Cassyette is TikTok’s first featured artist for the new rock hub
“The rock and alt community is thriving right now on TikTok,” enthuses Cassyette, who is the first featured face of #Rock…
As Cassyette unleashes new “big pit energy” banger Boom, the Essex-born alt. star hits the cover of Kerrang! for the first time to talk success, sobriety and self-belief…
Cassyette knows when she's about to have a manic episode. Such a part of the Essex-born alt.character’s life have these periods become over the years that she’s learned the best thing to do when one starts coming on is to go with it, rather than try to stop it. You can’t really, anyway.
While she was in the studio on a writing retreat last year, the familiar feeling began to come on. And so Cassyette decided to use it to make music.
“I started going into it, and I was like, ‘I'm actually going to ride this moment. Let's just write about having a manic episode,’” she says. “It took about 20 minutes.”
This is Boom, the new track Cassyette’s releasing ahead of her massive UK tour, which takes in the most banging bits of The Prodigy, Enter Shikari, Limp Bizkit and anything else you can bounce to, and explodes in her own, unique, high-energy way. It sounds like Uprawr being blown up. Like her, it’s loud, likeable and larger than life. With a laugh, she’ll describe it as having “big pit energy”. Even if it didn’t have The Prodigy’s musical genius (and fellow Essex resident) Liam Howlett sprinkling his unique magic dust on it to give it a final five per cent of its magic, it’s also as intense as the mood in which it was written.
“When I’m manic, I hyperfixate, so it was actually quite easy to write,” she says. “I was just thinking about how you feel when you're going into it. So all of the lyrics in the first verse – ‘Sometimes they sink into another skin, I go somewhere else, somewhere upside down up the wrong way around’ – that’s just describing what it’s like. My voice even sounds a little bit different on it because I'm so ‘up’, which is quite fun.”
She lets out a big, Essex laugh. “That’s just how I am, babe.”
This is an unconventional approach to songwriting, obviously. Especially for her. Normally, Cassyette isn’t even conscious when she does it.
“I write a lot when I'm when I'm asleep,” she shrugs. “I'll be in REM sleep, and I lucid dream, so I can tell myself when I'm asleep. And then I start writing it, and then I wake myself up and write it down on my phone.
“It's quite difficult to do that,” she muses. “But I do a lot of it like that. Which is quite strange.”
This is how Cassyette does things: impulsively, quickly, in the moment. Often, there’s no plan B for things, because plan A is still being written on the hoof. She says that manic episodes and having been diagnosed with ADHD as a kid can be worked to such advantages, and that her prolific songwriting – that now runs into the hundreds of pieces – is down to having to scratch an itch, and not being able to put something down until it’s done. “If I start, I have to finish it.”
Chances are you’ll have noticed Cassyette over the past two years: on TikTok, where she’s racked up millions of views doing nu-metal covers, at Download Pilot, on tour with Sum 41, being invited to support My Chemical Romance at their Milton Keynes stadium show, supporting WILLOW at London's Electric Ballroom, the same 1,500-capacity venue she’s now about to headline herself. On this last item, her response that it’s “fucking unbelievable, babe, I don’t know how I’ve gone from doing that to playing there myself,” is instructive. Something of a tightrope walker by nature, having found herself through the door of a situation, she’s in her element when she’s got to make something work.
“I have such audacity,” she laughs. “I think I can do anything. I will literally go in unprepared as fuck, and just wing it. And sometimes it works. I feel like when it comes to performing, I know I'm a strong performer so I can mask it. If you throw yourself in the deep end and make the mistakes early on, then it gets easier.
“I'm very scattered,” she admits. “My mum would describe me as ‘chaotic’. But I think that sort of energy can be seen as a negative thing. I try to watch how I am, so that I'm being my best self. Because I know I can be quite intense sometimes. But I think it's a natural thing. I like chaotic.”
As is so often the case, though, chaos is the thing that prevails. As her biggest headline tour to date rolls into view, with half a million monthly streams in her back pocket and enthusiastic patronage of artists as varied as Gerard Way, Oli Sykes and legendary Blondie singer Debbie Harry, she’s buzzing with the infectious, neon-lit energy of an alt.superstar primed for takeoff. Boom, indeed.
Pondering how she’s done it, she frowns and admits that she doesn’t really know, just that whatever she’s doing she tends to run at full speed, and often quickly finds herself in the thick of it. Ask what else she might be doing right now, had music not worked out, and she gives a Very Cassyette Answer.
“I always loved horses,” she says after a moment. “I thought I was gonna be a jockey.”
Anyone else, you’d think they were taking the piss.
Cassyette wears silver choker by H2ERG, leather bra, skirt and boots by Namilia.
