It is always incredible when you hear twenty or even thirty years of musical influences in a brand new band. But that’s just what you get with Cassiopeia.
Having been together for just two months at the time we saw them live, like sponges, this band has obviously soaked up years of musical heritage to create their, still evolving, own unique sound.
Like every new band, bottom of the bill is where you start, but with more gigs under their belts, Cassiopeia – a 5 piece rock band comprised of Tim Gilks, Lee Harris, Tom Kuchta and James Costa, fronted by vocalist Jodie Robinson – won’t be there long.
It would have been easy to have led this review by focusing on the fact that Cassiopeia are ‘female-fronted’. It automatically pigeon holes them and gives you an idea of what they sound like – doesn’t it?
This isn’t a case of having a token female vocalist. Jodie is an integral and vital part of the band’s sound and the rock scene is still a poorer place for not having more women involved.
Being a woman in rock gives you the opportunity to play with an image that can be overtly feminine (in Jodie’s case, long blonde hair and a skin-tight vinyl cat suit) or you can be ‘one of the lads’ (the black DM boots and surly stage presence provide a perfect balance).
The timing couldn’t have been better for Cassiopeia to come onto the scene. Finally, guitar-led music (whisper it: ‘rock music’) is coming back into the mainstream in a big way. The rumblings of a Britpop revival also seem to be gathering momentum to create small tremors of anticipation.
Cassiopeia opened their Flapper set with their strongest track, Instigator. Essentially a song about a female trouble-maker (we all love bad girls), this is the punkier end of 90s Britrock or mid 2000s garage rock (think The Hives ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’) fused with some over-the-sea influences to create a sound for right now in 2014.
A ladder-climb of chords instantly hooks the listener before Jodie’s vocals kick in. Despite the blonde look, her voice is more Elastica‘s Justine Frischmann or the drawl of PJ Harvey (think ‘This Wicked Tongue’) than it is Debbie Harry. Haim this certainly isn’t. More like No Comply, without the horn section.
In fact, although the image is a million miles away, the Elastica reference is a good one. 90s Britrock and the later garage rock revival were very much about catchy guitar chord sequences, overlaid by whiny, scratchy guitar riffs, with drum rolls and pounding bass lines filling in the gaps.
What Cassiopeia add to the mix – and here is the overseas influence – is a groove that drives their songs forwards, particularly on one of their other stand-out tracks, Old Man, which you may even go so far as to say was, well, a bit funky. No surprise, then, that their drummer cites Queens of the Stone Age and Red Hot Chili Peppers as major influences. Jodie’s dark and interesting vocal style also defines the sound and will play well to fans of bands like Marmozets.
Cassiopeia are still finding their image and discovering their sound, but that is no bad thing. What would be more disappointing than to listen to a new band with half-a-dozen songs that all sounded the same?
If you like catchy, addictive, funky, punky rock music with an attitude-filled female vocal over the top, you will love Cassiopeia. With lots more gigs in the pipeline and the exciting news that they will soon be going into Rich Bitch studios (who have recorded the likes of Black Sabbath, ELO and Robert Plant) to record an EP, try to get out to see them live now.
It’s always brilliant to be there at the birth of something special. And it’s ok, you can say you discovered them. We won’t tell…
See Cassiopeia live:
21 February 2014 at The Asylum 2, 38-40 Hampton Street, Birmingham B19 3LS.