by Interviews

In three days, Central Florida-based Virginity will be releasing their super third album Bad Jazz. The album finds the band leaning into their more improvisational side as they imbue their blend of indie rock, power pop, emo, and punk rock with the innovative and collaborative spirit of jazz. You can hear the band letting loose and having fun throughout the album as they tackle topics such as existential dread, loss of sense of self, self-doubt, and love with lyrics filled with sincerity and plenty of humour. Bad Jazz will be out everywhere on June 28 via Smartpunk Records and Virginity will be playing Fest in Gainesville in October.

Punknews editor Em Moore caught up with lead vocalist and guitarist Casey Crawford to talk about the new album, adding humour into songs, coming-of-age stories, getting revenge on the stage that murdered his knee, and so much more. Read the interview below!

This interview between Em Moore and Casey Crawford took place over Zoom on June 18, 2024. This is a transcription of their conversation and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The cover for Bad Jazz features a collage made up of strips of old photographs. What meaning do the photos hold?

A little bit of nothing. [laughs] That was made by our friend Justin who is an artist. He has a business with his wife where they make little notebooks out of old records they find at thrift stores and the byproduct of those were all these little strips. He’s been hanging on to them for years. When we were trying to come up with some ideas for a cover we weren’t having any good ideas so we threw it over to Justin. He was like, “I’ve got a few ideas! Also I have all these strips and I’ve always wanted to use them for something so can I try something with those? I’ll also do some other stuff”. We wound up liking that one the best. I don’t know how to explain why it works but when I saw it I was like, “Yeah, that’s the cover of this record! Of course it is”.

It feeds into the whole improvisational vibe of the record.

I think so too. When he was showing it to me he said something like, “It’s like how you guys pieced this all together over the past little bit”. He came up with something at the time where I was like, “Fuck yeah, dude! That’s deep!” [laughs]

You mentioned that you found jazz very influential for the improvisational direction of the record. Were there certain jazz artists that you took the most inspiration from for this album?

No, not really. [laughs] Our guitar player Chris actually is into jazz. He legit likes it and knows his shit. He’s also a really good guitar player. As far as all of us, we were more on the improvisational spirit of jazz. I don’t super listen to jazz or anything but the idea that great jazz musicians can get together having never even met each other and sit and just vibe for hours on end is wild. That’s kind of how we wrote the record.

What helped you get into that headspace?

Seclusion. [laughs] Most of these songs were primarily written over a long weekend at our bass player Jordan’s house. Jordan will be married soon and is starting a family but 2 years ago when we were working on this he had a house that he lived in by himself. So we went there and we were by ourselves with nothing to do and no agenda other than to play music which we did. We would play for 15-16 hours a day, stopping just to eat real quick, and then we’d keep going. That’s how this was written. It was just literally putting in hours and hours and hours and letting the song more or less build itself. It would become a group consensus once we would reach a point in a song and be like, “Alright, that sounds like how that one goes”. We would all have a general sense that, “This is the right part for this” or “This song is done now”.

Everything’s just falling into place. The puzzle’s coming together.

Yeah, and some of it didn’t come together until later. We tracked it all live. Since we decided to do that process, things stayed malleable up until we were like, “Finally! That’s how it goes”. That was a cool aspect. I don’t know if we’ll track live again, maybe we will or maybe we’ll do 50/50. Some stuff we found really vibes with playing live all together in the room. It was cool to not have to be married to the original idea because in a traditional recording setup, we’d be laying down drums and once that’s done, your song has to now fit in that framework. This way we had no framework except for the one we built with each take.

You were writing everything on the fly.

A little bit. Things would find their shape and then begin to harden. It was cool to have the freedom in the recording process to be like, “Let’s just change this! I was feeling unsure about it and now we’re recording it and I’m feeling like I wanna change it” and I could just change it.

You mentioned how working this way has helped you let go of perfectionism. What’s helped you to do that?

I don’t know that I necessarily struggle with perfectionism too much. With this one, it truly is all four of us. But in the past, it’s been more just me and our drummer/producer Jim, who has recorded all of our stuff. That’s definitely a little bit more of his battle. By proxy, I’ll be sucked into his battle sometimes and be like, “We gotta get it!” I’m pretty happy with a song when I do it by myself at my house and it sounds like shit. It’s a half-written song but I’m like, “I did something!” [laughs] It most definitely helped Jim be like, “This is what it is and it’s good”. There’s nothing naturally perfect. That’s good because that’s how we wanted the record to sound. We wanted it to be like a living thing with a beating heart and not sound sterile.