In person, Cassyette hums with energy. When she meets Kerrang! in a stylishly graffiti-decorated pub in London’s East End, round the corner from where she’s been having some Technicolor fun on the cover shoot, she has the vibe of a force that’s cannot be stopped, even when telling us that the cold on her septum fixings makes it feel like “my nose is constantly running”. More than once, she excitedly says what being on the cover of Kerrang! means to her. Even more than that, she says the word “babe”. And when she talks about her music, you quickly learn that there are no rules or boundaries to what she’s doing, just so long as she’s feeling it. Genre happens to other people.
“It's not really one thing, babe,” she says. "It's a multitude of different elements, which is how you make a new genre. That's the fun part of it. It's now a new thing. So people probably just see it like, 'Oh, it's a new thing.' And some people definitely hate it. Some people like it, some people love it.”
Though she puzzles a little at how she’s actually got here, from an early age, the 29-year-old always had an interest in music. As a kid, she took up the clarinet at school (“I loved it, I learned the EastEnders theme song”), before taking up piano. Eventually, via a neighbour, she realised she could sing, and very well, as it turned out.
“Our neighbour opposite us, he had this insane guitar collection, and he made music,” she remembers. “He did quite a lot of different stuff. He ended up writing a musical, a dark comedy. I'd go in and start doing session vocals. And then when I was like, 13, that's when I started writing music. So, I’ve always written music, even if it was quite shit at the beginning.”
Traditional academia wasn’t much the young Cassyette’s forte – “I had a shitty time in school, I wasn't a good student either. I'm very dyslexic, very ADHD. So I don't think I did much learning in school” – but her dad spotted an innate talent for singing and music, and encouraged her to get more involved in it, though also advised to keep away from The X Factor, as some others suggested she should apply for. Eventually, she studied songwriting at university, an environment in which her creative impulses flourished.
At about the same time, Cassyette began DJing, and producing electronic music. She’d perform at legendary fetish club Torture Garden, “loads of LGBTQ events”, and London drag event Sink The Pink. Often, she’d play at home and the party would come to her (“At uni we lived in this massive house that was cheap as fuck. It was basically like a squat…”), or at illegal raves in warehouses in London.
“Babe, those raves were amazing,” she grins. “DJing at those parties was incredible, but you had to be really good at packing your stuff away and running when the police came, because as the DJ, you’re the first one they go for. Did I ever get caught? No. I’m too fast for them.”
At the rock gigs and clubs she was going to, meanwhile, Cassyette wasn’t seeing much difference to what was going on at the raves, other than being less likely to get shut down by The Man. It was the same energy, same drops, people going off the same way, just different music. And so, Cassyette began writing songs with the same vibe, criss-crossing all over the place to make something vital and vibrant and explosive. And, quickly, as is so often the case in her world, things grew legs faster than they might have done if there was a plan in place.
“I did my first gig at [famed east London venue] The Old Blue Last. I just invited all my mates,” she remembers. “Then I went on tour with YONAKA. I met [vocalist and guitarist] Theresa and George, and we just hit it off and they said, ‘Do you want to come on tour?’ Then I randomly met Barnes Courtney at Reading and he asked if I wanted to support him at Heaven [in London]. I met Milkie Way from WARGASM at that festival as well. Everything’s so random, but everyone's connected. Everyone's linked.”
In another pinch-me moment, last summer, Cassyette played her biggest show to date, opening for My Chemical Romance in Milton Keynes. As a massive fan since she was a teenager, it felt like “a dream” and “the weirdest thing ever”. Recalling what was going through her mind as she made the walk from dressing room to stage, she reveals the other side of herself: her insecurities, her worries, her fears. If Boom is feeding off the energy in her head, the other side of what she calls “ups and downs” is a lot more difficult.
“I felt like I was gonna be sick and just, like, cry and faint,” she says. “Before I go on, I have to really psych myself up. But I have this thing now where I think about being somebody who goes to shows and festivals as a fan of music. Everyone's just there for good vibes. Fuck how you're feeling – no-one's looking at you like that. And I had the best fucking time when I got on.”
Cassyette points to this sort of thing as an example of how her ADHD can lead her to overthink to an unhelpful degree. Though she leans into some of the tendencies creatively, she also found from a young age that the easiest way to press pause on it was with drink and drugs.
“The intense overthinking and then experiencing intense lows and the highs means you end up using, because you feel like that's the only thing that could give you that escapism from your own mind,” she says. “Until recently, I hadn’t been sober since I was about 13. I wasn’t always a rager, I’d go in and out of it, but I had a very bad few years. Alcohol was my main thing. Alcohol would gateway me to everything else. I’d have a drink, and then be like, ‘Let’s get the Valium in…’”
Cassyette wears leather gloves and mesh bodysuit by Namilia, leather boots by KILLSTAR. Leather jacket by Namilia, jeans by Nii HAi, leather boots by Demonia.
