Ahead of its official release on Friday, today we have the pleasure in sharing an exclusive first listen to Beggar's Pitch, the long-awaited debut album from the Rochester-formed, Brooklyn-based math-rock trio Free Casino. Alongside the premiere, we caught up with the band to dig into the unnerved and disorientating eight tracks that make up Beggar's Pitch.
Beggar's Pitch, the first full-length album by Free Casino, is the culmination of a two-year journey that finds the trio of Jake Denning, Marc Gabriel, and Sean Saville disposing of all musical inhibitions. Released on the Brooklyn-based label Sad Cactus Records, the debut LP picks up directly where the band left off on 2021's EP Our Casino — quite literally too with the spidery guitar lines on opener "Queen Anne's Revenge" picking up on a fade-in from the previous EP's epic closer "No Solar Farm on Sacred Land." Across the new album, the trio fully explores the abrasive and complex stylings they've been wishing to further embrace over the last couple years — these songs are heavily informed by things the band was listening to at the time from the angular, playfulness of '90s alternative to the jagged fringes of contemporary post-punk. As a whole, the record is full of dazzling math-rock workmanship that also maintains a pop sensibility underneath all the maze-like riffing and quiet-to-loud rhythmic swells, turning songs of technical wizardry into something you can hum along to. A fine example of this is on "Source (I Made it Up)" where the serpentine guitar patterns interlock with Gabriel's punchy bassline spasms amidst the chaos. The lyrics also speaks to the emotional range in the group's writing. Denning and Saville trade roles as absurdist narrators, existing at an ironic distance from their caricatures. Wavering from disaffected, to contrition, to plain boredom, the stories told through these lyrics carry a rhythm of their own that also shows a sense of maturity within the group. The voice of Free Casino on Beggar's Pitch can never be taken so seriously, but the trio's crafty ambitions should be. To help us get to know the new record a little better, we caught up with the trio to dig into the unnerved and disorientating eight tracks that make up Beggar's Pitch.
"Queen Anne's Revenge"
Free Casino: The first track picks up on a fade-in from where our last EP Our Casino left off. "No Solar Farm on Sacred Land" blends right into this. This track and the last one on Beggar's Pitch are sorta an expansion of our sound especially from the previous EP. The first track being a version of what we were doing on the last EP but heavier, and the last track being a similar sound, but much more somber. Heavily inspired by the sound of "classic" math rock bands like Don Caballero, Breadwinner, Piglet, Rumah Sakit, OXES, Turing Machine, etc. Fun easter egg — the scream that happens right before the last chorus is Marc. Man, the pipes on that guy.
FC: This one was almost entirely written by Jake. A lazy '90s-inspired angular pop track. The song describes a cast of characters caught in their vices, with loose themes of addiction and finding a sense of belonging. The refrain, "we have no time for you," is meant to be interpretable, as either from the narrator's perspective or the characters themselves being caught up in their own world. Marc and Jake had a spat in the studio about a foot race they had in Burlington, VT, which was recorded and placed in the middle of the song. They are good friends despite this.
FC: A fast post-punk inspired track with some tongue-in-cheek lyrics that play on themes of feeling disconnected . This song felt like a real experiment to see how catchy we could make something while still injecting some of the more complicated rhythmic stuff from the previous EP. In a lot of ways, that was one of the goals of this album: to take what we did on the last project while adding some more pop sensibility. This is also one of the tracks from the album that we've been playing the longest, one of the earlier ones from this batch of songs.
"Source (I Made it Up)"
FC: Definitely our heaviest song bar-none. Also extremely sarcastic and goofy, not meant to be taken too seriously. We have loose plans of trying to go this heavy again within our next batch of songs, it was a lot of fun to write and rehearse this one. Having wide dynamic contrasts like in this song has always been a fun part of the writing process for this band. The song was performed as an instrumental at shows for a long time, with lyrics being rewritten by Jake in the studio. Sean belts the dissonant "chorus" with Jake. It's unhinged, but hopefully it's mostly just fun.
FC: This instrumental started while Sean was trying to write "Coward Stern 2" — it turned into this thing that was a bit easier to write lyrics for. Eventually, after jamming, the breakdown part came together and Marc's bass part had this "regal" feel to it. Hence the inspiration for the name. Lyrically, Jake depicts mafioso-esque characters in New York City that are trying to sell the listener on more than they actually have. A semi-sarcastic depiction of city life as well as life as a musician/artist. Someone is always trying to rip you off.
"Slam Dunk Highlights"
FC: This originally started as a much faster — much more mathematical song that got slowed down over time. You almost wouldn't recognize it from the original recording — there was a pretty intense breakdown that happened at one point too. After it got smoothed out it became much more conventional in song structure, and lyrically carries similar themes from the rest of the album. Or maybe we're just big fans of Michael Jordan.
FC: Another mathy post-punk track that was written by Sean for the most part. Trying out a softer spoken word style on the verses, then being joined by Jake's harmonies on the chorus. This song has a lot of drive to it that eventually explodes and turns into a frantic saxophone solo (provided by Jon Weisbrot of Jon and the Projectors). Lyrically, this song is a self-criticism written from the perspective of a narrator that is observing himself as a "fly on the wall." It's equal parts mocking as it is existential. A musical representation of the ups and downs that come with being overly self-aware.
FC: A somber closing track inspired by older math rock, slowcore, and post-rock. Bands like Slint, Duster, toe, and Bedhead come to mind after the fact, but didn't strictly inform the process. This is actually the oldest track on the album and exists from a previous recording session back in 2021. We recorded this at Mirror Records underneath the House of Guitars in Rochester. The rest of the album was recorded at 5950 Studios in Ridgewood, Queens. Sean was messing around with a lot of different tunings towards the end of quarantine and that's most likely where this one came from. In the studio, Jake came through with two crazy guitar solo takes at the end and we decided to just keep both of them going at the same time. We wanted our album to fade out just the same way as the last EP did, but this time on a more introspective note.
Beggar's Pitch is out April 14th on Sad Cactus Records.