Cassette kids burst onto the Sydney music scene in 2007 with just the right balance of vigour, force and industry hype. Their brand of new wave, post punk, electro-pop had crowds dancing, sweating and singing along even before the release of their mini album We Are in 2008.
Since then, Cassette Kids have signed with Sony, toured with Lily Allen, recorded their highly anticipated debut album, Nothing on TV, and are embarking on a national tour of their own road testing the new stuff. It’s a surprise Cassette Kids front woman Katrina Noorbergen has any spare time, but Daniel Clarke managed to get her away from the studio to talk about their influences, the Cassette Kids sound and what it’s like working with a major label.
Music Feeds: So what’s been happening? Are you guys touring or are you in between tours right now?
Katrina Noorbergen: We’re in between. We did the Grafton Primary one, we had a recording and now we’re just sort of getting everything ready and doing our own tour in November.
MF: So if you guys went straight out of the studio to the Grafton Primary tour, you’ve been pretty busy then for the past six or eight months straight?
KN: Yeah, it’s been pretty full on. We started writing the new album last November. It was sort of really expensive, like everyday for three months, and after we had about twenty five songs that we were happy with we went into the studio and same deal again, another three months, just sucked into a black hole (laughs) and we came out the other side. We had a break, slight break, between the Lily Allen tour, in the middle there somewhere then the Grafton tour, and now we’re just sort of getting all the stuff ready. Like film clips and photos and all that stuff.
MF: Well I wanna talk to you about that in a sec actually, about the visual concepts, but I wanted to ask, this is obviously the first time you guys have recorded a full studio album, did it take you six months to do it because you set out to do it that way or did you go into in, not really sure of how long it will take or what was gonna happen?
KN: I don’t know if we were sure about the scheduling of it, when we started. But we definitely jumped into it, hard. We all gave up our jobs and it was like a full time job; we were just writing. We did a couple of co-writes and met some other people, just to see where it would take us and challenge us to think about our songs and our sounds in different ways. That ended up being amazing. We wrote a few songs with Mikey from Van She and a couple with Paul Mac, and I think it really helped us in redefining ourselves for our first album. It’s like a sound we are really happy with now.
MF: You guys have only been together for a short period of time too, is that right? When did you guys form, was it 2007?
KN: Yeah, 2007. And then things really started kicking off in 2008 after a year of just doing as many shows as possible with the Triple J Unearthed thing and then eventually ended up getting a deal with Sony, so it was a good year for us.
MF: Now, the line up for the band, as it is now, is that how you guys started off? Did you have to swap anybody around or was there anybody that wasn’t really working in the band, or did you guys seem to gel?
KN: We changed the lineup quite a bit actually. The way I met Big Dan, who’s our guitarist, I met him through another friend that I used to be in a band with and he was a guitarist as well. We originally had two guitarists and our first drummer was kind of from this era of like prog-rock. It was terrible (laughs). And it was sort of an unusual combination. And I guess eventually, it doesn’t take too long to figure out what wavelength people are on. So the guy that brought us all together ended up leaving. And we replaced the drummer, just because we needed a fresh take on everything. I think we wanted to experiment a bit more.
Two of the members of Cassette Kids are named Daniel: the bass player Daniel Deitz (little Dan) and guitarist Daniel Schober (Big Dan).
MF: I suppose it’s a hard question to answer, but how did you guys come to the sound of Cassette Kids and that kind of electro influence? Is that where you were all kind of leaning?
KN: I don’t think we ever sort of sat down and decided where we were gonna go. I think it stands more from just Dan, the guitarist, he’s like a technology freak and his pedal board, is like, it’s just like ridiculous.
MF: Every guitar player’s wet dream?
KN: (laughs) Yeah, it takes up the whole stage pretty much. So I guess the exciting thing at that time was just playing around with sounds and playing guitars, but making the guitars sounds like synths and shit that you’re just like ‘whoa, that’s crazy, I’ve never heard a guitar make that sound before’. And so that’s I guess how the rock/dance elements came in, because dance is full of like those bleeps and interesting sounds. And just kind of, I guess we hinted at that quite a lot in our EP but we never used any synths or drum machines or anything. And so by the time the album came around and we were working with people that were sort of prevalent in the dance scene, it gave us a chance to use and experiment with whatever we wanted and it was really exciting. Like, we even have a string quartet in one of the songs, like ‘hey man, let’s just go crazy’.
MF: So just sitting in the studio one day going, ‘let’s try and get a string quartet’.
KN: Clearly. ‘I feel like a symphony today’. That was cool.
MF: I’m always interested to try and figure out how the people kind of come together and all their influences come to meet. You always find in successful bands, everybody just kinda knew from the start and came to it with other members from the band.
KN: I think the most important thing about the combination of us, together, is that we just kept our minds really open. Even though Dan, Little Dan, loves his dance music and Jake loves punk music and Big Dan loves his art rock, whatever, and I love my, I don’t know, I listen to everything man. But when I was a teenager I was very much into Greenday, No Doubt and that really pop sound. The point is that, none of us were defending our musical tastes to death. We were all saying ‘you know what, let’s try that and make that sound different.’ We came across a lot of different styles and at the end of the day, now we’re able to play a lot of different things.
