As we become less and less connected to each other, art, better yet, music can become both a point of solace for those who feel beaten and disposed. Loud music, then, can become a particularly potent rallying cry for those ready for revolution. Norwich, UK screamo/emoviolence band Cassus hear that call to arms and answer back with the loudest battle cry a band can provide. Their new album Separation Anxiety is an under-35-minute treatise that forces the listener to look at the cracks in our current structures of living under capitalism.
Opening “Getting Older Younger” hits with the force of a charging rhinoceros. Calm feedback gives way to bursts of chaotic energy. The blastbeat drumming of Sonny Patten and the quickly strummed octave chords of guitarist Kelvin Mace help to propel the urgent screamed vocals of singers Natty Peterkin and Nate Revell. “Being Sick on a Merry-Go-Round” is a slow burn that takes its time moving from an atmospheric jaunt to a panicked sprint through a warzone. Closing track “Reduced Possibility: Endangered Determinism” keeps the LP's fast pace and chaotic energy going to the very end before letting everything fall away, leaving only lightly strummed guitars and choral vocals to finish the album. Separation Anxiety is nothing short of a masterpiece of modern screamo and you'd be hard-pressed to say anything to the contrary. You can stream the album below and read on for our interview with Cassus singer Natty Peterkin.
Noisey: What is the album about?
Natty Peterkin: The album is about a range of different topics, but all connected. The lyrics try to express emotional reactions and psychological reflections on the experience of life, so they had to be political, philosophical and intimately personal, sometimes all at once. Some songs explore the emotional and psychological impact of ideologies on everyday life; the way governments and businesses can influence the way we think and feel, and ultimately who we are. Some reflect on the nature of consciousness and alternative perceptions of the way things are (or could be). These songs attempt to break through the illusions of “the way things are” that we are encouraged to believe by the establishment—and look for other ways of thinking that could be more beneficial.
What do you think it is about aggressive music that lends itself to such complex lyrical content?
This is a very interesting question! One reason is the intensity—I feel that intense music should be saying intense things, otherwise it rings false. It’s not comfortable to listen to, so it should also push uncomfortable boundaries in its subject matter: ask difficult questions, address painful issues, express things that are repressed in everyday life. Another reason for me personally was to subvert a negative convention/stereotype in heavy music that I wasn’t satisfied with: it’s often assumed that aggressive music is less intelligent than more “highbrow” genres—classical, for example. Finally, heavy music is a way to convert negative energy into something positive—diverting destructive emotions into creativity. It’s a confusing and complex process, a paradoxical mixture of masochism and therapy. I feel it directly when we play our songs—sadness and happiness become one. I think we have to embrace complexity in the lyrics to fully acknowledge the complexity of the process.
What inspired you to write about the subjects you tackled on the album?
The Situationist International writers Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem were a big influence on my early lyric writing, as they combined politics, philosophy and emotional expression into a single passionate whole in a way I’d never seen before. Similarly, I’ve really enjoyed the work of writers like Jean Paul Sartre, Slavoj Zizek, Franco Berardi (his recent book Futurability inspired the lyrics of "Automate Me" on the new album), George Saunders, Ursula Le Guin and many others. I’ve also found deep resonance in Lao Tzu’s ancient Taoist philosophies along with some aspects of Shinto and Buddhism—these traditions teach a lot of things about balance, respect and seeing “the bigger picture” that I find severely lacking in western society. David Bohm, however, is worth a mention as someone who tried to bring the scientific western approach into harmony with the more holistic Eastern philosophies about oneness [and] everything being deeply connected.
In general the lyrics are a way for me to find a voice for frustrations and desires that don’t get a platform in my life otherwise. The UK is great in some ways, but can be a repressive culture to grow up in. Socially and politically, conservatism has a strong hold on this country and it’s easy to find yourself ostracized for disagreeing with things too openly, and that includes standing up for your own rights in a lot of situations. People will often be more uncomfortable about someone “making a fuss” than about the injustice that person is making a fuss about.
Lastly (and I'm Canadian so I have to ask this) is Yorkshire pudding as good as they say it is?
It’s great in the way a lot of other junk food is, salt and fat! However I haven’t eaten it in many years, mostly because vegan versions aren’t common. You can home cook vegan Yorkshire puddings but I’ve never missed it quite enough to make that effort.
Daniel G. Wilson is a writer and musician from Mississauga. He's on Twitter.