Two years ago, Cassyette’s father passed away, suddenly and very unexpectedly. Understandably, she calls the period afterwards “the worst time of my life”. In the months that followed, even though things in her music were on the up and up, elsewhere things were going off the rails.
“I just really went downhill,” she says. “I had one night where I was like, ‘This is probably it, I feel like I’m about to fucking die.’”
It was the intervention of one of her managers that helped turn things around. Already a hugely supportive figure, he told her straight: you’re going to fuck this up if you’re not careful, and you’ve worked too hard and done too well for that to happen.
“It was what I needed to hear at the time,” she says. “I realised, ‘Yeah, I can't do that. I can’t let my fucking Catholic dad, who never touched a drug in his life and lived to the max, watch me fuck up my life from the Heavens above.’”
Today, Cassyette has been sober for “about seven months”. She says it’s been difficult at times, and that “you’ve always got a fucking monkey on your back”, but she’s also been using it as a way to re-engage with her life.
“I wasn’t sober doing shows, or a lot of things. I wasn't experiencing life sober at all, so I didn't even really know my personality was my personality,” she smiles. “Turns out, take the alcohol and drugs away, and I’m still a scatterbrain.”
It’s also been an opportunity to learn and understand her mind. All her life, she says she’s experienced intense ups and downs, without really knowing what they were all about. Previously, she’d just accepted and lived with it, with an attitude of, “Life’s a rollercoaster, woo!”, but she’s come to realise that’s “a really dumb thing to do”. Where one episode helped her write Boom, she says, another saw her cutting her long hair down to the tight cut it is now.
“That's been the hardest thing to navigate in my life, for sure,” she says. “I feel like I've got to a place with it, where like, I spend a lot of time learning about it, which has been the best thing I've ever done. Because I now know if I’m feeling like I do because something’s legitimately a problem, in which case you can usually find a solution to it, or whether it's something chemical in my head.
“How can I actually work out how to live with this and, like, be happy,” she questions. “When my dad died, I really realised how short life was. And I don't want to just sit here not knowing about what's going on in my own head. I want to actually learn about it, so I can live a happy life.”
Ask if things have improved with the clarity of sobriety, and she’ll reply in the affirmative. But she’s also careful not to make out like she’s discovered a magic wand. It’s more a case of recognising what’s what.
“My mind is altered. My mind is different. But I don't find things easier,” she says. “It's a mental illness that lives with me. But I can see the wood from the trees, so things are probably subsequently easier because of that. I can deal with my problems a bit better than I could do before. I mean, I wouldn't deal with them before. But now I am. So, it's not easier, but I'm dealing with things, at least.”
Cassyette wears chainmail and leather sleeves by FalseCouture, metal and leather bra by R&M Leathers, jeans by Nii HAi, leather belt Stylist Archive. Leather gloves and mesh bodysuit by Namilia.
Even with such topics of conversation, the Cassyette we meet today is happy and excited. Having spent all morning at a photoshoot, the afternoon will be spent doing even more. She’s jazzed about the tour, and reveals with a wink that she’s got a Christmas song in the pipeline (“A dark, gothy one, obviously”).
Cassyette’s future is a bright one. Thinking too far ahead may still not be a great priority, but to live in the now is also something that can unlock the most unexpected things. Not that thinking ahead ever played much of a role anyway.
“Babe, I literally didn't think the future existed,” she laughs. “I literally thought I would be a kid forever, carefree forever. So I never thought about what I wanted to be.
“I just make stuff because I like it,” she continues. “I always call it ‘the magic’ when you get a feeling about a song that makes you feel attached to it. I think, like, as an artist, I can make someone get that feeling as well. That’s one of the cool things about doing this.”
For all her talk of winging it and sorting out details as an afterthought – all of which, by the way, is believably and charmingly sincere when she says it – Cassyette is also a self-evident talent. Boom is a banger. The tour looks to be a jumping-off point to even bigger things. And for someone who calls themselves “a Curious George”, who thrives on uncertainty, she’s sure this is where she’s meant to be right now.
“You have to earn your stripes. Babe, I've worked my arse off to get to this point, so I'm very sure of myself in that sense,” she smiles. “Even if that sounds a bit corny, I think I've been through enough to know, honestly, that I’m up to it. I've done my 10,000 hours.”
Now, watch Cassyette explode, babe.
Cassyette's new single Boom is out February 22. She tours the UK from March 10
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