Cara Introcaso keeps the music going in quarantine
Updated: May 26, 2020
By Margaret Goddard
The Studio Spotlight series started in 2019, with studio visits to artists of all mediums in Monmouth County. During quarantine, we're continuing to visit artists' studios remotely to check in on how local artists are coping and creating amidst hardship.
Cara Introcaso’s love story with music began by playing flute and french horn in her middle school band and taking piano lessons. At Red Bank’s School of Rock, she learned guitar and drums, then taught herself bass, which allowed her to fill a spot for bands in high school. She continued to sing, cover songs, and write her own music throughout college, releasing her first EP this past September. She performed live at the opening reception of Monmouth Art’s member exhibit Out of the Blue back in November. We caught up with Cara to check out her studio set up and to see what music she's been making lately.
Why do you sing and make music?
I always liked to play instruments - I played a guitar cover of "Stacy's Mom" when I was 8 at a block party, I asked for a flute solo in fifth grade (which was unheard of), and I took piano lessons from my old church's organist. So as long as I can remember, I've been playing. I got into it seriously when I was 15 - I had just gone to my first "real" concert, Weezer & The Flaming Lips, with my dad, and was absolutely floored by the energy and the sounds. I asked for a guitar the next day, and the rest is history. I suppose it's a mixture of me being musical by nature, and me being so moved by the artists who make music that inspires me.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Sometimes, I write lyrics or a poem in the midst of some creative/emotional spurt, and then based on the mood I want to convey in that song, I will build the music around that. Other times, I find a chord structure or sequence that I like so much that I will ignore lyrics and create a song based on those chords. I also get creative inspiration from other music that I listen to - I like a wide variety of genres which mirrors the different types of sounds you'd hear in the songs that I write.
Where is your studio/where do you set up your equipment to make music?
For the longest time, I'd just sit on my bed with a microphone that I would both sing into and play my acoustic guitar into. It was so lo-fi, but it was a cute way to start out. Even now, I have very limited equipment. I have a Scarlett Focusrite, which is a USB preamp that allows me to record my guitar & bass directly into the recording software, and has a microphone input as well. That cleaned things up a bit. I can also record piano and other effects on a keyboard that plugs directly into the computer. I am unfortunately stuck with keyboard drums that I play myself, but my buddy has an electronic drum kit that worked pretty well on one of my tracks. All of this I do at home on my own, in a spare room. My only beef with this studio is that one of the window’s blinds doesn’t open and I need natural light. I hate fluorescent lighting.
What are your “tools”? What do you need or like to have with you when you’re making music?
Aside from the instruments & the technology, I like to have a drink and nobody else around while I'm recording.
How do you feel when you’re performing vs. when you’re playing music by yourself?
You wouldn't guess it if you met me, but to this day, I still get a bit of stage fright. There is nothing in me that feels embarrassed or like I will fail - I simply get a shaky voice and a lot of times sort of black out while I'm on stage - but that's just solo. Playing with a band, boy, that is the most fun you can have doing anything. I have no fear and I feel so energized and in tune with the music. I don't mind playing solo but certainly don't prefer it. When I'm by myself it's sort of a form of meditation for me, because I can't think about anything else. I am recording the guitar parts, bass parts, drums, vocals, mixing, mastering, getting the timing right, etc. all at once with limited resources so I am always really focused. That's probably why I can only record when I am in a very specific mood.
Cara describes herself as “structured creatively.” She only plays when she has not much else to do, the attention span, and “that feeling when I know I’m ready to be emotional.” In quarantine she’s had more free time, but she still gets everything done in the first half of the day before considering sitting down to play music. She needs two or three hours to get into it.
She says she’d be “remiss not to work on stuff with all this free time.” After releasing her first original songs last year, she ended up having a lot of lyrics and poems around. So she has one song being mastered right now, and two others written and with instruments laid out waiting to be recorded.
Are you doing more recording and virtual performances during quarantine?
Yes, I have been doing a lot more writing & recording, as well as trying to post videos of me doing so. Part of the problem with virtual performances/ being active on social media is that I don't like to "brand" or "market" myself, and don't like to self-promote, either, so it always feels weird trying to draw an audience online. But my mom says it makes people happy to hear me play, so, I guess I'll keep posting.
What are you interested in right now?
Lindsey Jordan of the band Snail Mail does almost all of the songs in Lush in open D tuning. I started messing around with open D. It’s really fun and easy and that’s how I got these next songs written relatively quickly. It’s like playing a whole new instrument so it didn’t get boring.
Who are your favorite artists these days?
I can't answer this without first noting that my all-time favorite band is Radiohead, closely followed by Wilco, Amy Winehouse, and Car Seat Headrest, to name a few. These days, however, I have been really into Fiona Apple and not just her newest album, but her entire immaculate discography. I also have been listening to Nick Drake and Yves Tumor, as per the request of my close friend and musical confidant, and admittedly have been listening to Wiz Khalifa because his new album bumps and we love versatility. Lastly, I’ve been listening to Kim Petras and Dua Lipa when I need to emulate going out dancing with my friends.
What were your favorite local places to go hear music pre-Coronavirus?
I always enjoy going to the Chubby Pickle, that's a given. I also dig Jamian’s because you never know what you're gonna hear, but it tends to be good. As far as seeing bands that require buying a ticket to see, I like Asbury Lanes but favor the pre-construction Lanes because that's where I would go see punk bands in high school and drink warm Olde English.
What are your favorite virtual places to hear music during Coronavirus?