Bad Jazz is your first recorded output with Chris Pfister as your guitarist. How has the addition of Chris affected the dynamic of the band?

He played a little bit of keys on the Superdrag cover we did - “I’m Expanding My Mind”. But this is the first real thing. Chris fits in so great in a wonderful way! Chris can be a curmudgeon at times about things but he’s also a total sweetheart. He is such a creative guitar player. Jim calls it, “Drunken kung-fu” or something. [laughs] Traditionally the way he plays guitar doesn’t make sense but he really has his own vibe that I now realize sounds like Chris. Before, I just thought it sounded cool but now when I listen to the stuff we have and I listen to his other band Debt Neglector, I’m like, “This just sounds like Chris’ guitar playing”. I think that’s cool. I think that’s why he’s such a great addition. He has a singular sort of style. We’re lucky to have him.

You’ve mentioned that Jeff Tweedy’s book How To Write One Song helped you write “Swinging South”. Which part of the book had the biggest impact on you? Which of his methods did you find the most helpful?

It’s a great book and it’s really short too. It’s like 100 pages or something. It’s a really quick, great read and I think it’s good for anybody to read. It’s really about finding a way to be creative in an organized way. I think the logic can be applied to anything. One of the things that he wrote about that helped me was this idea of putting disparate nouns and verbs on a different page and matching them up by which ones sounded like they most did not belong together and finding a way to put words in between those two words to make them get somewhere with it. [laughs]

He even says this in the book, the things you come up with won’t necessarily be very good but what you’re doing is opening connections and pathways in your mind that aren’t there just yet. You’re making them and then they’re there. The sentence you come up with to connect these two words might be fucked up and weird looking but if you can mold that into something, shrink it down, make it make more sense, and round it out, maybe you can find something interesting. That’s the approach I used when I started writing “Swinging South” and then when I found how it was gonna go, I could abandon that because I didn’t need it anymore. It just gives you a framework to get going.

How would you describe your songwriting process overall?

Circuitous. It starts all kinds of different ways but generally, I think probably what most often happens is I get some collection of words of phrase or maybe just two or three words that feel good in my mouth. I’ll hear someone say it then I’ll say it and be like, “Huh” and I’ll write it down. If I’ve gotten to a point where I’m writing it down, I won’t forget it because I’m gonna obsess over it over the next five days while I continue to say the phrase over and over again. I guess in that way I start to find a melody for it. Then I build from there. I’ll generally have some guitar bits or some chords that I like together that I’ve been playing with words for. I’ll find one of those combinations that I can hammer what I just thought of into and that’s kind of it.

With the first record, With Time, it’s pure heart-on-my-sleeve. When I listen to it now It’s almost embarrassing how open I was being. Maybe that’s why people like that first record, I don’t know. But oh my god, I was being such a baby. [laughs] I had to do it. I had to get it out there. Did I have to do it like that? I don’t know but I did so there it is. [laughs] I was so intentional when I wrote those songs. I wrote all the lyrics for the first record before I did anything else. I knew what the songs were about. I don’t generally know what my songs are about until they’re done and sometimes not until they’ve been done for a while. I’ll hear a mix of it or I’ll listen to it and I’ll be like, “Oh my god, I’m talking about this! I didn’t even realize”. Even if it starts with a random phrase you wouldn’t necessarily think is connected to whatever the subject for a particular song is, I found that I will build things around it that are about something very specific. But because I’m a little less intentional about it, sometimes I don’t even know what that is. I’m just reaching in my chest and throwing stuff out there and being like, “I don’t know, that’s probably something”. [laughs] That’s how it’s changed over time anyway. I just try not to care so much.

Did you have a song off of this album where you didn’t really know what it was about at first but now you have a story about it?

Yeah, kind of. I didn’t exactly realize what the song “Burden of a Wallet” - which is the tenth track, the second last song - was about exactly when I was writing it. I realized that it’s about my kids and my relationship to them and how sometimes it feels like a little bit of a fraud to be a parent. [laughs] I now see it and I understand everything I’m saying in it. I’m like, “Oh, this is so specific” but when I was writing it I was not consciously like, “This is a song about my kids”.

Just like, “These are the lyrics that are coming out”.

