Posts Tagged ‘Neal Casal’

‘Interludes: The Complete Set-Break Recordings’ presents the nearly five hours of music recorded for the intermission at Levi’s Stadium and Soldier Field in 2015. These sessions represent the birth of Circles Around the Sun and would ultimately become the band’s debut album, ‘Interludes for the Dead.’ The collection includes never before released tracks, previously unheard music, alternate and extended mixes and studio banter. Available now on Bandcamp, the collection includes never before released tracks,
Released June 26th, 2020
The Band:
Neal Casal – Guitar
Dan Horne – Bass
Mark Levy – Drums
Adam MacDougall – KeysRecorded April 27/28 2015 in Ventura, California

Track By Track: Circles Around The Sun’s Final Studio Album with Neal Casal

“Trying to finish this record was really hard because Neal passed away as we were about to go into the overdub stage,” keyboardist Adam MacDougall explains, as he describes the push to complete Circles Around the Sun’s third full-length studio album.

The project originated in 2015 when director Justin Kreutzmann asked guitarist Neal Casal to create some original music for the films slated to screen at setbreak during Fare Thee Well. Casal then enlisted MacDougall, bassist Dan Horne and drummer Mark Levy for what they all believed would be a one-off session. However, the response was so overwhelming—and the musicians’ camaraderie was so resonant—that they decided to revisit the collaboration, first on the road and then in the studio.

Circles Around the Sun could have ended following Casal’s tragic death this past August, but, in a note he left behind, the guitarist encouraged his bandmates to continue. MacDougall reveals, “It was a very long letter—a half-an-hour read. This was not something he scribbled down at the last minute, which makes it really heavy. He touched on every person in his life, every piece of gear. So this is something he was revising and working on for a long time. The perspective is deep.”

The week before Casal took his own life, Circles had tracked the tunes that would eventually end up on their self-titled album at Jim Scott’s PLYRZ Studios in Valencia, Calif. The guitarist laid out specific plans for these recordings in his final message.

“There’s a whole paragraph on how he wanted us to finish this record and have Jim Scott mix it,” MacDougall discloses. “He said, ‘I want it to come out, and I want you guys to keep playing.’ It was the whole stupid thing where people get stuck thinking, ‘I’m the problem. You guys would be better without me,’ which is just ridiculous.”

After much contemplation, the band elected to honour Casal’s memory by both completing the album and returning to the road, with Eric Krasno and then Scott Metzger assuming guitar duties.

As for the album, beyond Casal’s entreaty, MacDougall credits Scott for helping the band bring it on home. “It was really hard for me to put this record down,” the keyboard player acknowledges. “If it wasn’t for Jim saying, ‘Here are the dates that I’m going to mix the record, and it has to be finished by then or I’m going to pull you out by your hands,’ I probably would still be working on it. I just couldn’t let it go because of the Neal thing. Nothing was good enough. I was trying to make everything perfect and overthinking everything, and I had to get out of that headspace. Jim was really cool about it but said, ‘It’s done. I’m going to mix this record. You guys did great. Let it go.’”


Babyman is a cat who lives in a studio in Detroit. Almost a year ago, we had a couple of days off in Detroit during a tour, and Dan had a buddy who had a really cool studio, so we thought, “Rather than sit around, why don’t we just go into the studio?” We had a couple of ideas that we’d been running at soundcheck, and “Babyman” was one of them. At first it was just some chords that I had, but Neal came up with the verse guitar bits and Dan came up with an epic bass line. We also thought it would be cool to use a drum machine and make it a disco-ish song. It quickly became the first of the new songs that we started playing live.

One great thing about instrumental songs is that, because they have no lyrics, you can name them anything you want. So, yes, there was this fat studio cat whose name was Babyman. We just thought, “Perfect.”

You Gotta Start Somewhere

We did some demos at Dan’s studio out here in Echo Park and continued on with the drum-machine thing. We didn’t necessarily think it was going to be for CATS. Dan and I are neighbors—I mean, in Los Angeles, we’re neighbors. I’m 10 minutes away from him. He has this really cool, old Sequential Circuits drum machine at the studio. I was like, “What if I come to your studio, bring my gear, use that drum machine and try and make some weird, electro-funk stuff.”

We recorded a version of this song and then, because we were starting to get ready for the album, Neal came down from Ventura. He heard what we had done and said, “Wow, that’s cool. We could turn that into one of our tunes.” So he played guitar on the demo. And it ended up being a song we recorded for this album, although the initial intent was just for me and Dan to mess around and make some electrofunk music for fun.

