Silk Town Calypso
Hailing from Cheshire, the troubadour triumvirate (minus one revelling bassist) discuss sleeping in service stations, the birth of Cassia-mania and more. Conceived 18 months ago in the leafy green surroundings of Macclesfield by writer & guitarist Rob and bassist Lou, Cassia were originally an indie-pop duo when they released their first EP, Paradise Beach. Less than a month later they had added local drummer Leff to the line-up and, in Rob’s words, found ‘the missing cog’ to the Cassia sound. And what a sound it is! It’s hard to believe that this strong, rhythmic calypso style could have been cultivated in the rolling Cheshire hills when it’s roots lie in West Africa, but every track has been written, recorded and produced in the heart of their hometown. Completely self-managed and with a 10,000 strong online following in just over a year, it strikes a chord with a broad audience, growing broader by the day; their first release as a trio, Moana, racked up 11 thousand plays in a couple of months. As their busy summer drew to a close, Rob and Leff sat down in their studio to talk influences, 2016 highlights, and what’s in store for the future.
All three of you are musicians in your own right, so how did Cassia come to be?
Rob: “It was pretty much just me, doing some stuff on my own about a year ago. Then Lou got involved and we started doing some stuff, just demos really and working to craft the sound, and then when Leff joined, it was like ‘Oh! We actually know what we’re doing now!”
Well two out of three ain’t bad, but where’s Lou?
Leff: “Oh, he’s gone to Festival Number 6! It looks really nice actually, I nearly went but we’ve got to work. We’re running a bespoke artist development company out of the studio, called Sound Frontiers.”
Rob: “It’s a nice chance to get into some different genres of music and work with other people, you can learn loads from them. It’s just good to be saying we’re doing music and that’s all we’re doing at the moment, it’s kind of nice to say that.”
You mentioned crafting your sound; it’s pretty distinctive. You’ve likened yourselves to Bombay Bicycle Club and Vampire Weekend, did you try to achieve this sound or did it evolve organically?
Rob: “Erm, I don’t think we tried, did we?”
Leff: “It was more like old African stuff and because we’re doing it in a band way, it kind of sounded like Bombay, so we aimed it like that online since they’re massive bands.”
Rob: “Just so people can relate, y’know? At the time, we were being influenced by them so we thought it was fitting to mention it in our posts, ’cause we were pushing it on Facebook and fans of Bombay etc. might check it out and relate to it.”
Did you have other influences as well?
Rob: “At the minute, or when we made those records? Because at the minute, it’s really changed.
Leff: “To be honest, it seems to change almost weekly!”
Rob: “All this new stuff’s like...we’re still keeping the African guitar and rhythms, but it’s sort of moving away to The Strokes and things like that, I think their stuff’s really cool, so just trying to get that whole energy of like, early Arctic Monkeys to fuse with this African thing.”
You all sing and harmonise on the tracks, does that make writing and rehearsing complicated or does it come together easily?
Rob: “It definitely helps that we all sing since there’s only 3 of us. If it was just a two-part or just me singing I think it would sound quite thin.”
Leff: “It’s good fun actually. I didn’t sing at all before this so it’s been a journey, because I was really bad when we started out, I mean fucking...”
Rob: “Me and Lou were as well, we weren’t great!”
Leff: “Yeah, right at the beginning...”
Rob: “Yeah, we were definitely ropey! So we’ve all learnt which is great, and we’re still doing that whole thing, learning what we’re doing and trying to find out where we can fit into this whole... summer indie music thing. We don’t want to be considered as just ‘another indie band playing summer music’, that’s not the idea for us. It’s trying to get ourselves into the bracket of like, being an indie band but also having this pop-y side to it. Yeah, just trying to figure it all out at the minute.”
You’ve released three tracks so far this year, are you planning an album?
Rob: “I think we’re going to, the releases went down really well. We’re planning on touring off 100 Times Over in November so just trying to build around that, changing the branding, doing a new video and stuff like that.”
You’ve been travelling all over the country this summer, including busking in St Ives, is that right?
Leff: “Yeah, we wanted to escape Macclesfield and just find ourselves...so we went to Cornwall!”
Rob: “Mmm yeah...it was nice weather so we played a bit on the beach which was really fitting for our music. Getting the practice in helped a lot, and camping in service stations was definitely an experience!”
