“Our whole approach is just to try not to do all of these cliché band stuff – like documentaries.”
During the run-up to the release of their debut album “Epithet” via Big Scary Monsters, Cassels premiered a new documentary by 26-year-old French film director, Rodrigue Huart. After seeing the pair perform at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch, Huart sent them a “long, rambling email in broken English” asking to shadow the band and film them for a year. “He could’ve been a maniac,” said Jim, “but he wasn’t.” The brothers accepted Huart’s outlandish request, and the young filmmaker created a tender and beautifully shot factual film about the two brothers from Chipping Norton.
Anyone can hire a budding filmmaker to follow them around with a camera, but very few would have the substance to make the final product entirely compelling. The brothers of Cassels, Jim and Loz Beck, give a humorous and deeply thoughtful view not only into their life as a band, but also their independent worlds; Jim working as a communications coordinator in London, and Loz attending a music management course at university.
A driving force in Cassels’ formation was their hometown – Chipping Norton. In the film, the pair returns home to give some insight into their upbringing. Following the film, Loz admitted, “[Chipping Norton] sort of completely fuelled our band. It wasn’t a great place to grow up, but it motivated you to get out and do other things.” Jim expressed his acrimony toward the town in a poem, now the lyrics to their new single Where Baseball Was Invented, “Then it’s on to B&T / That stands for ‘bitter and twisted’ / I don’t think a better example of irony has ever existed / Or perhaps of atrophy / Time drags and sags off brittle bones in the country.”
There’s a brief, yet far-reaching scene with beautiful landscape shots of North Oxfordshire as Jim and Loz take a walk nearby Bliss Tweed Mill, the former working mill which has now been converted into luxury apartments, and Jim acknowledging the irony of something that was a staple of the working class being ripped apart, upgraded and offered to the affluent, and comparing it to how corrupt the country has become.
What follows is an entirely well-timed, sentimental and light-hearted moment in which Jim and Loz play their track “Ignoring All the Tunnels & Lights”, a song about ageing and gradual decay, to both their maternal and paternal grandparents, this being the first time either have heard the band. The scene was used as the music video for the single, and the boys’ maternal grandmother delivers the most pleasantly comical lines – “Did you hear the swear word, Nan? Is that what you’re not happy about?” “No, I’m keeping my teeth in.”
Rod separates the documentary into parts and uses the band’s lyrics which encapsulate the essence of each, with the most emotionally-resonant being ushered in with the words, “The ‘you’ in this song is a real person”.
This is the opening line to Cassels’ single “Cool Box”, a hostile, confrontational song about their loathed step-dad. The hook is emotionally fuelled by itself, but as Jim breaks into it the camera cuts to a close-up of Loz’s face, “You hit my brother / Cus he saw straight through / Your bullshit and bluster / I think it scares you that he’s not scared of you.” Jim talks about his responsibilities as the older sibling and looking out for his brother, and how he did the “very British thing” and didn’t discuss “Cool Box” with his mum after she heard it (she wasn’t too happy). Loz briefly spoke on the topic, saying “Jim’s intelligent, he would challenge him. I was a lot more laddy about it.”
Rodrigue Huart’s “Is It Punk Music? A Year with Cassels” flourishes by delivering every insightful and powerful moment shrouded in subtlety. Huart’s use of raw colours and his fly-on-the-wall approach to filming allows for an intimacy which doesn’t feel intrusive.
It’s no surprise that David Guetta snatched him up.
Cassels’ debut album “Epithet” can be ordered here. You can watch the trailer for “Is It Punk Music? A Year with Cassels” below.