Yeah, it just comes as it comes and if it comes at one time then it must make sense together. So far so good.

“UR GODZ” is one of your angrier songs on the album. What’s the story behind this one?

I think I’ve always got a little God kicking around in my songs somewhere, that’s been the same since the first record. I was raised super religious so even though I’m not now, it’s kinda hard to get it out of your system when they get ya young and they got me young. I can’t control how people view it but I hope they view it as over-the-top intentionally. I think it’s silly. In my mind it’s a very silly song, I’m being very tongue-in-cheek. I hope it comes across that way. I hope it reads as so over-the-top and densely kind of offensive that they’re like, “He’s kind of joking”. [laughs] Because I am.

But it was written in a moment of anger, certainly. I work at a library at a high school here in Florida and we’ve had a lot of issues with crazy, right-wing pieces of shit trying to control the books that are at our school. It’s been almost a 2-year battle that doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon. I was mad at these Christian moms who don’t want kids to have books about gay people. That one was written with intention. [laughs]

I hope the alt-right fucks off.

Oh god, I hope so! It’s not looking like what’s on the forecast but hey, anything can happen.

Crocodiles randomly let loose.

I would pay to see Ron DeSantis eaten on live television by an alligator. [laughs]

You’ve said that “Any Good Thing” draws inspiration from coming-of-age stories and you’ve imagined it being part of a soundtrack for a movie like Empire Records. What drew you to coming-of-age stories?

I’ve just always liked them. When you’re young they speak to you quite directly, usually. I just kept loving them past when it’s socially acceptable. I Iove YA fiction. I read a lot of non-fiction and if I’m not reading non-fiction I’m reading a fucking teen romance novel because that’s what I like, goddamn it! [laughs] I want the young boy or girl to stand up to their mom or dad and I want them to go kiss that other boy or girl that they like! I just want to hear that story over and over again. What’s the dude’s name, Joseph Campbell? He’d say it was the only one. I’ve always loved that shit. I love an all-in-one-day book or story. Empire Records is a great example but so is Can’t Hardly Wait. Something where the whole movie takes place in one night - great.

What scene of a coming-of-age movie would you like “Any Good Thing” to play in?

I think that one’s a fit for a montage. We’re trying on different outfits or something. [laughs] I feel like that’s always a trope in those kinds of movies, they always find a reason. It’s two people and they’re trying on silly things and looking straight down the barrel of the camera. I feel like it’d be great for that!

On some of the songs you talk about existential dread and you’ve talked about that in the past on other records.

I’m gonna keep doing it too! [laughs]

Existential dread is universal!

That’s right! [laughs]

When you feel it creeping in, do you have something that helps you push it back or view it in a different way?

I mean, that’s what the songs are all about really. Going back to the first record again, that record could not have come out and it would have served its purpose which was to make me feel better because it did. It helped me parse how I felt about two or three very specific things. I was not sure how I felt except I felt pretty mad/sad about it. But past that, I was like, “I don’t know what I’m feeling about it”.

Songwriting helps me and so that’s what it’s all been about. If I’m having a tough time with something, I can parse it out either consciously with intention or unconsciously by just trying to get my mind off it. I’ll generally write about it anyway even if it’s in some sort of veiled way to myself.

Going back to what you said earlier, even if it doesn’t hit at that moment you’ll realize it later.

Yeah. To speak to the real-worldness of that, plenty of them go nowhere. Plenty of them serve their purpose to make me feel better and they never become a Virginity song. They go in a demo folder never to see the light of day again, probably. Who knows? There’s 11 tracks on Bad Jazz but we wrote 19 or 20. Some of those are still gonna come out later.

As B-sides or as an EP?

Maybe an EP. We’re thinking on it. Those ones are currently cooking.

You use a lot of humour in your lyrics. Do you have a favourite humourous moment on Bad Jazz?

First of all, I just want to say that I’m glad that you perceive it that way because I am using humour but never so much that you’re like, “He’s being a little jokester right now”. It’s sarcasm and very understated. Sometimes in the darker moments of the songs is where I feel like I’m making a joke but some people might be like, “This guy’s fucked up! He needs help!” [laughs] I thought the funniest lyric on POPMORTEM was in “Phantom Bangs” when I said, “I probably won’t kill myself”. I thought that was funny when I was writing it and then later I had people be like, “I was worried about you!” I was like, “No, it was a joke. I was joking!”

