As their European tour takes a stop at Cyprus Avenue on August 18th, Lars Frederiksen of the Old Firm Casuals, among many other bands, talks with Mike McGrath-Bryan about life, music and staying true to your roots.
With a sound firmly rooted in the Oi! school of streetwise, no-nonsense, football-terrace punk rock, California’s The Old Firm Casuals came together in 2010, and the band prodigiously released splits and singles almost immediately, until finally releasing their debut LP in 2014. Vocalist and guitarist Lars Frederiksen, he of Rancid and The Bastards infamy, discusses in laid-back fashion what fuelled an early rush of output such as this: “I think we love the music we make. When you play with a bunch of people you like, that helps as well in my opinion. For me, personally, I’m lucky to be in a band like the Casuals. Everyone gets along and respects each other. As far as how I manage it all? Lots of coffee.”
This year has seen the release of extended-play ‘A Butcher’s Banquet’, getting a positive reception both among the band’s faithful and in the wider sphere. Frederiksen is forthcoming about the process of creation and recording. “At first we were gonna make a full length record. We all wanted some new songs out before our upcoming tour over there. With everyone’s work schedule and such, we felt it might be a little rushed to get another thirteen-, fourteen-song record out there. Time constraints and financial constraints sorta forced it to become an E.P. We pay for all the recordings ourselves, so it would have been a stretch. Also, you never wanna rush music. The seven songs on there were tracks that were realized already. ‘Butchers’ was a track I’ve had in the basement since (former solo project) the Bastards. I knew I could never sing it and play the riff so the Bastards never did it. Also, there was no lyrics back then anyway. I gave it to (UK punk legends) the Anti-Nowhere League, but they never recorded it. Those guys probably would have knocked it outta the park, I’m pretty sure. I knew Casey would kill the lead vocal, and he did. I’m really proud of it. I think we made a great E.P.”
Frederiksen wears his influences on his sleeve, but what of a song’s themes and lyrics, writing/rewriting riffs, etc? “Sometimes I get an idea for some lyrics, and just write them down. Mostly it’s something I’ve experienced personally, but I like riffs to begin a song. Most of the time, the lyrics come second. I love guitar players like Steve Whale of the Business, Tommi Tox from Stomper 98, Jake Burns, Phil Campbell & Fast Eddie to mention a few ’cause their guitar playing and songwriting is incredible to me. I’ve had a chance to write with a few of the guys I mentioned, and I’ve learned an incredible amount of things from them.”
The band is, as mentioned, of a decidedly old-school slant, a reflection of Frederiksen’s life, times and identity as a human being. It’s true to his own personal vision, and is the realisation of some long-held personal goals. “This band is what I always wanted the Bastards to be. That first Bastards record is a straight up, unapologetic Oi! record. That’s what I set out to make, and I did it back in 2001. The second record had a life of its own, and went in a different direction which I didn’t really have my heart into, so the band went into hiatus after a year of touring. It’s no secret I grew up on Oi! music and was exposed to the great Oi! bands in the very early ’80’s. It’s my life and my culture. Always was, and always will be. I’m still a working-class/working-poor guy no matter the success or failure I’ve had in my life. No one can ever take that away from me. Some try, but I’m still here. All of us in the Casuals had the same upbringings so the music is a reflection of that.”
Lars Frederiksen is no stranger to Cork by any stretch, having played Bradley’s in 2014 in an intimate show promoted by local collective Rebel County Drunk Punx. What are his memories of the show? “I loved it! We had a blast, and the place was mental. We did have to adjust a few things to make a stage, but the chicken balls and chips with curry sauce made it a complete night. The Jollars tore the roof off the place, and treated us very, very well. They made us feel at home. That’s a show I will never forget.”
Whereas Rancid’s overall aesthetic is very much a product of the band’s time, place and experience, the Casuals have tied in with UK soccer culture to an extent, with the Millwall lions appearing spraypainted on Frederiksen’s guitar. Naturally, the conversation turns to the beautiful game. “I love the game of football. I have since I was three years old living in Denmark. My grandfather (RIP) was the one who exposed myself and my older brother Robert (RIP) to the game. He was a goalkeeper for the town team, among others, before WWII. I don’t think he played much after the war, as my mom and the rest of the family were lucky enough to survive. I try to get to at least one Millwall game a year home or away. I’ve been lucky to get to five to ten at some points. I think when you’re from actual Viking decent, it’s in your blood (laughs).”
On the topic of sports, Frederiksen is a good personal friend of former pro wrestler and upcoming UFC debutant CM Punk. The two crossed paths on many occasions, with Frederiksen even appearing on Punk’s WWE documentary ‘Best in the World’.“Yeah, he’s my buddy. Met him when the Bastards came thru Philly years ago. We clicked. He was still on the indie circuit at the time, busting his balls to make it. I’m proud of him. I like to see my friends become successful with their dreams, or goals. If you’re from a place like where I come from, you root for guys like that. I’m lucky to have him as a friend. As far as his jump to UFC, I got his back. Like I said, if my friends have goals or dreams they wanna realize, I support them all the way.”
A full year awaits Frederiksen after the upcoming European leg of the Casuals’ tour. “Currently as I answer these questions, I’m in Germany, and Lars from Stomper is driving me to the airport. I’ll be making the new Stomper 98 record with the guys in November which we just got done demoing. As far as the Casuals, we’ll be going to make a new record in the fall as well. More shows with the Casuals, I think. Playing a few shows with Oxley’s Midnight Runners. Rancid will have new music soon. Taking the kids to school, etc. I don’t know, just the usual shit. Look forward to seeing everyone in Cork soon.”
The Old Firm Casuals play Cyprus Avenue on August 18th,. The Hacklers, the Jollars, and the Audible Joes are all in support, and tickets are on sale from eventbrite and The Old Oak.