Casey Hopkins' Inspiration to Rock Comes From His Past

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Casey Hopkins, the 26-year-old frontman of the Casey Hopkins Trio, is coming home this week for a series of shows in his native South Florida. It isn’t, however, something foreign to him. Although he’s spent the last couple of years in Brooklyn attempting to break through the rich scene in NYC, his heart is one passionately connected to the past, while his mind races towards the future.

His most recent record, Touch EP, features a creepy photo of a young Hopkins on the cover, Ric Flair on the inside flap, and a small but fantastic collection of classic rock 'n' roll rawness. It’s like a more sinister Band of Skulls with the gritty lo-fi of the White Stripes and plenty of hard-chugging rock 'n' roll superpower. Nasty blues guitar licks and crunchy riffs are eased along by Hopkins’ Alice Cooper-like low growl and occasional howls. It’s motorcycle music for road trips and ass-kicking.

Hopkins was raised in and around West Palm Beach and the Lake Worth area. Thanks to his father’s influence, he became a late-blooming guitar prodigy when he first picked up the instrument at the age of 11.

"I’ve been playing out since I was really young. When I was a kid, I really loved the blues," says Hopkins. "My dad used to take me to Ray’s Downtown Blues. I used to play there a lot as a kid, sitting in with the older blues guys. When my father passed, right around when I was 18, I started playing more in the independent scene down here."

After bouncing around a few different bands, including one that was very direct about its purpose in life, Shit Ton of Funk, Hopkins set off on his own and never took for granted an important life lesson his father’s own experiences taught him.

“My dad was a musician, but first and foremost, he was a health-care lawyer, but not by choice. He was awesome at the organ. At any time, he could bust out the blues or bust out Jerry Lee Lewis 'Great Balls of Fire.' He was always great and I would jam with him, but he was in the position where, his parents, when he was younger they pushed him away from music into something more traditional. Right around the time he was passing, that’s one of the last things he ever tried to do, to get out there and start playing. But by the time he started doing that, he was almost 60 years old and he had cancer, so it wasn’t in the cards for him. But ever since I was a kid, he was trying to turn us on to the guitar."

When Hopkins did come around to his dad’s way of thinking, after exploring Seattle bands like Nirvana, punk bands such as the Dead Kennedys, and the thrill of skateboarding, it was a revelation.

"When I started playing guitar, it really opened up a channel for him to direct me in a way that wasn’t really there. I started to take a listen to music that I had been sheltered from or hadn’t listened to in a while. For the past decade now, that’s basically what I’ve been doing; listening to all sorts of bands, absorb everything I can and became a more complete musician."

Although he loved all the classic blues musicians, Muddy Waters and the like, Hopkins emphatically lists a top three he looked to emulate: Jimi Hendrix,  Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Angus Young of AC/DC. There was one unifying trait all three possessed that appealed to him.

“Those real high-energy people; electric players. Not just the fact that they’re playing electric guitars. There’s a certain electricity about them, a certain power to their playing in the songs that just stand out and make you say, 'Oh, look what that guy is doing,' from an emotional perspective where it hits you.”

With plans to release a self-titled full-length later this year as well a cover album of songs by the Cramps, there's going to plenty of blues and punk to in Hopkins' arsenal to knock around the music world. 

The Casey Hopkins Trio will be blowing minds at Respectable Street (518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach) on Thursday, July 7. The show is 21+ with no cover charge with the trio hitting the stage at midnight. The band will also be making appearances at PRL Euro Café (1904A Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood) on Wednesday, July 6, at 10 p.m. and Poorhouse (110 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale) on Friday, July 8, at 11 p.m.

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