The Casket Girls
Pay Your Respects to The Casket Girls
Elsa and Phaedra Greene are sisters, but though they look very similar, they are not twins.
“No,” says Ryan Graveface, “they’re just weird.”
That’s saying something coming from a man who uses a false surname and avoids being clearly photographed, yet owns two retail stores where he can easily be tracked down whenever he’s not onstage with one of his many bands. “Well, I’m weird in my own specific way, and they’re much weirder in their less specific way!” he clarifies about his bandmates in The Casket Girls.
While he maintains other Savannah-based musical projects, as well as membership in Black Moth Super Rainbow, Graveface considers The Casket Girls his main focus right now. Coalescing just last summer, the group’s debut album, Sleepwalking, was released in November on his Graveface Records label, and it’s a woozy doozy.
The sound of Casket Girls is, truthfully, much as you’d imagine, but far better – sparse but haunting, spooky but mysteriously beautiful. Graveface’s Casio organ gives it that whole discount macabre undercurrent, with drumbeats both live (T.W. Walsh) and programmed (Graveface) rusting in the shadows like shuffling furniture. Over this meager bed, the girls linger and bloom, their voices intertwining in tandem – soft, Southern, eerie, with curious lyrics that often as not are darker than their delivery would suggest. Death and afterlife make appearances in “I’ve Got a Secret,” “The Visitor” and “Sleepwalking,” while “Walking on a Wire” references the Beach Boys both in melody and its lyric, “maybe we weren’t meant for these times.” Call it goth-girl-group if you must, but there’s something starkly enthralling and intriguing about The Casket Girls, and I’m willing to bet they just keep getting better.
“I’d been desperately trying to recruit some females to do a Shangri-Las type band,” explains Graveface. “I even put a post on the label’s Facebook page, like, ‘if anyone knows any female singers here that aren’t currently on a label, get in touch,’ that sort of thing. No one had any suggestions, and then like right after that I was walking through one of the squares here in Savannah – which, there are a bunch – and there were these two weirdos playing autoharp – barely, and poorly, I might add – and singing to themselves, and I just kind of creeped on ’em for a bit, and approached ’em. I’d already come up with the band name years ago. Like I said, I’ve been searching for the perfect girls for this project. So it just kinda happened – and it has completely become something that’s way, way, way better than I had anticipated.”
Aside from shows (they toured late last year, opening for Black Moth Super Rainbow), there’s little physical interaction between the Greenes and Graveface, however. Though they live in the same town, they don’t hang out socially. He says the sisters rarely leave their house, and they don’t record their parts at his studio above the Graveface store. Instead, he writes the music, sends it to them, and they add their particular magic to it.
“What they do lyrically and vocal melody-wise is way more profound than anything I would’ve written,” Graveface emphasizes. “Sometimes they’ll even, where I had a verse, they’ll have me switch the chorus for the verse. And I’ll be like, ‘What the fuck? That’s a perfect chorus, why are you making me change it to a verse?’ And then it makes so much sense, and they were completely right, and I can’t imagine it being any other way. So they definitely have a really strong vision, I would say.”
With a new EP already recorded and ready for an April release, and a second album currently in the recording stage, The Casket Girls are actively engaging in the opposite of eternal sleep. “We’ve just been busting through material like no one’s business,” confirms Graveface.
“The main thing is, the melodies, the hooks, are about as basic and simple as possible,” he continues. “It’s great! It’s like the simplest formula! That’s why I listen to girl group stuff. I’ve always been looking to play in a band that had a formula.”