Face to face with Kassassin Street

Kassassin Street

Kassassin Street are one of Rock Britain’s latest, very cool discoveries. They should be yours too. There’s something intriguingly oriental in the band’s music with prominent psychedelic tints which can’t fail to attract you. Kassassin Street’s single ‘The Royal Handkerchief Ballet’ has recently come out and already turned quite a few heads with its special sound. Rock Britain sits down with the band’s own Rowan Bastable to discuss the single, playing festivals and Arabic influences.

– Let’s get acquainted with our readership. How would you introduce Kassassin Street to Rock Britain’s readers?

– Kassassin Street are a psychedelic band from Portsmouth, on the south coast of England. The birthplace and home of Charles Dickens… for a bit … and to Peter Sellers …. for a bit less…

 – What’s your main philosophy, the most important thing to you when it comes to making music?

– I suppose just to be true? We’ve never made music purposely in any particular style or in any particular way, we just get in a room and we do what we do. It’s definitely a labor of love for us.

 – Your debut single ‘The Royal Handkerchief Ballet’ has recently come out. How did it feel to release your official debut?

– Great thanks! It’s been a total pleasure recording the single in London and getting it out there. We certainly didn’t expect the response we’ve had! I mean, I think we feel like we’ve only just planted our seed, there’s so much to do and we’re right at the beginning of the road…

 – How did the song appear? What inspired you to write it?

– I would imagine that the song appeared like most of ours do, from a cloud of smoke at rehearsal. I’m really influenced by eastern music and we stumbled across some open tunings which sounded immense on guitar. We would have slowly chipped away at it until it was right… like a sculptor with a statue, trying to perfect it without chipping the nose off!

 – There are unusual melodies in this track described by some reviewers as Eastern or Arabic. Where does this influence stem from?

– I’d say that we’re all influenced by the sounds and voices of the world around us. To me there’s a crossover in eastern and western cultures, where one ends and the other begins, and explorers of that have produced some of the most mind-blowing art.

I’ve been out to India a few times now, I shall probably go again next spring. It’s the most beautiful country, I’ve found a home now. There’s just something about the energy and vibrancy of the place, all mixed up with the emotion and character of the people… I could go on… I think you always bring something back from travelling, and for me it’s generally something musical and something philosophical… it’s hard to spend anytime in India without becoming slightly spiritual…

It’s cool that you said Arabic too, the group Tinariwen have always occupied a large space in my heart. It’s the tribal rhythms … they’re far more addictive than the Opium… Andy, Tom and myself went to see them in London a while back.. we were definitely the youngest kids there and we couldn’t care less… no pissing in a cup and throwing it that night I tell thee…

Saying that, I’ve just discovered Bombino actually from Niger, check him out!

– One of the genre classifications for your music is psychedelic. What’s the most attractive aspect of this genre for you? How did you develop your band’s own, unique sound?

– I think for us the umbrella of Psychedelia gives us a beautiful license to be exactly who we want to be. It allows us to make music that is true to ourselves without feeling the need to identify too strongly with any given genre. Psychedelia allows us to be pop, rock, dance and experimental all in the same week! We’ve never actively set out to make Psychedelic music, but it was inevitable with who we are as people. I would say we were born into it, rather than drawn into it.

 – Your artwork is very intriguing. What sort of connection does it have with your music?

– We turned to visual artist Nazare Soares in Brighton for the video of The Royal Handkerchief Ballet. As all great connections are made, Naz was a friend of a friend. She got us straight away and created an amazing piece of visual art for the song. The only suggestion I made to her was that, as a kid, I was taken on holiday to Turkey and saw some ‘Whirling Dervish’ dancers. They totally captivated me. It was total transcendence through dance. Naz seemed to really jump on that idea and incorporated it, to a degree, in her artwork for us.

 – What’s the most memorable show you’ve ever played live as Kassassin Street?

– Ouch that’s tough. We’ve had some amazing shows already and have been going for such a little time. I suppose it would have to be earlier this year when we played our first headline show at The Wedgewood Rooms (Portsmouth’s best venue). We always vowed that we wouldn’t do a show there until we could sell it out on our own merit, and we did! They even opened the venue next door for us so we could have the extra capacity! That felt good.

 – With the festival season here, what’s your dream festival to play at and why?

– I think being English darlings, it would have to be Glastonbury. It’s the history I suppose. If I could grow old and say ” yeah, but we played Glastonbury, so thanks very much” I think I’d die happy… hopefully that wouldn’t be on the Monday afterwards. I suppose I shouldn’t be picky!?

 – What are your plans for the nearest future?

– We’re playing at Isle Of Wight Festival this weekend actually! (Hipshaker Lounge, Sunday @ 16.30 if you’re interested?) So that’ll be good. We’ve got a great summer planned. There’s still quite a bit we’re not allowed to announce quite yet so I’m afraid I must keep my mouth shut.

We will be releasing another single during the summer though, so please do keep them peeled!

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