MF: Let’s get back to the album. I was reading on your MySpace that you guys are working on the visual side of it, and I think somebody was saying that it’s almost as important as the recording. Is that how you’ve approached the band? It’s very much the visual aesthetic as much as the music?
KN: I think first and foremost, you gotta sort your musical shit out. And so now that we got that out of the way, we’re sitting on it almost ready to go, we’ve got time and room to think about all those other creative aspects of being in a band. And there are so many layers to it. Like all the artwork and the film clips. I’m obsessed with film clips, I can watch them all day and I love making them. I read a lot of interviews with other bands and they’re like, ‘yeah, made this film clip, we’re not really into that’, or, ‘it was a really long day and we just get really tired’, but I love all that stuff. And I love the photography side of it and the album artwork. ‘Cause I guess originally I was from more of a visual arts background, and so all the visual elements that I find really intriguing and even down to like one off pieces that we can use, and I think it makes it a whole lot more fun. It’s a project that encompasses all these things and it’s so fun that you get to work in all these different areas.
MF: And so do you think your relationship with Sony has enabled you to be able to explore more aspects of the music, like the visual stuff.
KN: Yeah, I really do.
MF: I guess if you guys were still independent you probably wouldn’t be able to do as much as you’ve been able to?
KN: Yep, it’s true. I mean, a lot of it comes down to just the fact that, having a label like Sony, they’ve got a whole network of people that they talk to and use to do all these things, and so that network is then laid out for us if we want to use it. But what we really tried to do, and Sony was great with it, they would tell us ‘you can use this director, this director or this director’, and I was like, ‘I don’t want any director that you’ve ever used before, I wanna try this guy, he’s a photographer, he’s never directed a film clip’. And Sony were like, ‘uhh, so, OK.’ And they were getting nervous. And I was like, ‘this is going to be fine, like don’t worry about it, we’re gonna do it and it’s gonna be great, and we’re gonna use different people’, and it ended up being a really fun clip and I’m so glad we made it. At the end of the day, they said, ‘we trust you guys, we know that you do know what you want’. A lot of people don’t expect that from a major label. I feel really lucky, I think we have a really good team; they’re trying to change the reputation of Sony in Australia.
‘Lying Around’ video clip, directed by Pierre Toussant.
MF: It’s kind of gotten to that point, where labels have started to realise that they need to work with artists as opposed to against them.
KN: Yeah, and also, it’s a big wake up call, you got big artists coming in from overseas, like MGMT, Chairlift and even Kings of Leon, they’ve very mainstream but they’re still part of that cool, indie world. And it’s kind of like, ‘hey, this works’, like we can be this young indie band and work with their ideas and it can be a really great thing, and we can still be marketable and it can still reach a lot of people. It’s a really good thing to be a part of.
MF: That’s good to hear, I’m glad the majors have started to realise that we’re there to make them the money and not stop records getting sold.
KN: Yeah, totally. I think the attitude towards finding bands, it’s not about throwing a million dollars at someone anymore, and trying to sell a million records; it’s about developing artists. And so where you used to have used to have heaps of money and it was either you did it or you didn’t, now it’s like you have a little bit of money and you use it the best you can and you just build, and build and build, and that’s the stuff of actual successful careers. You know what I mean?
MF: Yeah definitely. What about the growth of Cassette Kids then? I guess it’s pretty early to speculate, but where do you see you guys going? Do you think your sound might change over time; you’ll take on new influences? Where do you wanna be in five years time?
KN: I think the way we’ve done this album has really left the door wide open for us. And I’m just looking forward to next time around and working with other people. It’s like I don’t really know what direction we’re going in, but that’s kind of a good thing. Like we’re listening to the album now and none of us knew that it was gonna sound like that, so it was kind of exciting. We all had these different ideas of what it would be and it got the end I was like ‘oh my god, I never imagined this’, but it’s kinda cool to just let it develop organically. And I’m sure the guys are gonna buy a whole bunch of extra shit. We’ve just added pedals and samplers, keyboards and stuff we never used before.
MF: So you’ll have to end up bringing your own stage to fit all the equipment on then?
KN: Yeah, probably.
MF: The effects pedal will take up half the mosh pit.
KN: We just need some kind of computer or some kind of chip that has all the effects in it to stop taking up all the room.
MF: It’s interesting you say that even now before the record is out you started to hear things on it that you guys might not necessarily have planned. Because I do hear a lot from musicians as well, once you take the music out on the road and start playing around with it in a live environment, it really takes on a feeling and a life of its own, like it changes and progresses.
KN: Yeah definitely. We did spend a lot of time and we’re still working on it, extensively, to have maximum impact, thinking what we can add or what doesn’t have to be in there. I think it’s cool to have that exact attitude and that’s that the music in the live environment it’s just a different organism than the music on the album.
Cassette Kids debut album, Nothing on TV, is due out in March 2010, with the Lying Around tour happening across Australia this November. They play Oxford Art Factory November 20, 2009. Click here for details.