Casandra Carson of Paralandra – Interview

I was psyched to speak with Casandra Carson of Paralandra. I recently learned about the band (Casandra, Paul Carson, Nick Gray and Sawyer Rikard) and am impressed with their sound, energy and Casandra’s strong vocals. Her voice is so good I was so surprised to learn that singing isn’t her first love, guitar is.

Casandra and the rest of the band (Paul Carson, Dakota Watson and Sawyer Rikard) were on a 12 hour van ride from Pasadena, CA to Denver, CO. She took a break from watching Netflix and make-up tutorials to talk to me. Although she claims to still feel like a child, her maturity in music and songwriting is evident. Paralandra’s first CD, Ascension, will be a year old in June and they will be in the studio this summer recording some new music. I look forward to hearing the new music and following Casandra and Paralandra!

Review by Fredda Gordon. Photos provided by Paralandra.

Fredda Gordon: What was your first meaningful musical experience?

Casandra Carson: My first time performing. I was 11 years old. My dad was in this cover band called What’s Next and they played rock covers. I had just started playing guitar. I got my first guitar when I was 11… maybe I was actually 12 when this happened. Anyway, they said they would have me up to play a song, so I learned “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith. It was a Cinco de Mayo party and I went up there and played “Walk This Way,” and it was so much fun! People were going crazy because here’s this tiny, little girl playing Aerosmith [laughter]. I fell in love from there. They would let me sit in whenever I was legally able to get into the place that they were playing. That was the first defining moment where I was like ‘Yeah! I want to play guitar, I want to perform, I want to do this!’

FG: What is it like being a woman in the music business? Do you see any differences in how women and men are treated?

CC: I don’t view it as any different then being a guy in the business. I guess there are differences but I was actually talking about this with Brian, he’s the drummer for Yngwie. I don’t really see myself as a female singer or see myself as a female guitar player. I just see myself as a musician doing the same thing that everybody else is doing. Other people might view me differently because of that but I don’t view myself differently because of it.

FG: In this work I see so many more men performing. Is there a reason for that?

CC: I don’t know why there’s less women. You’re definitely right, especially when it comes to the rock and the metal world. It’s definitely dominated by men. But, there are a lot of women artists that are coming out right now. There’s New Years Day, In This Moment, Hailstorm, Stitched Up Heart, and Jinjer. There’s tons of women rockers and metal heads out there. Maybe it’s not quite as mainstream at the moment. There are a lot of women breaking through right now and its becoming more common now than it ever has been before.

FG: When did you start writing?

CC: Seriously writing… probably when I was 13 or 14. My whole life I’ve always come up with ditties and stuff. I still remember funny little songs that I wrote when I was 4 years old. Just young, being stupid, just making up little songs. I’ve been writing my whole life but actual song writing type stuff started around 8th grade.

FG: Did you feel different from other kids your age?

CC: Absolutely! I felt like I was the only one of my kind. I went to a smaller school. I graduated with 175 people, not a lot of other people. There were other musicians, for sure, but there weren’t a lot of other songwriters.

FG: Was there a moment when you realized “I’m not a kid anymore?”

CC: I don’t know that I ever really had that moment. I still feel like I’m a kid. I don’t feel like an adult yet [laughter]. I’m still trying to grasp responsibility. Dude, I don’t even know what’s going on [laughter].

FG: What’s it like working with your dad?

CC: We’ve been doing this for so long that it’s not weird, it’s not any different. He’s still my dad but we have always played guitar together. For the majority of my life we’ve done music together. So, it’s pretty normal for me. I don’t see it as different.

FG: The other band members are also around your age, what is their relationship with him like?

CC: They’re all best friends. My dad acts super young so people typically think that me and my dad are actually brother and sister, or that we are dating, or that he is brothers with one of the other guys in the band. Just from the way that he acts, and he takes care of himself, he’s in shape and everything. He’s not really like that ‘dad’ presence that people probably typically think. He’s definitely just another one of the guys.

FG: I was wondering if you have “who has better hair” contests?

CC: [Laughter] Yeah, well, Sawyer and my dad typically beat me out, which is a little depressing, [laughter] yeah, we get complimented on that all the time.

FG: Are there any other family members?

CC: I’ve got an older sister and a younger brother that are both into music. My younger brother actually fills in on drums for us every once in awhile, whenever Dakota’s unable to play. He’s a really incredible drummer. My sister plays piano. She was really good at the band thing at school. She played flute, was insane at it. My mom doesn’t play any instruments but she’s also super musical.

FG: Do they miss you when you’re on the road a lot?

CC: Yeah, definitely! Especially my mom. she comes and sees us whenever she can. Her birthday was on May 9th and she was able to come hang out with us in Vegas. That was really cool. I know she misses us. It sucks being away for a long time.

FG: Your shows are very planned out. Do they lose any spontaneity because of that?

