Casual Confusion, blasphemous as it is to say, legitimately follows in the footsteps of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Arthur Lee’s seminal rock band Love – and not just because head honcho Colin Hodges is black. Launched in late 2005, they’ve gained strong traction in short time, going over the next year from unheard of upstarts to burning up the brush on the strength of sheer word of mouth.
Ironically, there were times it cost them – not being well known enough to headline, but so strong other bands didn’t want them opening the show. That Catch-22 got solved when their self-titled album came out this June, followed by a Casual Confusion topping the bill at Minneapolis’ Varsity Theater, closing behind powerhouses Kymara and Bluestone Moon and avant garde jazzer Matthew Santos. They pretty much haven’t stopped working since. Fiery frontman Hodges (guitar, vocal) spoke with Dwight Hobbes about, among other things, how he put the band together with bassist Mike Hayostek and drummer Zach Dennison.
Casual Confusion returns to the Varsity Theater October 27 for a Halloween blowout with headliner Nathan Miller, Kymara and up-and-coming rockers Copasetic.
DWIGHT HOBBES: How’d you go about forming Casual Confusion and what about these two cats works so well for you?
COLIN HODGES: I’ve always been fascinated by the freedom a trio allows. From Robin Trower to many of the classic free-jazz trios, there’s a certain awareness of the vastness in time and space there. So that’s where it came from. With the band, it was like three completely different people who somehow ended up jammin’. Commonly sharing a deep, almost spiritual passion for the music. We turned up the amps and let the feedback freedom ring!
DH: The comparison to Hendrix is unavoidable as clearly there’s an influence. How’s it feel to come behind in his footsteps, yet at the same time, with original material, singing voice and guitar style – be making your own mark?
HODGES: When I was a boy, I used to walk two miles to the record store just to buy a Jimi poster. The thing is, this was before I ever heard his music. So when I did, it was such a trip. Overnight, I went from being a 12-year-old [John] Coltrane fanatic, to a complete student in all things Hendrix. What I’m doing on-stage is my self-expression. It’s weird how much of Hendrix’s mannerisms people see in my playing, but it’s unconscious. I guess I’m just a gypsy boy or a voodoo child and Jimi is the chief of the tribe. All in all, it is a complete honor to even be in the same sentence as Hendrix.
DH: To date, the mainstream press has ignored Casual Confusion. Still, the band continues to draw a strong following.
HODGES: As far as the media goes, [Casual Confusion] is not Hip-Hop. Not even neo-soul or R&B. I’m definitely not pop. Or a criminal. Maybe that’s the reason. Maybe I should try another country. The media, itself, makes me want to pull a Nina Simone and go into exile. It’s a blessing to have real fans. The real people tune in as the confined ears tune out.
DH: Does it bug you that not many black folk show up the gigs?
HODGES: I would like more color in the room. But I’d be most happy to have my audience look like a bag of Jelly Beans. I want to be a universal revolutionary. We are all children under the same sun and moon.
DH: What’s next?
HODGES: Casual Confusion is an ever-evolving thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if there [were] additional musicians or [there was] a rotation in the roster. We’re just blowin’ eardrums and changing minds, healing the world one day at a time.