and EP on DFA records. The record itself was written in a cabin in upstate NY that we basically locked ourselves in for a month. With three feet of snow on the ground and only a small town close by, we spent a lot of time making music, sometimes eight hours a day!

Currently we are working on a new NEW album for DFA that we want to record by the fall.

How has living in your current city affected your music? Recently the band has moved from Boston to New York City. NYC is awesome and there are things to see and do every night of the week. We have a lot of friends there from playing shows and stuff which is nice because we didn’t just move and start over. Boston was really great to us though and I love spending time there still. Our fan base there is really awesome and interesting and great dancers. I grew up in Cape Cod, MA but moved to Boston for college. There, I became sort of immersed in music and art. I lived at a show house called Gay Gardens that changed my perception on everything, mostly music. When it got shut down, people found a bunch of new venues to play at and encouraged new people to get involved, expanding the possibilities and acting as a new but different incubator for what we had lost. Most importantly I think was the support of the bands we played with over the years in Boston. Everyone sort of feeding off of each other and building new ideas—giving each other pats on the back and stuff like that.

What kinds of things are influencing your music right now? Definitely seeing new music and art thats really raw. Being in NYC has really opened my eyes to new types of genres. Also, touring, we get to see and talk to all different types of people. Most of the stuff I write comes from watching peoples reactions to stuff, emotional and physical movements, colors and intention. I also read a lot of books and magazines.

Where do you plan on visiting next? Hopefully we will be able to tour California soon. It would also be great to tour South America.

Favorite dessert? Ice Cream and Donuts.

What was your first paying job? My first paying job was when I was 15. I packaged seaweed mixed with cayenne pepper and black pepper for this spice company on Cape Cod. Then, I worked at a shoe store for a few years that my Big Brother from Big Brothers, Big Sisters owned. He was kind of like an uncle to me that taught me all sorts of things growing up. He also gave me my first computer.

How did your interest in music begin? I started playing violin and singing at the age of five, but didn’t really start recording any of my own music until 2010. I met the people of Gtoss at a show we were both playing together. I was really excited to challenge myself and do something different. I guess Gtoss started off as a No-Wave, Jazz influenced band, but it has sort of morphed into more than that. Although there are still elements of these genres, I feel like we are moving more towards a dance/funk vibe. I really like all of it and am excited to keep on going.

What other musicians are you interested in right now? There is one show I am particularly excited about at Boston’s Middle East Restaurant on July 20th with (New England) Patriots, Toupee, What Cheer? Brigade and Guerilla Toss. It might be one of the wildest shows we have played in a while. All the bands we are playing with have this sort of contagious energy and mood that’s specific to this species of band.

(New England) Patriots are made up of a group of friends I have been very close to for a long time. Colby Nathan is the front man of the band and probably one of my biggest inspirations for getting up and getting involved in the band Guerilla Toss. The band is the three piece, made up of noisy, techy guitar, drums and Colby on electronics and vocals. It is super weird, unlike anything I have ever seen, and will floor anyone who sees them perform for the first time.

Even though it’s something you have to see to really experience.

Toupee is another group of our friends. Native to Chicago, these spooky spiritual noise rock people are the realest, most down to earth people ever. My favorite song by them is “Cranial Walker.” It resembles a drone-like hypnotism where repetitive words and rhythms morph to take on new meaning as the song goes on. The whole album is really great though, even down to the paper sleeve. Whitney is doing a new project I think now called Columba Sasiciaga and I really can’t wait to see that. If there were ever a perfect pairing of sonic theatrics, it would be between Toupee and (New England) Patriots.

Check it out.

What Cheer? Brigade is an odd ball group of musicians from all different backgrounds based out of Providence, RI. I saw them a few years ago at a festival that happens every year in Boston called HONK! Fest. It is an event where odds and ends community brass bands meet and take over the streets, walking from Somerville, MA to Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. These brass bands can have anywhere between 6 and 20 members at a time. Usually during HONK! Fest there are so many people you can’t even bike through Harvard Square.

What’s your absolute favorite place in the world to be? My favorite city in the U.S. might be Chicago. Every time we play there with Gtoss it’s a rager and people really dance like crazy. There are also these huge thrift stores there that you can find all kinds of interesting stuff at. I also really love California. You can drive two hours outside of LA and there is always something super beautiful to see. It is also sunny pretty much all the time there.

My favorite place outside of the US is Portugal. Everything there is built with so much care. The streets are all made with these tiny square bricks and the buildings are all covered with porcelain tiles that are all hand painted. The food is really good too.

Do you have any guilty pleasures? Tell us about one. We are a really big donut band but these days we have been trying to take it easy.  This past tour Sam found out about Cracker Barrel Restaurant and he really hasn’t been the same since, but I guess when you find something you like, you stick with it. In the same light, he wants to “let it be known that there is no guilt in love for CB, but instead, guilt for not loving it enough.”