“When Loz was 3 years old he jumped out of our first floor bedroom window after our mum sent him to his room for standing in front of the TV while EastEnders was on. He landed in some bushes, cracked his head on the edge of a paving slab, and had to have 20 stitches in his forehead. Today he suffers from dyspraxia and finds it difficult to set up his drum kit, amongst other things. I’m not a medical professional, so can only speculate as to whether the two things are linked, but it is irritating having to set everything up for him, so sometimes I do wonder if things would have been different if he wasn’t such an idiotic 3 year old.”
The market town of Chipping Norton might not seem like the most obvious birthplace for one of the most interesting bands in the British underground, but this childhood anecdote from Jim Beck about his brother Loz suggests the two have never exactly been predictable. As Cassels, the pair have been making waves with their music that blends melody with melancholy to create a cynical commentary on a country that’s lost its way.
I spoke to Jim about the band and its place in the DIY scene, ahead of their UK tour with Youth Man. “To be honest, I’ve never felt like we’ve been part of a specific ‘scene’. In fact we’ve always felt like outsiders to some degree. I think it’s probably because we don’t neatly fit into any specific genre, which should be a good thing, but can often feel like something which hampers us. Saying that, our label (Big Scary Monsters) have fostered a really amazing community of people which I guess we’re a part of, even if our music feels quite removed from a lot of the other bands involved in it.”
This sense of distance comes up a lot, heightened by a self-awareness that could be crippling. When Jim mentions writing for the next album, he explains how environmental issues are the main focus, but is hyper-aware that even the greenest of us can only spend so much time worrying about something so abstract. As he says, “worrying about famine caused by increasingly arid conditions in some far off land is always going to take a back seat to the minor irritants you encounter on your morning commute. It’s just too much of a nebulous, complex, and abstract thing to carry around in your head all the time.”
And then that trademark self-awareness comes in: “I’m just as guilty as anyone, if not more so. I’m vegetarian (aiming to go vegan… soon), constantly harangue my colleagues to recycle, and try to buy ethically as much as possible, but at the same time my carbon footprint is massive; I spend as much time as possible travelling around in a van so I can play my music to people. I’m a selfish, hypocritical dickhead in denial. And so are most of you.
“The next album’s going to be a real party jam.”
Despite his interest in the bigger picture, the day-to-day challenges of being in a band never seem far from Jim’s mind. As with so many of their contemporaries, money is an unavoidable issue for Cassels: “Even rehearsing costs us around £50 a pop, so we’re constantly skint. Also trying to get your music heard in such a crowded landscape can be hard, especially when the music we make perhaps takes a few listens to get into. I read the other day that since Spotify has been in the ascent, the average intro for a pop song has decreased to something like 20 seconds to try and stop people from skipping. Which is fucking depressing. I love a good intro me.”
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, and there seems to be something more optimistic lurking under their cynical surface. For instance, when the band were forced to take to social media to sort out accommodation for the upcoming tour, Jim was able to take the positives from the experience: “Some lovely people selflessly offered us their floors and sofas – one man is even making us a curry. Touring always restores my faith in humanity a bit.”
As for the shows themselves, Jim is clear about what we can expect: “Oh you know, the usual stuff: sweat, noise, good natured on-stage sibling rivalry, illness, desperate pleas for people to buy merch so we can afford to buy petrol.”
Jim and Loz might need a few quid now to help them on their way but, if there’s any justice, Cassels won’t be kipping on strangers’ sofas for too long.
See Cassels and Youth Man on the following dates:
10 FEB – Think Tank? Newcastle Upon Tyne
11 FEB – The Garage Glasgow
12 FEB- Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
13 FEB – Jimmy’s, Manchester
14 FEB – Hy Brasil Music Club, Bristol
15 FEB – Joiners, Southampton
16 FEB – The Black Heart, London
17 FEB – Actress and Bishop, Birmingham
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