Leaving (Rogue Lemon)

As far as writing goes, that was a stand-alone for me. I was dealing with an emotional relationship at the time and feeling very sad about something. I just sat at the piano and this one came out fully born. I sat down and played it, then recorded it on my phone and went, “OK, that’s done.” For me, at least, that’s a rare thing. I know there are people out there who can instantly write a fully formed song, but I usually slave away on something and come back to it. An idea might sit there for weeks or months, until I hear a melody in the shower that works with it. But “Leaving” just happened. That one wrote itself.

I wasn’t sure if it would be appropriate for the band but, during our second to last day at Jim’s, I said, “Look, I’ve got this piece. I don’t know if it’s appropriate for us or not, but here it is.” And it turned out to be totally appropriate, and I’m glad we did it.

I should point out that Jim is amazing. Instead of saying, “Do this or don’t do that,” he would have me come into the control room and he’d say, “Listen to this, man. What do you think?” And then I’d come to my own conclusions. He leads you in the right direction, but he sets it up in such a way that you think it’s your idea. And that is the sign of a true, amazing producer and engineer. You don’t feel like someone’s on your case or saying that you’re not playing well. You don’t think that you’re doing the wrong thing. You go back into the live room to recut the track going, “Man, I’ve figured it out. I know what I have to do.”

He really understands what it means to make music and how people can get stuck in their heads or in a bad place. He’s really aware of that at all times, even if it doesn’t ever really seem like it. He seems lik

he’s your favorite uncle, but he’s always thinking one step ahead. That’s the best way to work with weird, sensitive musician types who can be complete idiots.

Detroit Dos

This was a soundcheck piece. Last summer, we started messing around with it in Asheville, N.C. It was one of those times when we wondered if we could really pull it off because it was pretty much straight disco. We also recorded it in Detroit—that’s how we came up with the name.

We wanted some rave-ups and that was a rave-up, just like “Babyman” and “Money’s No Option.” So that was us going, “Alright, we’re going to do this. We’re going to go full four-on-the floor disco.” Dan is great at doing that late-‘70s disco octave bass stuff, but he doesn’t do a lot of it because there’s not much of a call for it. So we decided to go for broke on this song and make it into a full dance thing because we need those types of tunes in our set.

We have all these gorgeous, dirge-y midtempo things, so it was cool to just blast off on the disco train for a bit, and then come back to the mid-tempo stuff. It gives us more ammunition to make a cool set.

Landline Memories

The title for this song was given to us by a guy named Ben Knight, who plays in a band called Beachwood Sparks. He’s also a schoolteacher and just a really rad dude. He was good friends with Neal [who also played in Beachwood Sparks] and had been around the Chris Robinson Brotherhood scene for a while. He just said, “Landline Memories.” Neal and I were like, “Whoa, that’s a great title.” I’m in my mid-40s and Neal was 50 when he died, and we would often look back at the days of answering machines and phones—when you still could escape the world for a bit.

You weren’t tied to your cellphone and if somebody wanted to meet you somewhere, you’d get a message saying, “We’ll be in the Lower East Side tonight. See you there.” There were no specifics. Without any technology, except for your answering machine, you would just end up meeting up with your buddy. That was a really beautiful time. You could float a bit and still find the people you wanted to hang out with. If you didn’t, you didn’t. And if you did, you did. But the only way to know if somebody was trying to get in touch with you, unless you had a pager, was your answering machine and your landline.

That title just nailed it. It wasn’t even a song at that point; it was just a phrase. A “landline memory” is what it was like before we were all stuck to our personal computers. Now, everybody is expected to let everybody else know where they are and what they’re doing. This song is not necessarily about that, but it seemed like there was something in the tune that evoked that idea—the choruses are joyful and the verses are kind of mournful.

Pete Jive

One time we were on tour and had an opener that was touring with us. I forget where we were, but the venue didn’t pay attention to the fact that we had an opener, so they hired one to play with us. When we drove up to this gig, the marquee read “Circles Around the Sun with Pete Jive.” And we were like, “Who is Pete Jive?” Then he showed up in his van, with his stuff, and was like, “I’m playing with you guys.” And we had to go, “I’m really sorry. It’s a snafu. You’re not opening because we have an opener.” I hung out with him a bit, smoothed it out and that name just stuck with us.

The song sounds a bit like go-go music. When I was coming up in New York, gogo bands used to play all the time. Chuck Brown would play at this place called Tramps that doesn’t exist anymore. I love that go-go feel. It’s over-swung to the point where it’s almost silly.

“Pete Jive” began with a little riff that we came up with at soundcheck. Then, when Dan and I were messing around in his studio with different drum machines and other stuff, he came up with that drum beat. The song actually [features] Dan playing pedal steel on it, which is cool. It’s a fun romp and the name just fit.

