Owen Ashworth, musician and film school dropout, has his own views of what music should be. In his songs, you won’t find heavy production or catchy hooks, but you will find raw, unadulterated self-expression. His musical alias, Casiotone For the Painfully Alone, has been in existence for more than 10 years now and has evolved from simple four-track recordings on battery-operated keyboards to a full, emotional synth-pop sound that is all his own. Ashworth is currently in the middle of one of his most extensive tours to date, making his Saturday show at this weekend’s Pygmalion Music Festival a must see.
Hailing from Redwood City, Cali., Ashworth was raised listening to traditional American blues and country in the likes of Jimmy Rogers and The Carter Family.
“I grew up hearing sad songs, and I guess it never really occurred to me that they were sad songs,” he said. “They were just good songs. That was just the kind of music that I liked … I think there is so much traditional American music that is just heartbreakingly depressing.”
Although Ashworth’s musical style is decades away from these classics, the heartbreaking mood is certainly comparable. His lyrics, which often stem from the emotional experiences of himself and friends, often deal with stress, confusion and hopelessness.
Casiotone’s most recent album Etiquette is his fullest sounding work yet, maintaining a sort of stripped down and simplistic sound that has come to be his trademark.
“I was really inspired by lo-fi music that people were able to make without money or a budget. Music had never seemed that attainable to me before, and that was really exciting,” Ashworth said.
Amazed after hearing Mountain Goats on a hand-held tape recorder, Ashworth began making his own lo-fi tapes armed with only a Yamaha keyboard and some basic music theory lessons.
“I was in film school at the time, but music seemed like a really direct way to tell stories . as opposed to trying to get funding and maybe a year from now being able to tell stories,” he explained.
Four albums and 10 years later, Ashworth’s music has evolved from a simple and direct way of expressing himself into an emotional style that is all his own. Etiquette has been his most collaborative album to date, and several arrangements were co-produced by bassist Jherek Bischoff.
With an increasingly mature sound and the hopes of further collaboration on his next album, it would seem that Casiotone has a bright future ahead. Ashworth’s work is proof that music doesn’t have to be about glamorous arrangements and expensive production. Many would argue that an artist’s most authentic work is created when he is stuck with the bare essentials, and Ashworth would likely agree.
Don’t miss Casiotone For The Painfully Alone at Pygmalion Music Festival this Saturday at Canopy Club. Tickets for the 18+ show are $10, and it begins at 8:00 p.m.