When a Band Name Melts Your Mind: New Jersey’s Deal Casino
Everyone has those things from their childhood that mean something to them which feel much more personal than they really are. Maybe it’s the hill you used to ride your bike up and down with reckless abandon. Maybe it’s the English teacher you had who was different than all the other teachers. Or maybe it’s the television crush you had that you just believed one day you’d meet in person.
Then one day something happens that tells your nostalgic memory something that your rational brain probably (hopefully) knew all along – that thing that was unique to you really isn’t all that unique. A random way you might find this out is if a local band names themselves after that thing that’s yours. One day you wake up and there’s a band from your old neighborhood called Postman’s Hill, or Mr. Mandel, or Topanga. And you wonder to yourself – how could they take something that was yours and use it as if they owned it? After all, you don’t even know them. It shouldn’t feel that strange, and yet it does.
There’s a good chance this hasn’t happened to you. Perhaps you still own all of your childhood memories. You haven’t been forced to share them with anyone else, let alone the world at large. But yesterday it happened to me. While looking at the twitter feed for a band I just learned about – Toronto’s The Box Tiger (more on them some other time) – I noticed a mention of another new band with the twitter handle @DealCasinoNJ. Now, I suppose that for 99.9% of you the band name Deal Casino – hailing from New Jersey – means absolutely nothing. As it should. But there may be one other person out there who right now is as stunned as I was at this time yesterday.
Deal is a small town on the Jersey shore, with a population of just 750 people. If that’s not sad enough, it’s a somewhat dying town – a decade before its population was just over 1000. The Deal Casino is the beach club open to residents of Deal in the summertime, and is the place where I spent all of my summers growing up. Obviously I wasn’t the only one there – every one of the town’s 1000 residents seemed to be a member – but as the years passed and I got further and further away from Deal, the Casino (as we called it) felt like a part of my own history.
So what can I tell you about Deal Casino the band? For one thing, they aren’t from Deal. In fact, they’re from a town called Sparta, which is so far away that I don’t even know where it is. (OK, I looked it up – Spartais in Sussex County (not where Deal is) and is a town of nearly 20,000 people.) They are an indie band formed less than a year ago, with a kind of mainstream radio sound that is mostly inoffensive but nothing for me to get excited about. In other words they’re pretty good, just not my sound. Think late career Soul Asylum or similar soft guitar band out of the late ’90s. A more modern comparison might be Atlas Genius. Under “Influences” they say “Everything influences creation.” That’s beautiful in a fortune cookie sort of way. And they like to play The Saint, a small club that has been around for a while in Deal-neighboring Asbury Park. Personally, I’d like my music with a little more edge. (My favorite song is their roughest – “One More Day”, the first track off of their first EP, Cocaine Love.) I wish their music sounded a little more like their t-shirts look. But for a night out and some live music on the Jersey shore, I suppose you could do a lot worse. But don’t take my word for it, their two EPs are available for free on their bandcamp.