Nevada City’s Newest Secret

It’s no secret that small town Nevada City, Calif. is full of beauty and mystery. Home to just about 2,500, Nevada City is largely populated with tall pines, Victorian homes and boasts over 93 nationally historic buildings and landmarks. The town is also no stranger to talent, as it has been the hometown of many international and local musical acts (such as Drag City’s darling Joanna Newsom, folk artists Alela Diane and Mariee Sioux, and experimental band Hella, to name a few). Outsiders are intrigued by the town’s mystifying influence, as a rush of talented musicians and artists have emerged over the last few years. It would seem then, since the town has such an abundance of talent, that there would be an underground scene bursting with eager crowds and packed venues. Submerge recently spoke to Casual Fog’s frontman—and sole constant member—Ryan Donnelly, about his musical background and the lack of a scene in his hometown.

On your Myspace page, it lists the main band member as “Ryan Donnelly,” but also lists a variety of other names. Who is Casual Fog? Is it mainly just you or you and a number of other musicians? Does the lineup change consistently?
I’ve spent the last nine or 10 years or so writing and recording songs at home, arranging songs with the instruments I had access to at the time. I didn’t start playing shows consistently until three years ago. I first started playing shows by myself, and eventually with a band that consisted of friends I’ve had for years.
The first line-up that has become what the band is now was Thad Stoenner, Dan Elkan and Neal Morgan and we played our first show at After the Goldrush Records in Nevada City. Since then the band has also consisted of David Nicholson, Ben Milner, Jonathan Hichske and Pete Newsom. David B. Torch, Matt Gotchalk, Ryan Schwarz, and Brook Caballero have also played some shows. The lineup changes depending on who is around and has time to practice and play shows.

I know it’s a difficult question, but if you can, describe your music or at least what other people have used to possibly describe your sound?
I’d say my music reflects my own curiousity, and that curiousity sounds like the different kinds of music that have influenced me in my life, and sounds that have caught my attention.

You are based out of Nevada City, a prominent place known for creative talent. What makes the city so special? What do you think of the music scene in Nevada City?
I personally don’t think there is a scene really. I think anybody who lives here would agree with me that there is not really a scene. There are a lot of artists and musicians here but just not enough venues to play at or people who come out to shows. Nevada County has been one of those types of places where people have been making music and art for quite along time. I’m not really sure why.

You’d think it would be very different, being that there are so many artists who are from Nevada City.
Yeah, you would, but there are just not enough venues to play at here. I think that people have the wrong idea when it comes to this place. And I think that out of town bands get very disappointed when they come here, because they are expecting some huge crowd at their shows. It’s unfortunate but true. That is why many bands and artists from here go and play in either Sacramento or the Bay Area.

What are some of your favorite projects out of Nevada City or even in Sacramento?
Them Hills, Aaron Ross, The Full Cody Feiler Experience and You’re Welcome!

I’ve noticed that you have a few shows coming up in Nevada City, Sacramento and San Francisco. What are some of your favorite venues to play in all three cities?
The Chief Crazy Horse Inn and the Basement in Nevada City, Old Ironsides and Cafe du Nord and the Make-Out Room have all been fun.

If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be and why?
Brian Eno, just to see what he would do and hopefully figure out how he did it.

What are some of your future plans for Casual Fog? Future shows you are looking forward to, an album, or tour coming up?
Right now I’m hoping to book more shows around the west coast. I’m also starting work on another record.