Dance, dance reunion

By Rich Tupica

Playing music in a college town, like East Lansing, can be a death sentence for up-and-coming bands.

No matter how much work goes into writing songs and establishing a name for the project, the bittersweet inevitable is bound to happen: graduation.

Such was the case for The Casionauts, a now defunct synth-heavy, poppy dancemetal band, whose members are reuniting for a Lansing show on Saturday, Dec. 26

In its short existence (2003 to 2006) the band toured parts of the country and established an impressive local community of fans who enjoyed partying and dancing to the sound of Casio keyboards.

However, the dark cloud of commencement hung over the future of the band, and after three years, three releases and 130 shows, the members split for different parts of the country.

Founding member and main songwriter Ryan Balderas (vocals/keys) said the members of The Casionauts were aware of the looming break up well before it came. “It was always in the back of our minds,” Balderas said. “Our bassist, drummer and guitarist went to MSU, and their plans were to graduate and find jobs in Michigan, or elsewhere. I think that’s why we didn’t promote ourselves that much or try to get our record distributed.

“It wasn’t a typical way that a band tries to ‘make it.’ We all knew we had other things going on in the future, like graduating. It was more about the moment, not trying to get a record deal.”

Balderas, 26, described his music as a mishmash of electronic and rock genres. “When we first started, it was closer to disco-punk,” Balderas said. “We used a lot of disco beats, loud synths and danceable guitars and bass.”

Eventually, the band evolved into a different animal.

“I was really into New Order at the time, and ‘80s synth-pop bands,” he said. “We mixed it with newer screamo and grindcore influences. It was basically ‘80s dance music combined with fast ‘90s metal.”

While most bands usually have to build up a fan base, The Casionauts immediately had a strong following. “There is video on the Internet of our first show and 60 or 70 of our friends were there. People were into it right away,” Balderas said. “The Casionauts would always have big parties afterwards and hang out. It was like a community. We brought the following to the music, rather than the other way around. We were trying to make a fellowship, and we liked for [the audience] to be able to dance, so we had shows and parties.”

John Krohn, second keyboardist and founder of Lower Peninsula Records, said the band evolved musically and instrument-wise. “We used all cheap Casio keyboards from the ‘80s, ones you can find at a pawn shop. I think they were like $50 maybe,” Krohn said. “That was at the beginning. By the end of the band, Ryan was using more advanced keyboards. The last thing we ever recorded, “The Dynamic State of Body Constituents,” a 7-inch vinyl picture disc, was pretty metal, but it was still dance metal.”

The band’s lineup also saw a few changes throughout the years. For the first shows, the lineup was Krohn, Balderas, Jon Cendrowski (vocals/guitar), Scott Mills (bass) and Scott Warrens (drums), all of whom will play the reunion show. Krohn, who is the only member still living in Michigan, said he has steadily been asked to reunite his old band since its breakup.

“I just kept getting asked to play a reunion show,” he said. “People never stopped loving The Casionauts. People wanted it, and I missed it. The coolest thing about this show will be watching a room full of people dance and have a good time.”

But those fans will have to get their Casionauts fix while they can. At this point, the reunion is a one-time-only event. “Everyone is spread out across the country doing different things, but Christmas turned out to the time we’d all be visiting Michigan and able to practices,” Balderas said. “It seemed like a nice gift to give our friends.”

Visit the band online at

The Casionauts

With The Cartridge Family, Jason Alarm, Good Teeth Gold Teeth 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 26 Mac’s Bar, 2700 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing $6, 7 p.m., all ages