Dan Casey Adopts New Moniker, Hops Genres

Rachel Mead

The music of Dan Casey, an artist defined by his ability to flip genres by adopting new monikers, has appeared online under his own name, but also as Yalls, Steezy Ray Vibes and most recently dd elle. He’ll be appearing at the Cat in the Cream tonight at 8 p.m. under his newest moniker to play a set from his upcoming full-length album. “I hope you’re into some weird, weird stuff,” he said over the phone.

This show marks Casey’s third performance of his newest generation of material, which he originally posted anonymously online. Casey is known to upload much of his music onto the Internet without his name attached, using some alias. “Every name change is a fresh start with no expectations,” Casey said. “It opens the door for crazy experimentation; I can get into a style and it’s cool to break out of what we’re doing. People have their own ideas of who an artist is, and I feel you can connect more if it could be anyone.” Casey says some of his friends have even rediscovered him online without knowing it. “They had no idea it was me,” Casey said. “It was like I was playing a prank on them.”

Casey hasn’t pranked anyone on purpose, though. His intent is to explore many kinds of music and not feel bound to any one style. His transition from folk to hip hop is memorialized on the nine albums he released as Yalls, which he is no longer so fond of.

Casey claims he won’t make so much music under one name again. Steezy Ray Vibes, one of Casey’s aliases, plays guitar, although the record company that made his Steezy album took issue with the name and released it under Dan Casey instead.

College senior Joseph Farago, who invited Casey to perform at Oberlin, says he’s known about the artist’s work for a couple of years after hearing about him through a friend’s SoundCloud page. “It’s all kind of electronic, chill wave, glitch stuff,” Farago said.

Casey’s is one of the first shows Farago has booked for the Cat in the Cream. “I invited him because he writes beautiful electronic music that’s pretty low-key and atmospheric,” Farago said. “I thought it would be a good vibe to have at the Cat versus the ‘Sco or another venue which invites a more intense energy.”

In describing dd elle, Casey said, “It’s emotional minimal bass music. I really like messing with space, and doing a lot with very little.” He has always tried to create other worlds out of sound. This is clear in the electronic landscape created by his song “unrequited” on the EP “u,” which is the only trace of dd elle to be found online. Casey calls it a “what-if-type song” as opposed to a love song, at least in part because he doesn’t usually write music about one person or one thing — instead his songs are inspired by something that he’s feeling strongly in the moment that he writes them.

The last song on the EP, “a note,” captures this moment-to-moment style. It’s a sort of bittersweet song in that the melody and lyrics don’t entirely reflect one another. “A note” was Casey’s first project as dd elle, because “it’s introspective and a little jarring, a bummer of a song, and I didn’t want to put that out as Yalls,” Casey said. His description is apt: “I feel like jumping in front of something / I feel like being destroyed / I feel like taking my final sigh / I feel like leaving a note,” he sings at the beginning of the song over a background of upbeat, electronic percussion, surrounded by ambient, uplifting sounds and happy little bleeps and bloops. It’s therapeutic for him, he says, to make music that draws from how he feels. That’s the reason why he’s perpetually creating and why he has so many simultaneously ongoing projects.

Casey has no formal music education beyond the basics. He can read a staff, and learned the good old EGBDF and FACE mnemonics in second grade. A bare bones musical education may appear sacrilegious at a school where students can spend four years and a sticker price of nearly a quarter million dollars majoring in Technology in Music and Related Arts (TIMARA). But for Casey, “the best stuff comes when you don’t know anything.”

He doesn’t apply this maxim to every part of his life, though. Casey is now back at school, in his home state of New Jersey, studying computer science so he’ll be able to pay the bills. “Music has been a complete loss, economically — I’ve worked for nothing. The whole point of it is that music is what I want to do in life. Even if no one was listening I’d still make it for sure, I’m just really glad that people are.”