By Grady TrexlerIn the music video for his newly released single, ďAll My Love,Ē Rob Romano (under the stage name Chico Romano) bounces around the scene, plays Jenga, relaxes in the pool, and exercises (or attempts to) at a public park in retro workout gear, complete with fanny pack and headband. Despite the jokes, Romano is a serious musician, having led New Brunswickís Professor Caveman since 2014. I chatted with Romano about his new single, the visuals of Professor Caveman, and his plans for the future.Q: Letís talk about the ďAll My LoveĒ video, which was your first official solo release. What went into that, and what was the difference in making something solo versus with Professor Caveman?
Romano: Yeah, that's a really good question. A lot of Caveman songs come from me doing a demo, but usually the demo isn't fully fleshed out and we usually build as a band, where with this one, I just kept on going with the demo, and and I was like, I'm going to do this on my own. I donít know how familiar you are with the Portastudios--it's kind of a trend now, but I have this Tascam 388. Itís basically like a big Portastudio. Itís so big. Most Portastudios are cassette. This is quarter inch tape. Basically, by the nature of it, it's all analog, so you don't need to edit that very much. Thatís the construction of the song -- just me, making what originally was supposed to be a demo, and thinking, this is kind of special. I showed some friends, and they're all like, "This is the best song you've ever made." And I was like, "Really?" That's how that came to be.
Q: Yeah, that's interesting. I thought it did certainly have the same kind of Professor Caveman sound, but it obviously was like a little bit more lo fi or stripped down. Are you interested in trying to explore different sounds yourself, apart from Professor Caveman?
Romano: Certainly. I think that's the biggest reason why I wanted to distinguish myself from myself, in a way. [Laughs] Professor Caveman was always kind of like the 'Rob Band,' or whatever, but I wanted to shed that in starting something new.
Q: Right, so do you plan on releasing more solo content in the future, then?
Romano: Yeah, I do actually. My grand scheme is that I plan on releasing a double album, or a split album, with myself, essentially. It would be half Chico, half Professor Caveman. I'm having a hard time distinguishing the two, actually. I don't know. Itís tough. I've talked a lot of like industry, quote-unquote, people. Or just friends of mine who are a little further along and theyíre like, ďYeah you shouldn't change your name.Ē I'm trying to figure that whole thing out. I think it's going to be two different bands, but it basically is the same thing. [Laughs]
Q: I saw that just a few weeks ago you released the World of Professor Caveman cassette. Talk to me a little about the process of making that and the the decision to make it a limited run of just 100.
Romano: We've been trying to do cassettes for really long, and different things fell through. Our friends, Arawax Records, Union City, they're really dope. They fuck with us, and we're all Dominican. We're all hip hoppers and rockers and shit. They booked us before, and we just really vibe with them, and they asked us to be one of their first releases for their label. Just by itís nature, the cassette run was limited. I don't know why. It's just a thing people do. We just wanted to just put out all of our music in a physical form because none of it has really been officially put out, ever. in a physical way.
Q: Why cassettes, why not CDs or vinyl?
Romano: I guess CDs are just kind of out of fashion. You know I actually still use CDs. I don't really know many people who do. And cassettes, you could say, are even more like obsolete in a way, but in a DIY sense they're pretty fashionable. A lot of people sell cassettes. People buy them. I wonder if they even listen to them. I think they kind of just like to look at them. [Laughs]. But I would love to do a vinyl record. This one was more of a compilation. I don't think it was serious enough to warrant, a vinyl or something. I would love to have the next thing be vinyl.
Q: It's funny. My car's Bluetooth radio and aux cord broke so I can only listen to CDs now. They're hard to find. They're much harder to find, I think, than records.
Romano: When you do find them, they're dirt cheap, usually. There's a CD store near nearby me, Turnabout, a legendary Garwood, New Jersey, CD store. They're going out of business. I found all these CDs that I got for pennies.
Q: You're involved in a lot of other things. I know you used to do printmaking, it seems like you make a lot of flyers, you skate. Do these play into your music at all, or do you see them as different, siloed worlds?
Romano: I think it's definitely intertwined, and I think that's where a lot of bands fall short. There's not a strong visual. I feel like a band should be a whole artistic package. The "All My Love" video was the first music video I ever really put out. If all you do is play music--I think every band should have a little more dimension to that.
Q: Talk me through some of the visuals for Professor Caveman. I recognize a ghost, or whatever he is, in all your visuals.
Romano: I call it a bird. That character actually is kind of rip off of a Kirby character, I think his name is Waddle, or something like that. I think maybe some other bands I'd seen had cutesy logos, and I have always been fascinated with video games and cartoons, so what I draw is in that style. I just wanted a mascot. I thought it was funny. I don't see a lot of mascots these days for bands.
Q: What role does humor play in your music or art? In the music video, for example, you're texting someone about the Cocteau Twins and you've got a lot of joke-y video game references.
Romano: I'm glad you guys can read that. [Laughs]. I think humor is super important. Although I do take music very seriously, and I think like a lot of artists do, I don't know. You can kind of see it in people sometimes when they take themselves too seriously. I just love that childishness of like bands like Ween. I think that was a huge inspiration for this track. I feel like my life is a cartoon sometimes, so I like to try to channel that through the humor.
Q: Expand on that. What do you mean your life feels like a cartoon sometimes?
Romano: Things just happen. I think this is the kind of universal, but a lot of our lives play out like movies in terms of relationships and growing up and the way you become matured and hardened by the world. But to be honest, all the words of that song, aside from the chorus -- it was pretty much all improvised on the spot, and there's a certain magic to it. I usually care too much, so there's a certain magic to letting go. I just did the vocals in one take, so they're kind of raw and weird.
Q: How have you seen the scene in New Brunswick change over time, especially with regards to COVID?
Romano: Honestly, it's still pretty kicking. Not much has changed. I think it's really cool that people like are still doing it. Even though a lot of the spaces are DIY, I think they've been very conscious about capping shows that are too big, or keeping things outside, or masks. I honestly just play. I haven't been to too many shows outside of that. [Laughs]
Q: Other than the double album you mentioned, what are your plans for the immediate future -- both with Chico and with Professor Caveman?
Romano: I guess in the most immediate future, we're playing a bunch of shows. We're going to test out some of these new tunes and see if they need any fixing up. I have more music videos in the works. I'm getting into animating -- or, I have always been into animating, but I'm pushing it a little further. The next video is going to be completely animated by hand. And I'm trying to just do more of that. I'm trying to get into 3d. Man, the "All my Love Video" is so much fun to watch. I just want to bring more fun to people. More videos, definitely a lot more videos, in the future.
To stream and download Chico Romano and Professor Caveman music, visit professorcaveman.bandcamp.com.