“We’ve really stepped it up this time,” Jacob Leff of Cassia discusses new music and the year of nightmares for the music industry
Despite two national lockdowns in the UK in the past year, the northern 3 piece Cassia have managed to release two great bodies of work during this time, with even more in the pipeline. I spoke to Jacob Leff about how this came about and how it feels to be putting out so much music at a time like this. “It feels good! We’re really lucky where we’re in a position to be able to. We went out to Berlin and there was a studio in the house, so we wrote and recorded stuff all year. It’s probably the most productive we’ve ever been, which is strange isn’t it, considering the circumstances.” Asking how they ended up recording in Berlin, he told me “We had to part ways with a lot of our team, unfortunately, so in order to keep us together we tried living together in Berlin as our new management are there.” Coming from a small town called Macclesfield meant that this was a massive change of scenery for them, as well as another thing to tick off the bucket list. “It’s so cheap too, you go to a fancy restaurant and expect to be absolutely stung and it’s like ‘fucking hell, this is great.”
“I drove back [from Berlin] so I could bring all my studio stuff back with me so it’s pretty chill“
When the band (Rob Ellis, Lou Cotterill and Jacob Leff) first went to Berlin, Covid wasn’t a massive thing and they were blissfully unaware of what things were about to become. Because of this, I asked if the intention for an EP release was always there, or if it was something that came to fruition because of the whole world being locked down. “Not really, I think the plan was to keep going and pushing forward, release a few singles but it naturally turned into an EP.” Leff instils the idea that if a global pandemic was going to happen, it couldn’t have happened at a better time for them all, what with being in Berlin and that giving them the time to get on with things. “We came home for Christmas and now we’re stuck, obviously we don’t see each other as much but we’re still able to rehearse in a distanced way; we’ve all got studios at home and have been writing at home too. I drove back [from Berlin] so I could bring all my studio stuff back with me so it’s pretty chill” he tells me, whilst gesturing to ‘all of his dad’s Brian Wilson merch’ behind him.
“You write it in a way that’s vague enough that people can fit themselves into it, but for me, I have to feel quite strongly to get lyrics out.“
Cassia amassed lots of fans through touring before this year, so I wondered if not being able to have had an effect on their music being received by their audience, “Funnily enough, since the beginning of Covid, all of our releases have felt like they’ve been much more impactful. The stats have been a bit crazier which has felt strange; we were all buzzing with how Powerlines did. It’s really difficult to say, I get quite nervous so I try not to check but I’ve been told it’s doing really good and everyone’s really liking it.” Again, releasing so much work in the midst of a global pandemic is a massive achievement in itself, and it pondered the question of whether it was written with the intention of it being something everyone can relate to, or if it was just them putting their thoughts to pen and paper, “The stuff I do always has to be about how I’m feeling, it’s very selfish” he laughed, “You write it in a way that’s vague enough that people can fit themselves into it, but for me, I have to feel quite strongly to get lyrics out. So, yeah, all about me. I can’t speak for the others but I think they’re quite similar.”
What with it recently being Independent Music Venue Week and the absolute shit show of a year that has just been, we spoke about whether musicians should be putting hands into their own pockets to help the venues that helped catapult them to fame. “If you’ve managed to get to that point where you’ve definitely got some money, I think you should help. A guy we used to work with in terms of our social media is involved with festivals such as Y Not and Truck, he was saying to us that at least 50% of these festivals will be gone after this, and this was last year.” Following on from this, he explained “It’s one of those things that probably won’t affect you [big bands] but it absolutely will, and is, affecting the future of the music industry. I don’t want to moan but the whole Brexit thing has totalled touring musicians. There have just been so many things this past year where I’ve thought ‘really?” I actually had my own question to ask regarding the Brexit touring deal, without getting too political, (“I’m not really political, none of us like talking about stuff like that, I’m a musician not a fucking politician) so I was glad he mentioned it himself. “If I start spouting stuff, people might start believing me and I’m probably just an idiot, but there have been moments this past year where I was just gobsmacked.”
Away from the doom and gloom for a second, we discussed what we’re most looking forward to once things start to return to normal. “Fucking hell, obviously gigging, going to a festival… could you imagine? I don’t know about you but I’ve been watching films and every time there’s a scene where people are in crowded spaces it’s like you shouldn’t be doing that. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say but we’ll have probably released so much stuff by the time we do festivals again that that’ll be really exciting, so much new stuff to play.” Talking of the unreleased stuff, Jacob told us that the EP is due to be staggered over the next few months, which is something they’re really excited to do. Although it’s hard to keep perspective when you’re producing so much work, he assured us that “when we listened to everything back I just remember being like ‘shit, we’ve really stepped it up this time,’ and I’m really proud of it and excited for everyone to hear it.”
“I’m listening to a lot of Arlo Parks at the moment because she’s just blowing shit up“
Going along the same lines, I asked Jacob what he personally felt has been the bands biggest achievement to date and what he’s most looking forward to next. “Usually the gigs because they feel so insane; at Reading when we did the Radio 1 stage was fucking crazy, or Truck when we played on the main stage to thousands of people, it’s like ‘what the fuck is this?’ We got signed this year to EMG – you look at the stats and it’s like not many people that start doing this the way we have, in an absolute dive of a rehearsal room with carpets on the walls and no plan, it’s like how did we manage to get this far?” A very wholesome conversation which was interrupted by his manager texting to make sure he ‘wasn’t sabotaging the interview’, “which I probably am, please make me look good in this,” followed by a particularly humble response to what he’s looking forward to, “being a millionaire.” All jokes aside, that really is the dream, isn’t it?
We ended on a light note and discussed who we’re loving listening to right now, “I’m listening to a lot of Arlo Parks at the moment because she’s just blowing shit up, but aside from that it’s kind of an old one and the reason I became a musician in the first place, Amy Winehouse. My dad’s a musician and my brother does film so we talk about the reasons we like to stuff a lot, but she’s got heart, do you know what I mean? There’s a soul in it, you can feel it, and it’s sick.” Before we said goodbye, Jacob wished me well with my work and we made an empty promise to see each other on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in a few years time.
Until then, Powerlines EP is available to stream now on all major platforms and records to purchase from their merch store.
Interview carried out by Elisha Cloughton