The Casanovas are from the Live Rock’n’Roll Capital of the Universe – Melbourne. Originally coming to international prominence with the rise of rock in the early 2000’s, they have shared stages with the likes of Motörhead, Mötley Crüe and The White Stripes. They returned from a lengthy hiatus in 2017, and are now set to release a new album, their fourth. “Reptilian Overlord”, out August 28, was produced by legendary Australian rock architect Mark Opitz, who engineered classic AC/DC albums “Let There Be Rock” and “Powerage” before going onto produce landmark albums for The Angels (aka Angel City), The Hitmen, Cold Chisel, The Divinyls and INXS.
The release of “Reptilian Overlord” has been preceded by a couple of singles, including “Red Hot”, of which James Young, Melbourne identity and owner of the world famous rock’n’roll club the Cherry Bar said, “It’s like they’ve captured all my favourite rock acts – Cheap Trick, Stones, Kiss, ZZ Top & AC/DC, and crammed them all into their own jar of Vegemite.” The video for “Red Hot” was premiered in Oz Rock-loving Brazil where the band is making inroads, and hoping to get to for some shows when borders open.
The new album is a refinement of what the Casanovas have always been about. Pure hard rock’n’roll, with influences coming from punk, blues and mid-’70s heavy metal. And great, classic soulful guitar sounds; the sort of sounds which must’ve taken Opitz back to when he was working alongside Vanda & Young. As the band told The Music.com – “Great rock’n’roll has rock and roll, it has light and shade, it’s gritty but it has finesse and musicianship, it’s tough and mean but is not afraid to be sweet sometimes, it has melody, it has groove, it’s honest but it has humour, it’s fun, and it doesn’t slavishly try to fit into any kind of category. The Casanovas are a rock’n’roll band and ‘Reptilian Overlord’ is an unselfconscious expression of our love of rock’n’roll in all its glorious forms.”
All its glorious forms indeed. First single “Hollywood Riot” boasts a chorus that Paul Stanley would die for, and latest single “Lost and Lonely Dreams” shows off Casanovas mainman and founder Tommy Boyce’s penchant for twin lead lines. The ripsnorting “Outlaw” contains one of the great boasts: “I’m the icecream that never thaws” and “Bulletproof” hangs on a riff that is as clean and hard as its title would suggest. The epic title track edges towards classic metal and boasts sci-fi lyrics straight out of an issue of ’70s Marvel’s “War Of The World” comic or something. It may or may not be an allegory for current political climates. “Mid-life Crisis” is a rare but certainly not unwelcome moment of self-reflection hung on beautiful chords and a soulful guitar tone – hard rock as heartbreak – while “St Kilda is Fucked” also looks back, to when the now-gentrified jewel of Melbourne’s bayside inner-south was a young rock’n’roller’s paradise.
Although they got caught up in the early 21st-century rock mania, The Casanovas always had deeper roots. They have the grit and energy of local predecessors like Bored and The Powder Monkeys, as well of course as Melbourne’s once-adopted sons, AC/DC. They are a merging of two great local traditions – metal-tinged punk rock’n’roll, and larrikin Oz pub rock – and they brought a twinkle in their eye and a youthful freshness to both when they appeared at the start of the century.
Having already shared a bill with a barely-known The White Stripes in Melbourne in 2000, The Casanovas first hit the international stage in 2002, playing the UK and touring Europe with their Kiwi brothers in arms, The Datsuns. Then came SXSW, Triple J rotation, The Big Day Out, and shows/tours with Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, The Darkness, The Living End, The Black Crowes, Redd Kross and Airbourne. They were riding high, having experiences as a band that they had never even dreamed of. And then it started to fade, as these things always do.
Fast-forward to 2020 and The Casanovas are now elder statesmen. The rock mania seems to be starting up again, and these guys are maybe in a similar position to the heroes they looked up to when they were starting out. They were gone for some time, but a well-received performance at the 10-year memorial show for The Powder Monkeys’ Tim Hemensley in 2013 got then playing again, and an unexpected European tour opportunity in 2017 kicked them into gear properly. In Europe, they played packed out venues heaving with beer and sweat and to a rabid audience wanting to rock’n’roll.
It was just like the old days at The Tote, and the band was reborn. Then new drummer Brett Wolfenden came on board, joining frontman/guitarist Tommy Boyce and longtime bass player Damo Campbell. Wolfie, longtime sideman for You Am I’s Davey Lane in The Pictures, Thee Marshmallow Overcoat and with Jim Keays and Todd Rundgren, opened things up and helped them find even greater joy in playing. Last year, with a set of great new material, the re-tooled Casanovas hit the studio with iconic Oz rock producer Mark Opitz to record their new album Reptilian Overlord.
The Casanovas and Mark Optiz pairing is, of course, a perfect match. Opitz had been a protégé of Harry Vanda & George Young at Alberts back in the ’70s. He helped capture the blood and thunder as Vanda & Young’s engineer on AC/DC’s “Let There Be Rock” and “Powerage” albums, before taking the Alberts sound towards the next decade with his production on The Angels’ massive “Face To Face” album. He followed up that with The Angels’ second masterpiece “No Exit”, then helped define the Oz rock sound with his work with Cold Chisel (including their breakthrough album “East”), The Hitmen and The Divinyls. Opitz’s body of work helped establish a tradition that The Casanovas are more than capable of continuing.