Money’s No Option

I love Stuff—Steve Gadd, Richard Tee, Chris Parker, Eric Gale, Cornell Dupree and Gordon Edwards. Their first record, with the Looney Tunes logo on it, is a big one for me. And I love the fact that they were a bunch of top session guys that kept ending up at the same sessions and finally said, “Let’s just get together and play.” So they ended up being a cool instrumental band, though they hadn’t intended to be. Obviously, I’m not in the same category as Steve Gadd or Richard Tee or any of those cats—none of us are. But it felt similar to the gradual way that we came about. There was no real intent to be a band. It just happened. We enjoyed playing with each other so much that we said, “We can’t stop doing this.” So that felt similar to us and I completely ripped off Stuff for this song. [Laughs.]

The title is just stupid because the thing that people actually say is that “money’s no object.” I got that wrong once at a dinner. Dan has a band called Grateful Shred, who I play with sometimes. We were at the end of a tour, driving back to LA, and stopped at a nice restaurant that had one of those $125 seafood towers. I looked at the menu and said, “Money’s no option. Let’s go.” I said it wrong and it was hilarious. After that, we just ran with the theme forever because it sounds like you’re saying “money’s no object.” So the person you’re talking to might think, “Oh, cool, they have the bread.” But, actually, you have no money. So that became the schtick. We’d be like, “Another round of martinis—money’s no option.

The song is a sunset for Neal. It felt like the perfect last song on the record, given what had happened, because it’s pretty much just a guitar solo from start to finish. It felt like a good way to drive off into the sunset.

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The Circles Around the Sun “Meets Joe Russo” EP has officially been released, marking the band’s final complete release with founding guitarist Neal Casal (Casal did, however, contribute to an unfinished album arriving in 2020.)

The EP clocks in at four tracks, and according to a recent interview with keyboardist Adam MacDougall, Circles Around the Sun recorded it in March 2019 in New York. “We didn’t really have much prepped,” he said “We had two days in Brooklyn, and it was awesome. Russo is incredible. He was a kick-starter for us. He has ideas and knows how to make something happen.  If we were sitting scratching our heads, he was ready to go in the room and start playing something.  He was a catalyst for creativity.”

MacDougall later added, “The EP is a very special moment in time.  Having Russo in the room made everyone play in a certain character.  Everyone put on a different hat for those two days. I really like it. It’s very free.”

Russo joined Circles Around The Sun for a late-night jam at the LOCKN’ festival in August, in a performance that would sadly be known as Casal’s final time onstage with The Circles Around the Sun. (In the time since, the late-night Garcia’s Forest stage at LOCKN’ has been renamed Neal’s Stage at Garcia’s Forest.)

In the time since Casal’s passing, Eric Krasno has taken on the mantle of lead guitar in Circles Around the Sun. He made his debut with the band at the “There’s A Reward” Casal tribute at the Capitol Theatre, and he will continue perform with them through their fall tour.

Circles Around The Sun Meets Joe Russo –  EP, out October. 18th

Led by the indefatigable Brent Rademaker (Beachwood Sparks, the Tyde) the band’s sound on its third album is more or less a swirling stew of cosmic American country in the style of Gram Parsons, a kind of happy-go-lucky, Beach Boys-esque sunshiny pop and a rather careful Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers-influenced rock. – WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The real success of GospelbeacH’s music is the effortless way that they combine different styles and influences within their classic Southern Californian sound. – FEAR AND LOATHING

The joy that emanates from each of these songs, is a beautiful thing to behold, and digs deep into the now quaint aspects of peace and love. For matters of the heart, smoke deep, dig it deep, and turn on. – ECHOES AND DUST

This album has layers. Taking Neal Casal out of it for the moment, Rademaker and songwriting partner Trevor Beld-Jiminez have brought GospelbeacH to a unique place with this latest effort – all three studio releases have three dramatically different, but complementary soundscapes. “Pacific Surf Line” has a heavy Crosby/McGuinn/Hillman Laurel Canyon vibe, 2017’s “Another Summer of Love” brings out more of the Tom Petty influences, especially with the Benmont Tench-like wizardry of keyboardist Jonny Niemann, and title track “Let It Burn” is something else. It’s somewhere between Bob Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks” and Tom Petty’s very underrated “Echo.” – TAHOE ON STAGE

Let It Burn” is GospelbeacH’s exquisite follow up to “Another Summer Of Love” and the third proper studio album by the famous Los Angeles rock combo. The band’s prestigious collective resume includes members of Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Beachwood Sparks, Circles Around The Sun, The Tyde, and Hard Working Americans.

