Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Q&A: Cassie and the Cassettes

In between exams and enjoying the summer sun, Cassie Layton, front woman of hotly-tipped Londoners Cassie and the Cassettes, took some time out to talk about funk covers bands, The Smiths and festival plans…
Your name kind of follows a structure that’s quite popular at the moment (Florence and the Machine, Rosie Oddie and the Odd Squad etc). It’s also pretty light-hearted and fun. How long did it take you to come up with it? Did you go by any other names? I always think it must be quite hard to come up with the perfect band name.
Actually, a friend of mine initially suggested it as a joke. At the time the band wasn't formed yet, but it stuck in my mind as a possible title. I don't think he remembers suggesting it though, probably a good thing, might try and claim royalties later or something... And I agree, finding a decent band name is tricky, all the best ones are taken!

You’re working with No Pain in Pop at the moment. How did that come about? Are you fans of the other bands they’ve worked with like HEALTH and Telepathe?
If I'm honest, I haven't actually heard of those bands. The only one I've heard is We Smoke Fags who aren't really my type of music, but the guitarist saw them live and said they put on a really good performance. I think I'll go and see them sometime.
You’re quite a young band. Have you had any problems with people patronising you because of your age or age restrictions not allowing you to play gigs?
We're not that young, are we...? Well all of us are 18 or 19 now so age restrictions aren't really a problem. They never have been as far as I remember. I think for our first two gigs a couple of us were underage, but it never prevented us from playing and no one's ever been patronising, not to our face anyway.
All age concerts are pretty much all the rage right now. I’m assuming as a young band you’re quite receptive to these? Have you played many yourselves? Have you noticed a difference between all ages crowds and over 18s audiences?
Well we haven't played any all ages concerts as yet, hopefully we will in the summer. But at the last gig we played at the Great Escape, the audience was a lot older. I think the only difference was less movement, there wasn't as much dancing going on, it's much nicer playing to a rowdy crowd; it’s more relaxing.
Who first inspired you to start a band? Do you look more at older or newer bands for inspiration?
Well half of us originally met through a funk covers band called The Funkbomb Detonators and we've all had experience with other bands before, but it's really difficult finding people who you can get along and also connect with on a musical level, the two are surprisingly hard to find.
I think it was during my Nirvana phase that I made up my mind to form a band, but I gave that idea up after a series of musical flops. It was only when I became good friends with the other band members some four years later that it seemed even remotely possible. And we definitely look at older bands for inspiration. Not that we’re against modern music, just as nature has it none of our favourite bands date later than about 1994.
What do you think about the current musical climate? A lot of people seem to enjoy slagging it off at the moment. And what do you think about the state of the industry right now?
Well I won’t go as far as slagging it off, but I have to say it’s been in much better positions than it is now. I don’t know too much about the industry, but I think the drop of record sales has made them very sensitive and acutely aware of any new bands that could potentially up the sales. This means we’ve has a lot of one hit wonders recently and artists that sell perhaps 1 top record and then peter out into nothing.
There are some really talented bands around at the moment, but there’s also a lot of rubbish. I guess you could say that about any era though, it’s only the revolutionary bands that stand the test of time whilst the rubbish ones are sifted out, never to be seen or heard of again. This is quite philosophical!
Belle & Sebastian comparisons seem to get thrown about left, right and centre when your name is mentioned. Do you think these comparisons are fair? Do you mind being constantly tagged with that?
I don’t mind at all, I think they’re a great band, although it’s only recently that I got into them. I can some similarities though I don’t think we’re worthy of the constant comparisons! I’m not complaining though, they’re extremely talented.
You say you’re ready to “fight injustice and bands full of pale Smiths obsessives”. I take it you’re not too enamoured with Morrissey and co. then?
Hell no! I love The Smiths; ‘Ask Me’ has to be one of my favourite songs of all time! The rest of the band likes them too! We should really change that on our MySpace, it’s sending out completely the wrong message. So many people have very angrily asked me “why don’t you like the Smiths!?” I didn’t realise it would cause this much of an uproar! I have to admit, we didn’t actually write that biography on our MySpace, it was a friend of ours, and whilst he did it extremely well, the content isn’t entirely accurate. Well, that part isn’t anyway, that and the Justin Timberlake comment; 'SexyBack' is a great song!
When you’re writing songs, is it a group effort or more just based around one individual’s ideas?
Well so far I’ve written the songs either on guitar or piano and then I’ve presented them to the band to work their magic upon. We do all the arrangements together so it’s very much a group effort. Although I’ve recently started working on writing some things with the guitarist Tom Varrall which is going really well, we’ve got some cool songs on the cards.
Is there a goal or objective behind Cassie and the Cassettes or are you purely together just to play music?
I think we’re just going to see what happens, it would be amazing if something big came of the band, it’s a fantasy that frequently crosses our minds, but if it doesn’t, we’d definitely stay together to play music.
You played Great Escape festival the other weekend. How did that go? Did you get to experience the rest of the festival after you’d played?
Oh, I kind of answered that a little while before, but it went well! A little strange as it was the first time we played a gig with none of our friends in the audiences, but it was good. And sadly we played on the final night so the festival was drawing to a close, but I’d like to go back there next year and enjoy it as a voyeur instead.
What are your plans for the summer? Are you playing any other festivals or going to any as punters?
We haven’t got any firm plans to play any festivals yet, but half of us are going to Benicassim which should be very exciting! Our drummer Nick is travelling across Europe and I think he’s going to Dour, but other than that we’re festival free.
Looking past summer, have you got anything sorted in terms of an album yet or are you going to concentrate more on touring and getting your name out there?
I think we’re going to play some more shows and we’ve planned to release a single this summer, but as I said before I think we’ll just see what happens, fingers crossed this wont be the last you hear of us.
Rhian Daly