Puscifer’s Carina Round on Being Recruited by Maynard Keenan, Her Solo Career + More
An already accomplished singer and songwriter, Carina Round was recruited by Maynard James Keenan (Tool, A Perfect Circle) to become a part of Puscifer, both live and during the recording process. Having lent her talents to Puscifer’s second album, ‘Conditions of My Parole,’ Carina has established herself as a vital part of the band’s sound. Much like Puscifer, Carina Round is a 100-percent independent artist, and she has set up a PledgeMusic campaign to help her fund a solo headlining tour.
Carina spoke with us about joining Puscifer, why the band prefers to keep cameras out of their shows, a bizarre fan interaction, her solo work + much more. Check out our exclusive interview with Carina Round:
I recently just saw you play with Puscifer at your Asbury Park, N.J. show and it was such a great experience. I wanted to know a little bit more about your history. When did you start singing, playing guitar and writing music?
Oh, well thanks for the awesome review. I always knew, there was always something in me that knew I wanted to be a musician, you know, wanted to be a singer. Learning guitar was really just a way for me to write my own songs. I never really had much of an interest in doing that when I was a kid, but I decided that I needed to do something ’cause nobody just wants to hear me sing without playing anything. So I started learning to play guitar when I was around 15 or 16. That’s when I started, and when I was 17, I started playing out in venues.
So that’s when you started with your solo career?
Yeah, I had a partner at the time that was a promoter and she basically booked me a show and told me the day before that I was going to be playing on stage in front of people. I had a nervous breakdown. [Laughs] I only had two songs so I had to learn covers.
Well, you opened up that Puscifer show with your own set. Have you already put all those songs out on a solo disc?
Yeah all of those songs are from my new record ‘Tigermending.’
So how exactly were you discovered and recruited to play on Puscifer’s ‘Conditions of My Parole’ album?
Well, I had been signed to Interscope and I parted ways with them and made my own record. During the touring off that, Mat Mitchell, the other main members of Puscifer as well as Maynard [Keenan] had seen me play live and he had remembered and it stuck with him. When Juliette Commagere, who is the original live singer of Puscifer couldn’t make the tour, he [Maynard] reached out to me and asked me if I would be interested. I went up to Arizona to Maynard’s house to guest audition and to meet him and I guess that was my audition.
Was Puscifer the first time you became familiar with Maynard’s work?
No, of course not.
Were you a fan of Tool and A Perfect Circle before joining Puscifer?
Oh, yeah. I just don’t tell him that. [Laughs]
[Laughs] You and Maynard — your voices compliment each other so beautifully. What was it like working on those harmonies with Maynard for the first time?
Well, actually when I found out, it was just me and Mat Mitchell in the room, Maynard’s part was already assigned. He [Maynard] would come in and out and comment. The ‘Conditions of My Parole’ stuff — when we were working on it in Arizona, we all kind of locked away in our own corners, you know, when I was doing backing vocals. In some cases he would just come up with two or three different harmonies and mix and match them. Mat Mitchell would edit them in a certain way so that they could be different to the way I sang it.
Seeing as Maynard officially is the only member of the band, how much input did the rest of the band have when it came to recording ‘Conditions of My Parole’?
Well, Mat Mitchell recorded and produced the record alongside Josh Eustis, so an incredible amount. We were all there when it was being recorded. We’re not official members, but it’s not discount how important the other members of the band are, particularly Mat and Josh because they had so much to do with how the record sounded.
I think when you’re on stage with them, it’s not like Maynard is the lead vocalist and you’re in the background. You’re both incredibly important to the sound. I remember at the show you sang ‘REV 22:20′ live instead of him singing it and you closed out the show with ‘Tumbleweeds.’ He must think very highly of you to let you take control like that.
I don’t know, you would have to ask him. [Laughs] I mean, he’s incredibly supportive like you say. He has me opening, which is you know, just amazing. Jeff [Friedl] and Matt [McJunkins] are also playing in my band and we opened so we’re all on double duty and the response from the fans has been really amazing and I guess after a while word must have gotten out that we were opening and we didn’t suck, because people were arriving early to support Puscifer and the response from the fans has just been really positive and really supportive.