There’s probably no sweeter SoCal sound circa 2019 than this band. – BLURT MAGAZINE

Its mood is a winning blend of downbeat and defiant, in a way a reflection or snapshot of modern America itself. – HARMONIC DISTORTION

This record’s a real peach of an album, but one that is tempered by the tragic loss of guitarist/ vocalist Neal Casal. – TERRASCOPE

There’s probably no sweeter SoCal sound circa 2019 than this band as the title track from their upcoming album, “Let It Burn,”  It should come as no surprise that GospelbeacH sound is favorite for us, their 2017 offering wound up on many of our contributors’ best-of releases for that year, “The band’s debut album, 2015’s Pacific Surf Line, wasn’t shy about its Cali worship; two of GospelbeacH founder Brent Rademaker’s other groups, psychedelic warriors The Tyde and mystic Americana wranglers Beachwood Sparks, have shared similar sentiments.

We don’t like to disappoint, (the feckless leaders in D.C. have that role handled) so here’s a first listen of the song “Let It Burn,” the title track off the band’s soon to be released new LP. The song boasts a cameo by the brilliant, late Neal Casal who passed away just weeks ago.

“Let It Burn’ became a secret little mantra in my head while dealing with some heavy changes in my life, mainly loss. Letting go wasn’t good enough I had to burn those negative feelings before they killed me,” said singer-songwriter-guitarist Brent Rademaker. “Trevor [Beld Jimenez] and I came up with some verses to my open C-minor tuning and we cut it live with a cool flat dry 1970s production by Jonny Niemann. The great Nelson Bragg orchestrated the perfect So-Cal harmonies.

“Little did I know I would need to call on that mantra again, when just months after finishing the album we would lose our dear brother Neal Casal. Neal’s otherworldly guitar playing weaves this whole song perfectly together and the outro solo that closes the whole album says more to me than any lyric we could’ve written. Neal made GospelbeacH legit, when we told him we were making a “rock” record he just shook his hand and shushed me up, plugged in and played his guitar…no second takes, he just let it burn.”

Band Members
Brent Rademaker, Jon Neiman, Jason Soda, Neal Casal, Will Scott Ben Redell, Derek Brown w/ a cast of friends
GospelbeacH’s Let It Burn will be available October 4th

Image result for neal casal

Neal Casal, a prolific guitarist who played with Ryan Adams and The Chris Robinson Band, has died, The prolific guitarist who was a member of Ryan Adams The Cardinals and played alongside Willie Nelson, Phil Lesh, and Chris Robinson throughout a busy solo career. He was 50 years old.

His friend and publicist Kevin Calabro confirmed his death to CNN.
Neal Casal’s passing is not only a huge loss for our music community, but for the world as a whole. He brought warmth and kindness with him wherever he went,” Calabro said in an email.
“He was a serious person with a deep intellect, humility and desire to connect in a meaningful way with the world around him. Traits often too rarely found in today’s social media culture. It was honor to represent him. I miss him dearly already.”
Ryan Adams, who led The Cardinals, remembered the artist on his own Instagram page, writing, “Oh man. My heart is broken. It’s too much. What an honor to have known you, true believer. I love you, always. Go easy, brother. Go easy.”

He performed with the Cardinals from 2005 until the group’s hiatus in 2009, on releases including Ryan Adams’ “Easy Tiger” .His various outfits also include the Skiffle Players, with Cass McCombs and Beechwood Sparks members. In 2010, he released a book of photography titled Ryan Adams & the Cardinals: A View of Other Windows, with a foreword by Adams and an afterword by Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh, with whom he often performed.

Neal was also an in-demand session player), he formed the instrumental jam band Circles Around the Sunwith Adam MacDougall, Dan Horne and Mark Levy in 2015 and was a key player in GospelbeacH with Brent Rademaker, with whom Casal had played in Beachwood Sparks and the Tyde.His bandmate Chris Robinson said in a statement, “I can’t believe I’m having to say goodbye to my friend and my brother. It’s almost too painful. When I think about the songs we’ve written, the shows we’ve played and all the laughs and great times we shared it’s almost unbearable to know you’re gone.”

Neal Casal had played this past weekend at the Lockn’ music festival in Arrington, Virginia, when his band Circles Around the Sun, played a late-night set.The week before they were in the studio, recording a new album.

“Another Winter Alive” reflects on the GospelbeacH California rock and roll dream, and pays homage to friend and founding member Neal Casal by covering his most well known song “Freeway To The Canyon”.

The album features 5 previously unreleased studio tracks recorded during the band’s sessions for last years’ “Another Summer Of Love” plus 5 live songs recorded in London during their California Fantasy tour, revisiting stripped down live versions of songs from their debut album “Pacific Surf Line”.