CC: I don’t think they lose spontaneity because we don’t plan every second of the show, but there are certain choreographed moments. We do have some kind of structure and its not completely off the rails the entire time. We have an idea, like at this point of the song, this is where me and Sawyer go and synchronized head bang. This part of the song is ‘whatever.’ We have things that we know are coming up but in the meantime we just rock out and do whatever.

FG: Are there other things you would like to do musically?

CC: I would love to be in band where I don’t have to sing, believe it or not. I mean, I love to sing but guitar is my first love. That’s what I grew up doing. I was in bands and I was strictly a guitar player until I was 18 years old and people started making me sing. I would love to go back to my roots at some point and do a metal project and just be a guitar player.

FG: Who do you wish you could play with?

CC: My favorite band ever is Alter Bridge so it would be super cool to sit in on something like that. I already know so many of their songs anyways. I love that style of music, I love that hard rock, on the verge of metal type stuff. That would be super cool.

FG: What do you do to prepare for a performance?

CC: Lately I haven’t been doing a lot except for eating [laughter].

FG: You come out explosive and go from 0 to 100, right?

CC: Yeah, we really do! We don’t really have any pre-show rituals or anything that get us pumped. It sounds so anti-climatic and boring. On this tour we’ve had like 5 minutes to load our gear on stage, get a small sound check, and then get off stage because things are typically really crunched for time. We’re just in the groove of going really, really fast, getting everything done, and then having maybe 30 minutes to cool down for a second and get ready to get back onstage and do the performance. There’s not really a lot of time to prepare. We just wait around until it’s time to go on and then we do our thing.

FG: You have come so far in only 6 years. What did you not expect to be as hard as it is?

CC: The hardest thing for me is keeping a level head through everything. You get ‘yeses’ and you get ‘nos’ pretty equally and to be able to stay motivated through the yeses and through the nos and stay focused on what your main goal is, that’s probably the most difficult thing for me. Because you can get carried away really easily. Somebody’s like “Oh, we’ve got all these opportunities for you and and we’re going to make you explode!” and you get super excited. It’s great to be excited and smell the roses and everything but you can’t get super worked up about that kind of stuff because you never know what’s actually going to pan out. And, whenever you get a lot of nos, and [when] people say “You’re not going to go anywhere, you’re nothing,” and mean things, you can’t take that to heart either. There’s definitely two extremes to the spectrum. You just have to stay in the middle, keep a level head and keep going after your goal.

FG: What’s it like working with Yngwie Malmsteen?

CC: I haven’t met him yet so I can’t really even say. We’ve been on tour with him for about 3 weeks. I get to watch this guy every single night. He’s a madman, he’s a monster, it’s awesome! I’ve listened to Yngwie my entire life so its really cool getting to be on tour with this guy that I’ve literally looked up to forever. His crew is awesome. Everybody on his team is super nice. His band… those guys are great. I’m becoming really great friends with all of them. Definitely positive vibes there.

FG: It sounds like you’ll meet him eventually.

CC: I think I will, eventually. He likes the mystique. Which, I don’t even care.

FG: What does your name, Paralandra, mean?

CC: Perelandra is the second book in C. S. Lewis’ space trilogy. My dad was reading the book at the time we started the band. I just thought it was a really cool name. I was like ‘you should change the spelling to make it our own.’ We looked it up and nobody had that name for a band and we were like ‘What the heck, let’s just do it!’

People think it’s a combination of my and my dad’s names. ‘Cause Paul and Casandra, and I’m like ‘Oh, we’re actually not that clever.’

FG: You spend a lot of time on the road, do you have privacy?

CC: To an extent. We’ve all got our own row because we’re traveling in a van right now. I’m just back here in the very back of the van. There’s enough room to lay down. Not a ton of privacy, there’s no curtains or anything but everyone pretty much puts their headphones on and does their own thing.

FG: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

CC: Anywhere in the world? Oh, my gosh. Dang, that is a difficult question. I might live somewhere sunny. I used to live in Orlando, I would totally live there again. Or, I would probably live in LA, the Malibu area is just gorgeous. I’ve been to Australia before, I would probably live there. I just like sunny and warm and good weather. Anywhere that doesn’t really have a winter I’m all about.

FG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CC: We’ve got our EP Ascension that came out a year ago. June 1st was the release date last year. That’s pretty crazy that it’s been a year since that’s come out. I’m really excited about it, it’s been doing really well. We’ve got two singles out of it that have been on the radio and played all over the nation. “Back to Life” and “Killer Queen.” We have music videos for those two. Adrienne [Beacco], the girl that did the videos for those is on the road with us right now. She’s our merch girl and she’s doing some behind-the-scenes video stuff. We’re going to have some blogs coming out soon. We’re going back into the studio this summer. Stoked about that. New music coming soon!!

Paralandra will be opening for Yngwie Malmsteen at these locations.