When I saw you guys there was a huge outpouring of love from the fans.
Yeah it does feel like that, I agree.
Yeah, it’s an incredible, super positive experience for everybody. What would you say, with Puscifer, is your favorite song to sing live?
It’s really strange, because the way the show is — it’s a totally different experience. Every song is like its own little journey. The way everything is set up and the videos are so different you know? I really enjoy ‘Undertaker,’ that’s always been one of my favorites, ever since I heard the first record. And I guess from the new record, I love ‘Green Valley’ because it’s the first [song of the show]. I also really love ‘Tiny Monsters,’ that’s a good one too.
The interesting thing about ‘Conditions’ especially, is that it delivers this unique balance. You kind of have your comical kind of stuff, like your more campy tracks and just these tracks that are purely beautiful, and that also shows in the live show. It just seems like this unique balance that would be very difficult to have that work. How do you think the band is able to maintain that balance when it comes to performing live?
I think if you do anything confidently enough and you’re good at it, it’s going to translate correctly. You know, it’s not like everyone is doing it partially — everything that’s happening on the stage, everyone’s into it 100%. Whether it’s a funny video or a beautiful heart-wrenching song — if you do it with commitment and you’re good at what you’re doing it’s going to come off good.
Is there any new material you’ve been working on with Puscifer or for your solo act?
Well, we’re on the road right now, so there’s not much else going on in the studio, but I just put out a new record ['Tigermending'] in May. Obviously because you heard it when I opened. Once this tour is done my band is going to do some shows on the East Coast in support of that too, and then I got on tour with Tears for Fears. I know we’re touring the UK and Europe at the end of the year.
As far as Puscifer, not a lot can happen towards the end of the summer and the early fall because it’s crush season, so he’s [Maynard] got to focus on his wine.
When it comes to the live Puscifer shows Maynard has always been very vocal of people not taking photos and videos or ruining the surprise of the shows. Do you think in any way that because so many fans go against his wishes, that’s added to the band’s hunger to make Puscifer’s show even more original and surprising?
Absolutely. For me, and I can’t speak for everybody, but I’m assuming for Maynard too, seeing as he’s like a Nazi against it. It helps my performance to not be self-conscious and to not to be staring out into a sea of phones. I mean, doesn’t it make you feel, as an audience member, feel like you’re more into the show?
Oh my god, yeah. I actually just wrote an article about that very point. To be honest, at first it was kind of frustrating not being able to see videos of the performance, but then when I came into the theater and experienced it, I was honestly so happy that I hadn’t seen anything and that it was so surprising. A lot of people don’t know what to expect. Do you get people asking you if the songs are going to be more like Tool or A Perfect Circle? Because I was talking to people at the show and that’s what some of them they were expecting.
Yeah, I get a lot of stupid questions. [Laughs] But yeah, that whole kind of, “Puscifer sounds like Tool or a Perfect Circle” — just listen to the record. It doesn’t sound like either of them.
A lot of the fans are so dedicated to Puscifer. Have you had any crazy fan interactions after the show when you’re signing things?
There was one time — I don’t remember what city it was. [Carina asks someone nearby] Jack, do you remember what city it was when that kid came up and sang to us?
He sang to you?
Me, Jeff, and Matt were sitting at the merch desk and a woman escorted her son to the desk and he sang the first verse and chorus to ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me’ [a Failure song that was covered by A Perfect Circle]. It was kind of weird. It was a little awkward.
It was a little uncomfortable?
It was a little bit uncomfortable. He was probably sixteen or seventeen and extremely nervous. I don’t know why he did it. He has a giant pair of balls. That’s the weirdest thing I can think of right now – poor little bastard. [Laughs]
Well, I guess you got to give him the credit, he’s got the balls.
Oh yeah, he’s got giant balls. He was shaking like a leaf.