On the new record, I think all of “UR GODZ” is kind of a bit. There’s a line in the second song on the record, “Some Hard Feelings”, where I’m talking about a self-checkout machine that has a Southern twang to its voice which is true! [laughs] It’s Dollar General’s. I went there with my wife the other day and we went to the self-check and it did it. It started talking and I was like, “See, do you hear it?” and she was like, “Oh wow! It really does!” It sounds like a robot trying to do a Southern accent. It’s very bizarre.

This year you played Pouzza Fest for the first time and this was also your first time in Canada. What was this experience like?

It rocked! I had a lot of fun at our set. People showed up which was wonderful. That’s where my bar ended for things I’d hoped. [laughs] Just that we wouldn’t be playing in a room that was mostly empty because we’d never been there before and we weren’t touring up there. We haven’t toured much at all. I mean, COVID was going on for 2 of this band’s 5-year existence. [laughs] But we probably will never do that much touring unless we were offered something that was like, “Oh shit, we gotta do it!” Like if a band we really liked was like, “Do you want to go on tour?” We’d be like, “Yes!” But we’re not really looking to kill ourselves on a DIY tour. I’m looking at - and god bless them - my friends who are out on the road and it’s tough times right now. You’re going all over the place and things fall apart. We simply do not live lifestyles that can allow for that. We have to be smart about how we tour and do it at the right times and try to make it count for the most.

I was a little nervous going up there because we’d never been in that neck of the woods. It was great! We had a blast, did our set, and it was cool watching other bands and stuff. It was cool just hanging out in Montreal. On Saturday the only band I went to see was PONY because my friend Matt is in that band and they’re a great band. I love PONY. We went to the Modern Art Museum for most of the day and bombed around Montreal and tried to see as much of the city as we could. It’s beautiful. That was my first time ever out of the country. It was cool because it felt foreign even though really we were just a little bit past our own border. [laughs] It was lovely.

If the opportunity arose again, would you go back?

Oh yeah, 100%. It was great. I hope we’ll get to go back someday.

Go back and eat poutine.

I did eat poutine. I did that the first day we got there and that was the first thing I ate because I was like, “I gotta do it! It’s the thing”. I thought it was fine. I mean it was good but the way people talked about it, I was expecting to have a religious experience and I was just like, “This is pretty good”.

You have to get it at the right place and then the sky opens up.

That’s what they say. I did go to the one place and get smoked meat. I went to the spot. Everybody was like, “You gotta go to this one!” It was a shithole but the food was amazing. It was so good! It was probably my favourite meal I had there. I also had a couple of steamies with the coleslaw on it. I really liked that.

Is there a Florida food specialty?

I don’t know. I wonder if people would say fried gator? There’s always a place that, for whatever reason, will have fried gator bites on their appetizer menu or something. Florida is such a weird melting pot of cultures because it’s in the South but it’s also where snowbirds have retired forever - and still do. It’s almost cultureless because of it. Mostly it just sucks and everybody knows it. A Florida specialty is having too many beers. [laughs]

You’ve played Fest every year since 2019 and your knee injury happened on stage during the festival in 2022. Do you feel you’ve gotten adequate revenge on the stage that did that?

We did play the Wooly a month after that happened. I was still quite braced and not moving great at that juncture, but that was a fun set. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten revenge on it. When we played there a month later, it wasn’t Fest. What that stage - and by that stage I mean my knee [laughs] - took from me was going to be a really fun set! Someone was filming from the back of the room so I could see my injury but I’ve also seen what led up to it and the room was getting so full. People were popping off and almost as soon as we hit The Vibe that’s when my knee was like, “Alright, I’m fucking out of here”. [laughs] I need that on that stage. I need what was about to be happening on that stage before I will feel like I have revenge so hopefully we’ll get to play the Wooly again. It’s definitely not this year because I know where we’re playing and it ain’t there. [laughs]

Next year hopefully revenge will be had!

I hope so. Tony if you hear this, give me my fucking shot!! [laughs]

What are you looking forward to the most about playing Fest this year?

A venue closed that is paramount to the Gainesville music experience in general but also certainly such a huge part of Fest and that place is called High Dive. High Dive is being bulldozed. It was really out of the blue and the person who owned the building told the person who’s rented it for-fucking-ever, “You’re done. I’m done. I’m selling this. We’re done” which he had the legal right to do, I guess. So that was where we were going to play. We will now be playing somewhere else that I think has a high potential for insanity. I’m not going to say where because I don’t think I’m allowed to but I’ll say it’s a lot more intimate than High Dive. [laughs] We played the Backyard last year and it was at capacity. That was a really fun, wild show. This year could be the funnest show any of us has ever experienced, we’ll see. That’s what I’m potentially looking the most forward to.

