Casiokids Pro/File: Square Pegs


Casiokids, pictured clockwise, from top left: Omar Johnsen, Ketil Kinden Endresen, Kjetil Bjøreid Aabø, Fredrik Øgreid Vogsborg, and Einar Olsson.

Photo: Pavla Kopecna

“It''s in the musician, not the instrument,” the old adage goes. If it weren''t for the ingenuity of artists like Trent Reznor, Autechre, and Hot Chip, the cheap Casio lap keyboard you had as a kid might still be just another throwaway children''s toy.

You can add Norway''s Casiokids (Ketil Kinden Endresen, lead vocals and keyboards; Fredrik Øgreid Vogsborg, guitar; Omar Johnsen, keyboards; Kjetil Bjøreid Aabø, bass; and Einar Olsson, drums) to this elite company. Not only do they sing in their native tongue, they also boast a small clutch of road-beaten Casios that somehow generates a bigger sound than you might expect. Throw in some Afrobeat, Jamaican dub, and ''80s dance influences, and the band''s debut on Polyvinyl, Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar (loosely translated: “great vibes in the local bar”), takes indietronic music into some rough-and-tumble new territory.

“I think we have an affection for things that go wrong,” says bassist and co-producer Aabø. “When we first started, we were using a demo version of Cubase and we didn''t care too much about getting the perfect recording. There''s also the rough sound that you get from a first take with the whole band—you can try many takes on the same vocal or Casio melody, but you don''t get the same unexpected improvisation. That''s something that we''ve learned to love.”

Instead of recording directly to Avid Pro Tools, the band plugs into a vintage Fender PA 135 tube amplifier and mikes everything—speakers, guitar amps, percussion, drum kit—with little concern for track bleed. They run each Casio keyboard through a number of guitar pedals (the Boss TR-2 Tremolo and CE-2 Chorus are the band''s favorites), and they will often supplement live drums with Roland TR-707 and TR-808 drum machines for added kick.

“There''s plenty of leakage, but I quite like that,” Aabø says. “We always try first to get the right feel and general sound of the whole song. After we''ve been banging out a lot of ideas, we go in and clean it up. What usually happens is, after a creative period, we have way too many instruments playing all kinds of melodies, and we just go through it and take out as much as we can so there won''t be too much information going at once.”

The SA-21''s harp sound drives the intro of “Verdens Største Land” (see Web Clip 1) and the main riff of “Min Siste Dag”—a sunny, head-nodding slice of pure indie pop that features lead singer Endresen''s warbly falsetto, along with a serpentine solo on the MT-100''s oboe setting to close the song. “Grønt Lys i Alle Ledd” (see Web Clip 2) surges ahead on a hyped-up beat and the MT-70''s piano and chime presets, turning gradually psychedelic as the chime refracts through onboard vibrato effects and external Boss pedals.

“We never add effects in the mix,” Aabø explains. “They''re actually recorded on the track so they can''t be removed. Personally, I''m not such a fan of keeping all options open all the time. If you just nail the whole sound when you do the recording, you get more enthusiasm out of the process and that comes through in the music. We''ve tried from the beginning to do electronic music with some degree of a live element in it. It''s a risky way to do it, but when we''re lucky, I think it works.”

Home base: Bergen, Norway
Key Software:Avid Pro Tools LE
Main Gear:Casio/Casiotone MT-70, MT-100, SA-21, and SK-1; Korg M500 Micro-Preset; Roland Juno 60