Leff: “Character building though! Wales was fun as well, we went on the sunniest day we could find to get some photos.”
Rob: “We went to Swansea didn’t we?”
Leff: Yeah, yeah. What’s it called....The Gower Peninsula! As you know, sometimes Macc becomes too much. It’s just so everything happening, all the time. I honestly call it the Northern London.
You’ve played a few festival this summer too, which has been your favourite?
Rob: “Probably not. This year it was packed, just amazing to see. We had our first couple of screaming fans so that was great! We camped over, snuck into the backstage area and gave some CDs out to Catfish (and the Bottlemen) and Circa Waves.”
Leff: “Like LISTEN TO IT PLEEEEEASE!”
Rob: “Pretending to be the press, that was the idea. You need some AAA gold pass to get backstage. The golden ticket!”
Leff: “Fortunately there was a massive hole in the fence about 20 yards down. We got kicked out like...5 times. Just kept walking back in!”
Rob: “It’s when you really need a pee, so you had to walk out, like, there’s no other option.”
Leff: “Then it’s like Oceans 13 getting you back in!”
Wow, screaming fans! That must have been electrifying! What’s the feedback you get from fans if they catch you after a show?
Rob: “A lot of the time it’s decent. It’s slowly transitioning which is cool, but up ’til pretty recently it was mums and friends, all that crowd.”
Leff: “Probably about four months ago!”
Rob: “Ever since we released the tracks, it’s gone up massively, and it’s just not stopped. It’s great to see people are loving the music as much as we are. It’s been awesome, from an insignificant very small band to being like, actually doing alright now, it’s great.”
Leff:”It’s slowly transitioning to people who actually want to see us! It’s been really positive.”
So, what’s the plan for the UK tour in November?
Rob: “We’re just organising the dates at the minute, when that’s all done we’ll map out where we’re gonna go. It’s probably going to be about a week and a half, nothing too intense. We’ll mainly be playing 150 capacity venues to keep it nice and small, to get the energy.”
Leff: “The big cities I reckon. Newcastle, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, London, Brighton...all the good ones, sorry if I’ve missed anyone! Sorry, it’s like an acceptance speech isn’t it? They’ll be reading like YOU MISSED OUT MY CITY!”
That sounds great. Do you think you’re prepared for a stint on the road?
Leff: “When we do these massive journeys across the country, we watch Peep Show. Well, you guys watch and I drive. I shouldn’t do all the driving, but Rob’s got a nickname. He’s No Drive.”
Rob: “I don’t like driving...”
Leff: “He never drives.”
Rob: “I do drive! I did the full Wales trip, hungover! Which was the worst thing ever, in the history of drives. Lou is the only one with a van so it’s a blessing when he can drive it. He promised me he had the van for the next day and I could have a couple of drinks. So I do. Then, I get a call from Lou in the morning; ‘Rob mate, I’ve really fucked up. Don’t be angry, but I’ve not got the van.’ So I knew then, that I was gonna have to friggin’ drive!”
Leff: “It was for Folk On The Lawn, and a fan had come from Ireland to see us at this festival, which was insane! We’ve never had anything like that!”
Rob: “So we couldn’t not go! All hanging out our arses, imagine just the worst hangover ever, but we had to go because she was going!”
Leff: “And then Rob volunteered to take her back to Macc because she needed to get to the train station, apparently...”
Rob: “It was a bit strange.”
Leff: “It was weirdly convenient, do you think she got to Macclesfield and just...headed straight back to Ireland?”
Rob: “I dunno, I just dropped her at the station like ‘See you in a bit, then....”
Amazing. You’re very good to your fans! Right, it’s summer 2017, what’s happening for Cassia?
Rob: “I’m hoping that next year we’ll be able to have a really busy festival season. Festivals are really great, whether you’re playing main stages or not it doesn’t matter, because playing smaller ones at good times is great because they’re always packed with people that love new music.”
Leff: “The quest for festivals!”
Rob: “Put out some new music as well, that’s my main aim in my own head. Just getting busy, putting out a new EP and gigging a lot!”
Check out Cassia online in all the usual social media places, and keep an eye out for their November UK tour as well as new music being released in the near future. Watch this space!