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Newport, Rhode Island, United States | SELF

Newport, Rhode Island, United States | SELF
Band Rock Pop


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"New Music from Newport: Castle (the band)"

Despite having a name more readily associated with a genre like metal (or maybe Gregorian chant), RI band Castle (the band) is a blend of folk and alternative rock, with light, peppy drums and songs that often have an accordion as a lead instrument. Their eponymous debut album has great range, with tracks spanning from upbeat and whimsical to somber and serious, and their female vocalist sings with a girlish, unassuming voice that I found charming. Favorites include ‘It’s not Mine’, ‘Numbers’, and ‘Awesome Powerful Brain’. The band plays Precinct in Somerville February 22nd, and you can listen to their album below. - Geoff Noble - The Deli magazine

"Queen of the Castle"

Bessie Bessin, 27 | Indie rocker
She has a double life; by day, she’s an engineer for the Department of Defense, performing finite element analysis at her computer keyboard. By night, she takes up a different set of keyboards, the accordion and the piano, as a member of the Newport-based band Castle. The “art rock” quintet, which also includes drummer Dave Passafiume, guitarists Mike Cellemme and Noah Bickford, and bassist Craig Cameron, came together in 2010 and defies description, combining elements of rock, pop, jazz, French cabaret, and even, at times, Russian folk music. The band issued its first album last summer and is now recording a second CD. Bessin is perhaps not what you’d expect from an Indie rocker chick; she’s classically trained (on the oboe); employed by the government, and softspoken. If you listen carefully, however, her strength and independence come through.

Tell us about Castle. First, how did you come up with the name?

We were all out to brunch one day, and we floated a few names around. The deciding vote was cast by our waitress, who picked Castle.
One review of the band said it doesn’t sound like anything else out there and that none of your own songs sounds like any of your other songs.

Why do you think that is?

I think bands typically have one or two writers, but in our band, we all write songs. There are five individual sources of inspiration and sometimes we write songs together.

Do you also think there is diversity in your unusual assortment of instruments, which includes the accordion?

I think so, especially since we use different combinations of instruments in each song. I don’t always play accordion, sometimes I play the keyboard, and sometimes I just sing along.

Did you grow up in a musical environment?

Yes, my parents both played the guitar. My brother sings. I used to sing in church choirs, and I played the oboe in band and orchestra.

Did you always want to be a performer?

Not really. I used to be very shy and I would get stage fright when I had to perform. It was OK with the oboe, because I was always behind other people. During the band’s first couple of performances, I hid in the back corner, or behind the speakers. When I heard my voice on the mic, I would back away. Your friends usually tell you how great you were after a performance, but one good friend took notes and gave me a critique. He basically said, “If you don’t want to be on stage, then don’t. But if you do, then get out there.” He gave me the push I needed.

You’re the only girl, and you play the accordion. We want to see you!

Now I stand front and center. I decided to “fake it until I make it.” It’s a lot easier now, the band is like a family. I look to my right and to my left and I see people I know and trust. Plus when I look out into the audience, I now see people I know.

When and why did you take up the accordion?

I started playing a couple of years ago. I heard someone playing an accordion in the band The Bowerbirds from North Carolina. It is a really unique sound. The oboe also has a piercing sound. You can always pick it out from the other instruments. I think I’m drawn to that.
That’s interesting; you are soft spoken, but you play instruments that can always be heard. Is it difficult to sing while playing the accordion?
Yes, especially since I am relatively new at it and I am picking it up as I go along. The accordion itself takes a lot of coordination. You have to split your body in half. The right hand is the melody and the left hand is the rhythm. If you add singing on top of that it becomes even more complex.

Can you tell us about a favorite song that you wrote and what was going through your head?

Initially, all my new songs are my favorite! “Foggy Eyes,” on the first album was my favorite for a while. I was listening to Joanna Newsom and trying to sing along, but some of it was out of my range. I wrote my own melody, then the lyrics “thanks for having foggy eyes” struck me as humorous and I wrote them down. The rest of the song filled in around it.

Were you describing yourself in Foggy Eyes, the girl with big hair?
I did incorporate some elements of myself.

Do you set out to write a song about a particular subject, love, or world peace?

Not usually, that doesn’t work for me. It ends up being too forced. There have been occasions when we have written around a specific subject. Castle was invited to participate at an event at Brown University called “The Encyclopedia Show.” There were poets, spoken word artists, and we were the only band. The theme was “explosions” and people were assigned various topics. A spoken word artist was asked to create something around the exploding whale, an event that happened in 1970 in Oregon, when they exploded a beached whale carcass to get rid of it and pieces of blubber flew unexpectedly far and damaged parked cars. The artist did a great job with a multimedia performance that involved throwing things. We were assigned to write something about Tunguska, a large meteor that exploded over Siberia (in 1908). That song will be on our second album.

Were you judged on your artistic merit?

No, by fact checkers making sure we stuck to the truth!

Who are some of your musical influences?

My parents liked folk. I used to hear Joni Mitchell and the Indigo Girls around my house. I really like Yann Tiersen, most people know his music from the movie “Amélie.” He has beautiful orchestral pieces that are simple but lovely.

When you want to pump yourself up what music do you listen to?

I listen to the Brown Bird album a lot, also Tune-Yards and Rubblebucket.

How has the band changed your life?

I am definitely a lot busier. I used to go and go without stopping but now I have to deliberately relax. March is relatively quiet, because we are concentrating on recording our second album, but we generally practice once a week and perform several times a weekend. Sometimes we don’t go on until midnight or even later. It can be a late night.
- Newport Mercury

"Diving into discs by Castle..."

Newport-based quintet Castle (the Band) formed about two years ago, when the accordion and guitar duo of Bessie Bessin and Mike Cellemme hooked up with drummer Dave Passafiume and guitarist Noah Bickford. In late 2010 bassist Craig Cameron offered his services after seeing his second Castle show without their bass player. The band describes the sound on their self-titled debut album as "danceable indie-rock," and I'd say it's a pretty damn unique sound from one track to the next. Bessin steals the show from the start on the opener "It's Not Mine" and the breezy toe-tapper "Foggy Eyes." The album is a team effort, though, with Passafiume leading the charge on vocals and acoustic guitar on the galloping finale "Awesome Powerful Brain" (four of the five members each sing lead vox on a track). This is a fun summer listen (check out the lyrics on "Jamestown"), recorded with Scott Rancourt of Summing Point Studios and new label imprint Giant Robot Records.

Castle will play two CD release shows next weekend. Cameron said the band will return to the studio and finish a full-length album due out early next year. Check for the new disc and updates.

I checked in with Rancourt for his thoughts on the Castle debut.

"They have five talented songwriters bringing individual influences to create beautiful vocal harmonies, solid rhythms, and strong hooks, with an attention to detail and a willingness to experiment in the studio," he said. "The sound has enough twists and turns to always keep you guessing." - Providence Phoenix


Castle (the band)



Castle wages a peaceful war using music and human energy to accelerate global enlightenment and spread dazzling positivity. Castle plans to conscript you and your loved ones into an army of everlasting friendship. A family bound not by blood but by harmony, Castle will high five your inner child until you know yourself better.

This music will share your body. It will invite you onto the dance floor and release you for the first time. Bring a whip and a fedora because each show moves like an action movie. If you aren’t laced in tiger stripes by the end of night we will know you are wilder than anything we can tame. Then we will ask you to join the band.