“They Ain’t Ready”
For five years, Jeff & Tripp of Cassio Monroe have made people dance, but they’re only just getting started.
When I spoke to Tripp and Jeff before they went on stage at 3rd & Lindsley on Friday, November 4th, they were both visibly exhausted… but the moment they stepped up to the microphones, their energy became infectious. They were in their element, doing exactly what they wanted to be doing — having fun and causing people to dance in the process.
The last time I had seen these guys, they were performing at Soulshine Pizza, still known as Gimm+Icky, and they had just been signed by Island Records. Since then, they have changed their name to Cassio Monroe, toured with The Wanted, and released their first EP, First Aid. Watching their performance at 3rd & Lindsley a week ago, I couldn’t stop smiling — and their energy and joy at being on stage together was so bright that I literally could not stay in my seat.
After a while of listening and dancing to their following act, Tim Akers & the Smoking Section, Jeff and Tripp invited me backstage, eager to catch up.
“It’s been four years since I first met and interviewed you two, and a lot has changed -”
“Yes! I believe — was the show called Pajama Jam?” Tripp asks.
“No, it was Balls and Sweaters.” I say.
“Yes! Same year, in December!”
Jeff holds up a finger and says, “Okay, I just want to say, my sweater was on point. It had balls on it!”
“You were best dressed because you had that headdress thing, too.” Tripp says seriously.
After more reminiscing of that night, I ask, “How do you think that you and your music have changed over the years, or have you?” It’s instantly obvious that this is something they’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately as they attempt to laugh it off.
“Five!” Jeff yells.
“Twelve…” Tripp replies, laughing.
Jeff takes a breath and leans forward. “When you talk about how music evolves and changes and all these things… it’s really a complex question, especially because we’re coming off of Island… and with First Aid that just came out, we wrote a lot of these songs while we were working with Island. So a lot of the collection of the music on that were really collaborations between me and you over the last year. The evolution of our music is truly shown in what we’re working on right now, because we really wanted to take First Aid and hit the reset button. The music we’re working on now, we’re super passionate about it, about these songs.”
Tripp nods along and adds, “The EP we just released was a reset button. That’s the best phrase for it. It’s all this material we’ve had that we believe in, that we know is valuable and works - and we’ve had no avenues for it, so WE released it. The stuff we’re working on now is a lot more raw, and more real, and more honest music. It won’t be out there for a few more months, but we took a turn a few months ago.”
“We have a little twist on this album that’s coming, and I think that people are going to be very, very…” Jeff searches for a word, then says, “I’m curious to see the response on what we’re doing.”
“That’s in the spring, and we won’t talk about it until it’s out,” Tripp says.
“You guys aren’t with Island anymore?” I ask.
“We’re not with Island, but we still have an enormous amount of respect for them.” Jeff says.
Agreeing, Tripp explains, “We had an opportunity to leave amicably, and we took it. That was it.”
“We love First Aid. First Aid is the songs that we believed in so much that we fought to have them released — and we won. Now we’re doing what we as two individuals believe in, which is different than the collective.” — Tripp Weir
The last time I saw you guys, you were still Gimm+Icky. What prompted the name change?”
“A lot of different moving pieces, I think. It was one of those decisions that we both felt… if outside forces feel passionately about this, then we’re willing to do whatever in order to keep making music. That type of thing.”
Jeff nods in agreement. “And honestly, when we started this band, we had no idea that it would be like this. It was just something fun that we wanted to do. We liked gimmicky pop music, so we named the band Gimm and Icky. As it progressed, people wanted us to take it more seriously. We didn’t want to take it more seriously, but we respected their opinions, and I think we were ready to come up with a name that felt like what the band had grown to at that point — that would represent the band beyond.”
“We just wanted to play shows from time to time and goof off. That was the whole idea,” Tripp says. “Gimm and Icky the name kind of put us in a box, whether we agreed with that or not. It was just something we ran into a lot, and we didn’t want to be in that box.”
“Gimm and Icky may not be gone forever — but we can’t get too deep into it.”
Eventually, I bring First Aid back into the conversation. “I listened to your EP on Spotify and loved it. If each of you could use any song to describe your feelings over the release of your EP, what song would you choose and why?”
There’s a long pause, until eventually Jeff throws out, “It’s Raining Men.”
Tripp punches the air. “That is so good!”
“The lyrical content isn’t relevant or anything, but the feeling of the song is very representative of how I feel,” Jeff interjects. “So I’m just going with ‘It’s Raining Men’ and obviously we would be the men, and we’re making it rain.”
“Yes! Absolutely!” Tripp says, “I think I would go with ‘Ironic’ by Alanis Morissette. It has nothing to do with the EP — I just find it funny that it took this long to release those songs.”
“Right now, we’re taking it back to just Cassio Monroe. Those are the people in the room, those are the people who create the song, those are the people who are going to present anything to anybody, and only when we’re happy with it. Especially with this album, we’re trying to create it from us out, rather than spreading out.” — Jeff Garrison
It is very clear that these guys feel as if they are finally where they want to be with their music, and they are excited. Tripp points out, “We’re creating our new album, just us two and a guitar and some drum loops, and we’re happy with it. We’re back in Nashville, our first reporter is interviewing us again… it’s like we’ve come full circle.”
Setting aside the serious tone, I ask, “If you two were to have a movie made about you in the future, who would you pick to play each other?”
“I get to pick who plays him, and he gets to pick who plays me?” I nod, and Tripp begins pacing thoughtfully.
“I’ve already got it.” Jeff says, “Andrew Garfield.”
“That’s great, actually.” Tripp says, continuing to pace thoughtfully. Jeff is beginning to look nervous.
“Just say Brad Pitt — but from Troy! We look the same in that movie. Or Fight Club! Brad Pitt in Fight Club… those abs are poppin’.”
“I actually have it.”
“Don’t say Jim Gaffigan.”
“No… Bradley Cooper.” Tripp says, adding, “But he has to wear a wig!”
“Wow, I’m giving a Bradley Cooper vibe right now?” Jeff looks surprised. “I’ve got some serious mad respect for you right now, man, I’ve never gotten Bradley Cooper.”
“I think he would nail your whole vibe.”
“I’m very flattered. I mean, I’m crazy as shit, so I guess maybe he’s got a little crazy in him as well?”
“I was at a coffee shop with my wife a couple years ago, and we were babysitting some kids… I bought all this stuff, and the barista says — verbatim! — ‘For Spider Man, it’s free.’ So I go, ‘Uh huh,’ and scoop up the cups and back away.” — Tripp
Sitting there in the sleepy, muted atmosphere back stage at 3rd & Lindsley, I laugh and appreciate the energy that their bromance always brings.
“Andrew Garfield and Bradley Cooper as Cassio Monroe.” Jeff says, grinning. “And I’ve got the title, too… They Ain’t Ready.”
We all laugh and agree, and then Tripp says, “And the sequel is…