published Friday, January 6th, 2012

Athens-based pop band brings 'almost danceable' music to JJ's tonight

IF YOU GO

What: Casper and The Cookies and Mythical Motors.

When: 10 p.m. today.

Where: JJ's Bohemia, 231 M.L. King Blvd.

Admission: $5.

Phone: 266-1400.

Venue website: www.myspace.com/jjsbohemia.

Jason NeSmith wants you to dance ... sort of.

The lead singer, founder and eponymous "Casper" of the Athens, Ga.-based Casper and The Cookies said he wants his music to ride a tantalizing line between sunny, rhythmic pop and something a little unexpected and off-kilter.

Basically, he said, the audience should feel compelled to dance but not quite be able to.

"In a live situation, we'll be a fun rock band. We'll vary between more melodic and more noisy, but it's going to be something you can almost dance to," NeSmith said. "We'll still mess with you, though."

Being in a state of musical flux has been NeSmith's bread and butter since he founded the group "probably in 1998" in Atlanta with his wife and performing partner, Kay Stanton.

Even after graduating from a bedroom recording project to a full band, NeSmith said he wasn't intent on settling into a musical mold. Originally, the plan was to change the name of the band after every recording, but the "and the Cookies" moniker stuck.

Despite performing for almost 15 years under the same name, however, NeSmith said the band's sound has been constantly shifting. That's just the way he likes it.

"Constant surprise. That's what I want," he said. "A lot of bands find a thing they're good at, and they play it almost exclusively to where you can't tell one song from another. I hated that sound so much that I went in the opposite direction."

For all its apparent lack of stability, Casper and the Cookies' music does exhibit a few consistent qualities in its highly textured layers and vocal harmonies, inspired by NeSmith's love of The Beach Boys and British invasion artists such as The Hollies and The Byrds.

Tonight, NeSmith and crew will take the stage at JJ's Bohemia alongside local power-pop quartet Mythical Motors.

After a year of lying low and letting their material find a new -- if likely temporary -- equilibrium, NeSmith said he's excited to return to the stage and get the crowd "almost dancing" again.

"To be onstage in front of an audience, even if they're not paying attention, is more fun than almost anything you could alternatively be doing," he said. "A long time ago, someone told me to remember the difference between being exciting and being excited. I think you can do both.

"The lesson was probably if you're excited, you're coming off like a spaz or something. I thought I would grow out of that, but I'm still pretty spazzy."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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