Veterans of the unsigned Californian music scene Casey Wickstrom and Taylor Rae met just last year, but their recent single Post has been in the making for over a decade. First written and recorded by Wickstrom in 2010, the song dealt with themes of death and despair that he’d be soon to face.
Both artists have incredible stories. In the eleven years since Post was first imagined, Wickstrom has faced drug addiction, PTSD and suicidal depression following a near-death collision with a drunk driver. He has been clean since 2015 and has continued to expand on his catalogue of melodious indie-folk music, writing and videos whilst teaching guitar, yoga, and mindfulness classes. Rae, meanwhile, has released albums and singles since her sophomore year of high school and now performs her music full time. In 2017 she was awarded the Santa Cruz NEXTies “Musician of the Year” award and is currently recording a self-engineered and produced acoustic album that will include thirty original songs.
Their single Post is a masterful juxtaposition of cheerful melody and dark themes of death and loneliness, telling the musical story of a nuclear holocaust – “an apocalyptic musical dreamscape”. The artists’ experience and musical sensibilities is beautifully showcased in three- and four-part harmonies throughout the song. Post is a testimony to what can be done outside of mainstream music scene, with Wickstrom and Rae raising over $3,500 from fans for its recording and promotion. It is available now to stream on all streaming platforms.
Push Up Daisies: What has your relationship with death always been like, and how do you view it now?
Casey & Taylor: I think about death all the time, as if it were a close friend of mine. It’s interesting to me how the thought of dying used to keep me up at night when I was a child. Now, it helps me to fall asleep. I have a unique relationship with the idea of death. Knowing that I’m going to die is a beautiful reminder of the impermanence of everything. At this point in my life, I’ve nearly died in a car crash, a drug overdose, and rock climbing. I was also suicidally depressed for years. There were several instances in my life where I could have easily died, so I feel almost as though I’m living on bonus time now. To me, death is an exciting concept – the idea of no longer existing in this form is incredibly liberating.
Push Up Daisies: Are you spiritual or religious? How do you think your culture/ideals affect your perception of death?
Casey & Taylor: I’ve studied Zen Buddhism for many years now, and my meditation and yoga practice have created a fundamental shift in how I view the idea of death and dying. Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing on death and the tenants of Buddhist philosophy have been instrumental in transforming my fear around death and change in general. Western society has been taught to fear death, to fight against it and hate it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Transcendental Meditation (TM), which is what I practice daily, has also shown me that nothing ever dies; it just changes.
Push Up Daisies: As a creative, how does the thought or fear of death inspire you/does it ever drive you to create more?
Casey & Taylor: I’d say that death is an inspiration in everything that I do, though mostly indirectly. The universality of death certainly helps to keep things in perspective when it comes to art and music and writing. The fact is, you never know what significance you’ll have on others and the world once you’re gone. I’ve always felt a kind of deep visceral drive to create and document my journey of self-understanding as much as I can. I do this through my writing, my music, and my visual catalogue of music videos and images. Putting as much good material out there as I can ensures that I’ll leave a mark of honest introspection and personal expression of life that will outlive me.
Push Up Daisies: How would you like to be remembered?
Casey & Taylor: As a creative artist and intellectual who strove to understand himself and manifested a deeper meaning in his life while helping to create positive change in the world, I’d like to be remembered as an inspiration to others, whether it’s made through my writing, music, my life story, or teaching yoga and mindfulness.
Push Up Daisies: What are you most proud of in your life?
Casey & Taylor: Turning my life around after a decade of debauchery and self-destruction has been my greatest accomplishment. My sobriety is the foundation for all of my accomplishments; it’s held together by music, writing, yoga, meditation, medication, and continued self-inquiry. Everything that I’ve accomplished is a testament to my sobriety.
Push Up Daisies: How does the thought of death affect your everyday life?
Casey & Taylor: As someone who has dealt with suicidal ideation for years and gone through multiple near-death experiences, I can say that life is so much more entertaining when you don’t know how you’re going to die. It sounds morbid, but I’m looking forward to dying. I’m not in a hurry like I once was – that was delusion and self-destruction, wanting to join the 27 club and all that. I don’t seek death out anymore; I know that I don’t have to. Death is inevitable, it’s necessary, it’s beautiful. It gives a balance to life.
Push Up Daisies: In what ways can it be healthy to contemplate death?
Casey & Taylor: Considering that death is universal and inevitable, it seems to me that we should familiarize ourselves with it instead of pretending that it doesn’t exist, or that it won’t happen to us. The concept of death and impermanence is discussed at great length in Buddhist philosophy; I think Buddhism offers the best approach towards dealing with death.
Push Up Daisies: Have you ever seen a film/art piece/read a book revolving around death that left its mark on you?
Casey & Taylor: All of Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing, especially Fear and The Four Establishments of Mindfulness changed my perception on pain, death, life, and change. Also, lectures by Alan Watts, and the work of Eckhart Tolle have given me a very positive perspective on death and dying.
Push Up Daisies: Is there something that you would be willing to die for? What would this be?
Casey & Taylor: It’s easy to say that you’d die for someone or something, but as the situation unfolds in real time, I think it’s impossible to really know what you’d do in that moment until you’re there. So, under the right (or wrong) circumstances, I could see myself dying to save someone else’s life. But I don’t know. I hope to never be in that situation.
Push Up Daisies: What are your ideal and worst ways to die?
Casey & Taylor: The ideal way to die would be either an instant and painless death, or a peaceful drifting off to sleep and never waking up. The way that I almost died a decade ago would actually be preferred: a drunk driver going the wrong way on a freeway offramp, a dead turn, collision coming down off highway speed, lights out. I’ve always thought that carbon monoxide and/or a drug overdose would be a nice way to go out too, but I don’t think of suicide seriously anymore, so those are out.
The worst ways would involve slow pain, torture, drowning, or falling to my death. A plane crash would not be preferred either.