By Isabel Ashley
Like many who come to this island, Brendan Casey, musician, originally planned to work and live on the island for a few months as a seasonal employee. He had made his way up from home in Missoula, Montana to San Juan Island in the summer of 2021 to work as a kayak guide, enjoying countless adventures after the pandemic had made him a bit “stir crazy.” However, the island’s captivating nature and tight-knit community made it difficult to leave, and has extended his stay. Since that summer, he has worked for the Island Conservation Corps and currently is a server for Coho restaurant. He has also performed as a drummer for Shadow Basket, an indie rock band home to San Juan Island, but his experience in music has spanned far before then.
Growing up, Casey was surrounded by music. His father was a musician, performing at different gigs, teaching guitar lessons and playing at his church. Casey also started playing the drums for the church’s band, but says he didn’t become serious about music until six or seven years ago when he purchased a synthesizer and began a new music journey.
“I started making beats because I had a hard time finding people who I liked playing with consistently,” said Casey. “I liked that I could kind of do a solo thing.”
His stage name, Katana Boy, comes from the name of a saw made by Silky Saws that is used to clear trails and limb trees, evoking the idea of a solo explorer. This imagery plays a large part in what has inspired his personal sound.
“I’m kind of creating these spaces with the beats, so it’s fun to have this idea of an avatar to explore those spaces,” said Casey.
On Friday, Nov. 10, he released his album, “Replenishing Touch,” after having created songs over the last two years, finalizing the tracklist this past summer. According to Casey, his process involves creating songs until there are enough that feel cohesive and contribute to a musical throughline or theme. A constant motif in his music is the concept of “place” and the idea of creating an environment for people to be in when listening. Particularly for this album, Casey wanted to create a healing space for his listeners to fill their cups.
“I had a couple of friends go through some major life events throughout the creation of this album, and definitely a hand full of the tracks I remember working on after spending some time with them, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with those feelings I was taking on, so I tried turning them into a song,” said Casey.
The house music style album is composed of nine songs that mesh ambient sound with dancy beats, weaving sampled voice snippets within the synth-textured tapestries. Evocative of video games and fantasy realms, the songs take listeners to new worlds and invite movement and remedy. According to Casey, he has become more intentional about creating more music for people to dance to.
“Being here [on San Juan Island] has made me appreciate what dance music is for people,” said Casey. “With fewer events out here, I have come to really appreciate what an event is, what a dance party is, and the kind of catharsis a person experiences in that. I have this goal of trying to make music that people resonate with and want to move to.”
Although Casey does not plan to release physical albums, listeners are able to purchase the album for download on Bandcamp at https://katanaboy.bandcamp.com/album/replenishing-touch. The album is also available on most streaming platforms, such as Spotify.
As for the future, Casey doesn’t feel the same desire to expand his music presence in the same way as before; he has found solace in the art of creating.
“For a while I really wanted to make this a [career]; tour, sell albums, but that’s less of a priority now. Katana Boy is something I do acting on a compulsion to create…I have really come to a place of peace with what that is on its own. It’s always gratifying to finish something and know it sounds better than the last things I did, and also to know the things I’m working on now will sound better than the things I just finished.”
Stay up to date with Katana Boy’s music and events by following @katanaboymusic on instagram.