In lieu of warm weather, beer gardens and live music, Cassia offer up a concoction of bright sounds that complement the daydreams getting us through this lockdown. Often referred to as having a “tropical” sound, frontman Rob Ellis insists, “it doesn’t sound tropical” to him. In some ways, the label is restrictive, ignorant to the true ability of the band’s music. It doesn’t take you to far off lands, it sits you in a Northern pub, alongside three Macclesfield lads, with their spot-on playlist and a pint of cheap beer.
But until we are once again gifted the freedom of such ventures into the outside world, we are stuck inside, battling the ever-inconsistent world of the wi-fi connection in Rob’s house as we attempt to video call. Before we give up with attempting to make out each other’s sentences between pixelated disruptions and turn to the tried and tested ways of audio calling, Rob confesses, “I just hate looking at myself when talking to people, I can’t get used to it.”
But despite the obvious hesitation with a part of this new normal, Rob hasn’t found lockdown all that difficult. “We spent so much of the last two years touring, it got kind of a bit exhausting,” in fact, lockdown gave them the break they needed. “We’ve just been writing lots of music, kind of getting stuck into that really. And we also had chance to figure out where we wanted to be.” And where was that exactly? Berlin.
Converting the top floor of their place into a studio and putting the initial chaos of lockdown to good use saw the band miss the beauty of the city but reap the musical rewards of the space it offered. “We wanted to do something different and I think because of corona it’s kind of helped us do that in a weird way.”
Their mindset had to change, as did ours, but despite it all, the lads still produced their recent EP, ‘Powerlines’, to much acclaim. The opus encapsulates the journeys the three of them have been on in the past couple of years. With ‘Do Right’ having been written on Rob’s trip to Australia and the video for ‘Powerlines’ having been shot in the countryside on the outskirts of Berlin, it quite literally documents their travels.
And what travels they’ve been. Playing the Maida Vale, standing where Amy Winehouse once stood; playing live on German radio; having their work on vinyl; seeing artists they admire just stroll past them backstage at festivals. It all goes above and beyond, especially for Rob: “If I can live off doing music then that’s life goals completed. And I can live now. So, you know, I’m pretty happy to be honest.”
They’re thriving. And in today’s troubled climate, where many of us don’t feel the same contentment, they’re determined to spread a little bit of that joy. “I feel like I’d be doing everybody a disservice if I didn’t try as hard as I could to create as much positive music as possible,” explains Rob, “it just makes you feel that much better.”
Perhaps that’s where the true meaning of “tropical” lies, not in the sound, but in the feeling of escape that Cassia offer.
3 Songs: ‘Powerlines’, ‘Small Spaces’, ‘Do Right’
FACT: It has been incorrectly reported that Rob was born in Zambia and he has no clue how to announce that he wasn’t.
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‘Powerlines’ EP is out now.
Words: Megan Walder
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