That sucks about High Dive.

It’s tragic. We happened to be playing a show in Gainesville the day he announced it. We were playing in Gainesville with the Dreaded Laramie and Mikey Erg. We all walked over and had a beer on the back porch of the High Dive one last time.

At least you were out and got to do it together.

Yeah. Buddy from Less Than Jake showed up while we were there because he heard. People were just showing up. Gainesville musicians started showing up at High Dive the day that news dropped.

Do you know if he’s going to move it somewhere else or is it just done?

He’s had to find fill-in places for shows that were already on the books because of course things are booked way out. I think he’s mostly been dealing with that but I think he’d like to get something up and running again whether or not that’s something that’s fiscally undertakable is yet to be determined. That place should have been a landmark. Tom Petty fucking played there. [laughs] Canadian royalty John K. Samson played there several times and I saw him one time. He was fucking amazing. My wife bawled.

You mentioned the Dreaded Laramie and you guys are throwing eggs at them in their video for “Life Is Funny”.

Yeah! [laughs] We did that after we played a show while we were on tour together and drove two hours back to the lead singer and guitar player MC’s parents’ house. It was like 2 or 3 in the morning or something. We were out on a dock, all deadbeat tired and they were like, “We gotta shoot this music video! You’re going to throw eggs at us”. I was like, “I’ll feel bad about that!” and they were like, “No, we’re doing it”. I was like, “What if it hits you in the nose weird and doesn’t crack and just hurts or something?” I was lobbing softball. Jim and Jordan were having a lot more fun and they were going for straight face shots as much as they could manage as hard as they could. [laughs] Just whipping those fucking eggs. It was fun! The music video shoot was relatively short. We all just unloaded a carton and that was basically it. We have kept in touch. The group chat is still alive.

It’s so nice when you form those friendships and then they keep going.

They’re definitely our best buds as far as bands are concerned. We just got along with them immediately and last Fest we hung out with them basically every day without an agenda to do so. We just kept running into them at the same places. We would hang out for an hour and then we’d be like, “See ya later!” and then an hour later the exact same thing would happen again. [laughs] That happened every day at Fest last year plus we played Pre-Fest shows together so we spent 6 days together basically. When they asked if we’d like to go on a little run we were like, “Yeah, of course! That’ll rock!” That only cemented the friendship more. I hope to tour with them again in the not too distant future. Fingers crossed.

How would you describe the punk scene in Central Florida?

It’s pretty good. I didn’t play music and I wasn’t involved in any part of any scene for a long time. It’s way fucking better than the scene that was around when I was a kid just out of high school playing shows. That was a dark time. [laughs] It was all swoopy bangs and egos. I feel like generally everybody understands we’re all trying to do the same thing - play music and have a good time - so let’s just do that. Everybody’s pretty supportive of everybody else’s music. When somebody puts out something new, at least in my little sphere, it looks like everybody is sharing everybody’s stuff which is cool.

Which part of Bad Jazz are you proudest of?

That’s a really tough question. I’m proud of the whole thing. I guess what I’m proudest of is that we got it done. [laughs] We made this bold proclamation very early on in the process that we were going to track it live and there was nobody holding a gun to our heads making us do it that way but we stuck to our words and did it. I’m most proud that we did stick to our guns and we did it live. Fuck it, we’ll do it live! [laughs] I don’t think much of myself as a musician or a guitar player so I had my doubts about myself being able to get full takes done because I was like, “I don’t want to fuck up at all. This is for posterity”. Tracking it live is the thing I’m most proud of.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you’d like to add?

I’ll just say that this album was super fun to make and I hope that comes through. I hope the record sounds fun. We can’t control that. They’ll probably be like, “No, we liked it when you were mad and sad before. Get mad and sad again!” [laughs]

Oct 23Will’s PubOrlando, FLw/Further Seems Forever, The Dopamines, Single Mothers, Michael Cera Palin, Rebuilder, Debt Neglector, Reconciler, Drew Thompson, Shehehe, Boss’s Daughter
Oct 25-27Fest 22Gainesville, FL