By Niamh Ingram
Cassia are a band that floods any room with happiness. Their sound spans across genres, succinctly described by Clash as ‘a feel good carnival’. Having swapped the dainty market town of Macclesfield for the bright lights of Berlin, bassist Lou spoke to Lippy Magazine about his excitement to return to live music, what life is like abroad, and just how good his local Spoons really is.
First of all, where did the name Cassia come from?
It was really stupid: we had a gig and needed a name for the poster. At the time we were writing tropical, mediterrainian style music and started googling loads of names associated with that. I think ‘Maku’ was one of the words that came up from that at the start, and then we came across Cassia, and thought ‘that’ll do’. There was a view to change it, but we never did. Then Jake bought an African drum, coincidentally made out of Cassia wood, a really specific type of African wood. That drum ended up influencing the way we were playing, so we accidentally ended on the right name after all.
The new EP is called ‘Powerlines’ - what is your favourite song, or more specifically, your favourite lyric?
Ooh. Off the top of my head, I like ‘Do right and let the rest follow’ [from ‘Do Right’]. That was one lyric which is very to the point. I think lyrics can sometimes be hard to understand or are fairly subjective, but that lyric is really objective and to the said point as soon as you hear it. I often think that those are the ones which do the best, where people just ‘get it’ instantly. ‘Do right and let the rest follow’ is just you trying to do the right thing and do good I guess, which resonates quite well.
I’d say my favourite song is Powerlines, because it was the most recent song we’ve wrote and the excitement surrounding it is still fresh. I think Drifting is really cool as well, really summery.
What do you think 2021 will bring for Cassia’s music?
I suppose we’re still trying to figure that out. From past experience, it’s naturally found its way without too much discussion. Rob will play a riff or Jake will play a beat, and we think: ‘that’s something we haven’t done before’.
We’ve gone slightly ‘cooler’ - but that’s probably the least cool way of saying it! There’s something especially likeable about the new stuff, so it’ll probably end up heading in that direction. We always want to bring chilled, happy vibes - there’s a way of doing that without throwing it in your face and being an annoying type of happy though, which we want to avoid.
How excited are you to be back out playing live later this year?
You don’t even understand. It feels like it’s been so long since we’ve had that and we’ve missed that engagement with people coming to the shows. It does get confusing: there’s definitely been times when you’ve thought, ‘why are we doing this?’.
Also, when we’ve been releasing new music, you get instant feedback on tour at shows: people really show if they love it, or actually don’t like it so much. We obviously don’t know what people think about the new tunes yet, in the sense of gigs anyway. It’ll be good to see which ones really pop live.
Touring is usually so repetitive and you almost forget what the shows are like. The other day we went through a tour vlog from a few years ago and were watching videos of waves of people going absolutely mental - it’s a goosebump feeling that you just can’t wait to get back. It hits differently.
Where is your favourite venue that you’ve played?
My personal favourite so far is probably Thekla in Bristol. It’s sick - it’s on a boat, quite weird. The roof is really low and has always been packed, every show we’ve done there has been awesome. It brings back so many good memories. The Ritz in Manchester was cool too. There’s one in our hometown in Macclesfield called Mash, which is a 50 cap venue - the intimacy of it is great, and has such a specific live vibe. Small venues in general are great: having someone right in front of your face means you really get to feel the energy in the room. It’s either the really small ones, or the really big ones for me. That said, at big venues you feel so far away from the crowd, and you’ve got your in-ears on and are completely lost in that.
So you’re living in Berlin at the moment - how was it spending such a turbulent 2020 abroad?
In a way, it was just what we needed. We’d come off the back of an awesome, really heavy touring year so the plan was to take some time to record anyway. The opportunity arose to come to Berlin and it was great. I’d visited a few times before, but we’re quite away from the city so have amazing panoramic views of the place. It felt like in amongst the chaos, we were distanced from it all. I know that’s coming from a place of privilege to be able to say that, especially in such a horrible time of sufferance, but we managed to get through it unscathed which I’m so thankful for.
The only thing on our minds for 2020 was always to write - it was a productive time, and spending this time in new surroundings definitely influenced and helped to form the way our music has developed. With us all being in the same places has been a huge factor in shaping the songs too - we’d always written individually and then it would come together in a rehearsal room. Writing in a rehearsal room and writing in a studio gives you two different results essentially, and 2020 was more demo-ing tracks whilst all playing at the same time. It has definitely shifted the feel of the music a little. The ability to focus as one has been great.
Besides the songwriting, were you able to get up to much else?
Not particularly! We’ve done a few music videos. One was on a boat. We got to go down the main river that trails through Berlin and film. It was a really beautiful day, which was fun. Nothing out of the ordinary besides that.
Finally - you’re very active on Tik Tok, and you did a tour of Macclesfield on there. On a scale of 1-10, considering that was where you turned from a duo to a trio, how good is the Spoons that you featured?
It’s got to be a solid 9/10. I can’t think of much that lets it down, maybe the quality of the pints. But that’s universal to most Spoons anyway, right? Or perhaps the vomit on the floor of the loos. Maybe that gives it an extra point though - a bit of personality and character!
It is a banging place regardless. I’ve not been in ages now, which is so sad. I remember spending my teenage years in a Wetherspoons, and now I haven’t been for so long.