’A novel instead of a magazine’

Casati’s new album emphasizes story and depth

Local trio Casati (left to right) Grace Hrabi, Quintin Bart and Jesse Popeski.

Supplied photo

Winnipeg-based trio Casati’s effortless harmonies and rich chords stray from traditional jazz and folk music. It’s a shift away from tradition that traces the group’s journey towards a new, inviting sound.

The band will grace Crescent Fort Rouge United Church’s stage on Sept. 25 for the release of their sophomore album, This Is Just to Say. Equipped with their voices, ukulele, guitar and double bass, guitarist Jesse Popeski notes that the concert will feature more than just music.

“We will also talk about the inspiration behind our songs, thereby giving the audience an album with all the details,” he says.

Casati, which also includes vocalist Grace Hrabi and bassist Quintin Bart, started out playing exclusively jazz standards under the name The Grace Hrabi Trio. Popeski says the band started with Hrabi’s passion for, and prowess in, songwriting.

“After Grace showed me her written work, I instantly got excited,” he says. “We began to work in the studio, figuring out musical and lyrical patterns, and soon after, Casati was formed.”

Though the trio majored in jazz studies at the University of Manitoba, they decided to move beyond traditional songs to create their music.

“We decided that we do not have to fit into any one genre, so we embrace each track being its own style,” Hrabi says.

Popeski agrees and says “we know that the variety (of our music) makes for a great record and performance.”

“There is a different lead every song, which adds different perspectives in our music,” he says.

Hrabi notes that Casati aims to be transparent in their writing, so that audiences can connect with their music on a deeper level.

“It is sometimes scary to tell strangers really personal things about yourself, but we try to do this in every song,” she says.

“If you write from a place of sincerity, then people can connect with that and see the humanity in the music.”

The band continually challenges their own musicianship, as well as the expectations of their audience, to try and raise the bar in the local music scene.

“We have a lot of people come to us after shows, telling us of their interest in certain instruments and their desire to play,” Hrabi says.

“We always give people the same advice: just start learning it. It’s never too late, but don’t set the bar too high. Everyone started out learning one thing.”

With this down-to-earth approach, the band had to overcome industry expectations and other obstacles to not compromise themselves. Popeski says they had to be cautious in their journey.

“People will advise you different things, and certain grants and businesses want you to (release) extended plays (EPs), but we don’t like that,” he says.

“We like the full story of our album. It’s like reading a novel instead of a magazine.”

Hrabi agrees, saying, “the waters (of the industry) are rocky, but you get used to it. We had to come to terms that we had to fund our second project all by ourselves. By overcoming this financial hurdle, we came out with something that we are happy with.

“If you’re serious about what you’re doing and that is important to you, you will always find a way, no matter what,” she says.

Tickets are available at the door on eventbrite.ca, and at Into the Music (245 McDermot Ave.).

Published in Volume 74, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 19, 2019)

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