Sweet, fun and utterly without pretence. – SHINDIG!
Tucked snugly in that happy place between cosmic country and neo-hippie bliss. – MAGNET
Makes you want to drive to the ocean and watch the sun go down. – MOJO

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Two weeks ago, hot on the heels of releasing their new double album, Let It WanderCircles Around The Sun cancelled their 5-date Northeast tour due to an “urgent health matter”. Now, the question of who’s health was in question and why Circles Around The Sun had to cancel their tour seems to have been answered.

You’re watching the official music video for Circles Around The Sun – ‘One For Chuck’ from their new album ‘Let It Wander’. ‘Let It Wander’ is the second album from Circles Around the Sun, but the quartet agrees that in many ways it feels more like their first.

Rolling Stone magazine said: “Let It Wander is a two-CD set of even deeper spells that thread suggestions of Little Feat–style grooves and Bernie Worrell’s percolating synthesizers in Parliament-Funkadelic through the German mid-Seventies space travel of Tangerine Dream and the offbeat churn of the Dead’s “Estimated Prophet.” – David Fricke

Three years ago, guitarist Neal Casal formed the band with keyboardist Adam MacDougall (his bandmate in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood), bassist Dan Horne and drummer Mark Levy to record some Grateful Dead-influenced instrumentals to be played during the set breaks at the Dead’s “Fare Thee Well” concerts. “That was supposed to be the end of it,” Casal says.
Instead, there was an album, Interludes for the Dead, followed by several acclaimed live performances. The response was so positive, and the band was having so much fun making music together, that they agreed to keep it going, MacDougall says. “The chemistry the four of us had was instant and undeniable. It felt like we’d barely scratched the surface of what we could do, which is why we wanted to get back in the studio.”
It took nearly three years, but Circles Around the Sun – usually shortened to CATS.
Band Members
Neal Casal, Adam MacDougall, Mark Levy, Dan Horne

“One For Chuck” from the full-length album ‘Let It Wander’, out August 17th, 2018 on Rhino Records.

GospelbeacH | Photo by

iA band formed by Brent Rademaker of Beachwood Sparks and former Sparks drummer, Tom Sanford. The band includes Neal Casal (of Ryan Adams & The Cardinals) and Jason Soda on vocals and guitars, Kip Boardman (vocals, bass), with a guest appearance by Nelson Bragg (vocal harmonies).

The band is helmed by Beachwood Sparks‘ Brent Rademaker, and they released their sophomore album, Another Summer of Love, . But we need something for this summer, and that’s just what GospelbeacH is giving us. Their new song, “Dreamin’”, is from the recording sessions of Another Summer of Love, so it already has that summer vibe instilled within it. It’s a bright, warm invitation to chill.


Beachwood Sparks debuted in 2000, with a collection of songs on Sub Pop Records that couched the band in 1960s’ Laurel Canyon country-rock of The Byrds, and the cosmic country of Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. With Rademaker at the helm of this new band, GospelbeacH continue to draw connections between the country-rock and pop on their debut album, Pacific Surf Line came out on October 9th 2017 on Alive Naturalsound Records.

The mystery of just who was behind those freewheeling tunes that kept the crowds groovin’ during Fare Thee Well’s intermissions has been revealed! Circles Around the Sun, a band convened by guitarist Neal Casal, formed specifically to record just for the shows and the results were so captivating, and the audience response so overwhelmingly positive, we decided to give the music a proper release.

The project began when Casal was asked by video director Justin Kreutzmann to compose and record more than five hours of original music to be played along with the visuals Kreutzmann was preparing for the Fare Thee Well intermissions. “The idea was to not only show reverence for the past but to ultimately, move it forward. If there’s anything to be learned from the Grateful Dead, it is to dissolve your boundaries, push your limits, and discover your own voice in this world,” explains Casal, the lead guitarist and co-lyricist for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood and part-time member of Phil Lesh and Friends.



Casal was joined in the studio by keyboardist Adam MacDougall, a fellow member of Robinson’s Brotherhood and Lesh’s Friends. The balance of Circles Around The Sun consists of bassist Dan Horne (Beachwood Sparks, Jonathan Wilson) and drummer Mark Levy (The Congress). All of the music on “Interludes For The Dead “ was written collectively – with nothing prepared beforehand or added afterward – and recorded live by engineer J.P. Hesser.

INTERLUDES FOR THE DEAD will be available digitally and as a 2-CD set on November 27th. In addition, a 180-gram vinyl version on two LPs will be available as a limited edition of 5,000.