Cast, aka Joshua Castillo, can come off as a bit of an anomaly. Online, the Bronx-based artist streams tracks that are laced with that gritty cadence NYC is known for. Yet, while offline, he is soft-spoken, calculated and holds conversations that quickly turn metaphysical in nature.
That welcomed dissonance between intense and intimate is probably what continues to attract his micro-cult of fans who flock to the live shows he organizes across the city.
We caught up with him at a pork bun joint on the Lower East Side of the city. Below sticker encrusted walls and the low rumble of 2010-era hip-hop, we spoke with him to understand where he finds himself in the mix.
This is Cast.
Armoni Boone: Are you one of those artists who hates being compared to other artists?
Cast: Not at all. In fact, you have to.
AB: For a point of reference, right?
AB: Well your work hits me like Brockhampton’s [Saturation I-III]. From the booming drum loops to that subtle vocal sizzle. Though, hearing you live is drastically different.
The first time I saw you, you were freestyling while playing an acoustic guitar. You have this braggadocio energy coupled with this gentle performance. I’m curious about that sound.
C: It’s the way that I’m approaching what I’m doing now.
It’s really difficult for me because I always wanted to tell stories. I’ve always wanted to be intimate and convey what’s going on in my heart. Recently, I found that my struggle is in doing that. It’s been difficult to expand my following with just that intimacy.
That intimacy retains people, but it doesn’t attract new ones. So, my goal right now is to expand— to create a sound that people could go to.
So, you’ve heard someone sing over the guitar before, but the beats that I’m making now [push my boundaries.] Once I establish myself as a reputable source of good content then I will begin to keep everyone in with that intimacy. It can’t be intimate unless it’s not, you know? You have to have that duality. If your stuff is always soft, it’ll just fall into just this echo chamber of softness. But if you have the duality you have versatility.
I haven’t forgotten that ability to be intimate. And whenever I do those singles. And when I do the shit that bobs and I tend to tease it.
When you listen to “Woo” that last-minute holds that moment of intimacy that retains people. And I put it there because I know that it’ll make you want to listen to the song again and it’s like, “don’t think that I’ve lost that touch.”
I’ve always been into really versatile artists like Prince, Tyler the Creator, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean— artists who can really cover a wide range of different emotions behind their music.
AB: In one of your very early Tumblr posts you referenced a John Mayer quote explaining your songwriting process. Could you build on that?
C: You know, [my process] is like a restaurant where the back of the kitchen is filthy, rat-infested with dishes everywhere. Overall, shit is all over the place. Like sanitation would not give it a good rating. But through those double doors comes this beautifully well put together dish filled with these small nuances. When you eat it, it’s one of the best things you’ve ever had. Just don’t go behind [the proverbial double doors.] Just eat the “meal.”
[In this “kitchen”] I don’t even fully understand in the same way that a person doesn’t really get every aspect of who they are. I’m still learning about myself and about what’s in that kitchen.
AB: So you’re, uh, literally like the emotional/musical Kennedy’s Fried Chicken?
C: Low key, yeah *laughs*
AB: In one of our earlier conversations there was a big discussion on immersion. So you have this vessel, or you’re the vessel [for Cast]. At what point does Josh end and Cast begin?
C: I don’t know if there’s an answer to that because I don’t know if I consider them to be a separate entity. I think that, years ago, I would have [given a boundary], but now I’d say that Cast just feels like such a crucial part of who I am.
I guess the point where Josh would end and Cast would begin is in that moment where it transitions from life into art.
Yanno, right now, is this art? Us talking to one another? But it’s not what most people would perceive as art. But if it was a more performative thing, you would say so. That’s what Josh is, sometimes, it’s the same kind of a relationship. It’s an analogy! Josh is to Cast as Life is to Art.
AB: Speaking more on your process, even though you don’t know where the words come from, once they’re in your hands you know what to do with them. For example, when you posted the breakdown for “WOO” you showed a lot more authority and ownership of your work. What do you go through when transmuting words into music?
C: I think it comes from the fact that the words were given to me. So when I’m writing I might as well be in a vacuum to myself. Like you said earlier, I’m a vessel. These other things just come out of me. Everything is so exactly put together in a way that even I can’t really explain.
It’s got authority over my own.
AB: You really touched upon the meta-physical aspect of things. And I think that is the key to your process. It seems as simple as ‘I get the words and make the beats.’
You can follow Cast on all platforms via fanlink.to/cast.
Armoni Boone is a writer and an interdisciplinary artist in NYC.