Sibling duo Cassels are putting the world to rights on their new album.
Oxfordshire siblings Cassels are on the verge of releasing their hard-hitting debut, a record about everything from physical abuse to inequality.
Hey Jim, when did you guys decide you wanted to be in a band together? Who initiated it?
I've always wanted to be in a band for as long as I can remember – it's been (and continues to be) a lifelong obsession. Unsurprisingly there weren't that many people to play with growing up in the middle of nowhere though, so when Loz was about eight, I managed to coax him onto the drums and, through a careful process of positive reinforcement, essentially brainwashed him into being in a band with me. He never had a choice basically, the poor bastard. I guess we started ‘properly' doing stuff as Cassels when I moved to London in around 2013, but it took us a couple of years to find our feet.
Have you always been on the same page about the kind of music you'd like to make?
Yeah, I guess… I mean, we've never had any formal conversations about the kind of music we want to make, we just played together a lot in our bedroom growing up, and it naturally developed into whatever the fuck it is now. There was a lot of imitating to start with, as there always is with any new band starting out, but luckily no one ever heard that as we were never in a position to play shows in front of people. I think being in a complete bubble – totally unaware of existing trends, scenes and the pressures they bring with them - gave us the freedom to experiment and write whatever we felt like.
You're about to drop your debut album proper, was it a long time in the works?
Nah it was all super quick. [Record label] Big Scary Monsters told us last year that they wanted an album from us at the end of this year, so we had a bit of a deadline from the start. I guess writing started around mid-2016 and we went and recorded four songs with Rocky O'Reilly in Belfast last November, then went back and recorded the remaining five tracks in June. We were in the studio for a total of five days, and for three of those Loz didn't play anything (just napped). We like to keep things as simple as possible, so recording with Rocky was great – we did everything live in the same room without headphones on, and did very minimal overdubs. Personally, I find it weird when you hear a record by a two-piece, and it's got loads of extra shit all over it. If you want keys and three guitars on every track, why not just get more members?
What was your frame of mind like while you were writing the record?
I had a few crises of confidence when I started writing. This was the first time I've ever had to write an album's-worth of material from scratch, and a debut album's-worth no less, so for a while I was stressing out about making sure it was this career-defining piece of work which we'd look back on in years to come as the pinnacle of our achievements. But thankfully I managed to recognise that that was a stupid and unrealistic goal, and just crack on with trying to write some good songs. In the end, I actually found having a bit of a deadline quite helpful as it kept me focussed and motivated. Also, we decided early on that we that we only wanted nine tracks on the album as we're both fans of shorter records (see Joyce Manor, Japandroids, Viet Cong/Preoccupations), so once I'd written nine songs Loz was happy with, it was finished. Easy as that.
You tackle a lot of heavy topics - do you ever think, ‘Fuck it, I'll write a cheery song'?
Yeah, that's actually what I tried to do with the last song on the record, ‘Chewed Up Cheeks'. There's even a line in it that goes, ‘This is the sound of my suspending my cynicism for just one second'. The idea for that song was to take the logic applied in ‘Cool Box' of the ‘you' in the song being a real person (in this case literally YOU – the listener) and write something which people can hopefully use in times of distress to make themselves feel a bit better. I always rely on music as a release or a distraction when I'm having a particularly bad time, so I liked the idea of writing a song with that purpose in mind for people listening.
What would you most like listeners to take away from your music?
I dunno. I'd just like them to enjoy it, I guess? I imagine a lot of our music could be misinterpreted as being quite didactic and preachy, but in actual fact, I'm not really trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking – I'm just expressing my own ideas and opinions. Personally, I don't believe music has the power to completely alter peoples' perceptions and views, only articulate, soundtrack and reinforce the opinions people already have. I'm under no illusion that the people who enjoy our stuff probably share a similar worldview with me.
What are you up to for the rest of the year? There's a tour with Single Mothers, right?
Yup, well excited about that! That's in November. Got a couple of album release shows before that at the beginning of October, and we should also be doing a screening of the documentary Rod Huart made about us at some point. Oh and probably another single.
Taken from the October issue of Dork, out now. Cassels’ album ‘Epithet’ is out 6th October.