Cassadora: Achilles Heel:
Cassadora may be a new name to you (although they’ve already released a single) but their front-woman, Natalie Poppy has been in the industry for at least a year and has a couple of fests under her belt. I spoke to her about the decision to form a band, the new EP, Achilles Heel, and embarrassing voice notes.
Richard Chemaly (RC): Right on Natalie. You were doing so well with the solo act. Why jump into a band and make that shift? Tell us about working with Cole, Po and Amber.
Natalie Poppy (NP): Thanks! At first, I thought the band would be best because I started writing music that required more instruments…but then I realised I actually just love working in a team vs alone.
RC: As a musician, you’re pretty new to the scene but I recently saw you at Splashy where you seemed quite at ease. No nerves on your first big fest gig? At least I think it was your first?
NP: I’ve played at OppiKoppi, Daisies, Splashy and various other festivals across South Africa in the last year. I try not to let nerves play any part in my performances…I’m more excited than nervous most of the time. If I do get butterflies I always remind myself that I know what I’m doing and I just have to own my space. The term “own your space” saves me often!
RC. Onto the new single. Interesting contrasts. If you added a couple more instruments and raised your voice a few octaves, I’d swear you’d be after the title of “South Africa’s Nightwish” but that’s not the case and your sound is pretty unique. Seeing the vast array of your influences (“Nina Simone to Beyonce”) would explain this so are you aimed at creating your own sound so one day kids could be like, “I wanna sound like Cassadora”?
NP: My influences are vast but they all have similarities in that they are musical acts led by strong female characters. This is what influences me more than the specific sound of each of them – although I can’t deny that each influence has her own skill set and talent that I deeply admire. If kids were to look up to me I’d like them to see the same things I saw in my idols, the virtues I aspire to, rather than wanting to emulate my specific style.
RC: Your solo-act home video for dreamer boy just oozes memories of walking through universities and seeing friends serenade one another on the lawn which, I think, drew a lot of attention to you. How’s your reaction to the expectation of letting go of the natural sounds in favour of production value when producing the EP. Of course, it sounds good but is there some sadness in letting go?
NP: I wouldn’t say I’ve let go of that because that’s actually who I am. Every song starts there, barefoot with a shitty second-hand guitar. The Dreamer Boy video is me, in my own home, being vulnerable for a reason. My new project Cassadora is an outlet for creativity and collaboration with amazingly talented people I care about. It’s like…growth, not moving on or letting go. The sound will definitely grow with that, which is something new and exciting.
RC: It appears that you spent significant time conceptualising this EP. What goes into this conceptualisation? Do you have a special place to do it in? Most importantly, and I have to ask because he writes with us, do you WhatsApp block Lume so that you’re not enticed to head out to Friday night parties?
NP: Did I WhatsApp block Lume? No man. Never. Please ask him to call me and we’ll chat about it! But yes… tempting me to dance on a table at the Good Luck Bar on a Friday night is not a difficult task for anyone. When it comes to composing, I usually start with a melody, a line, an idea for a story that just appears in my brain at any given time.
Often this is at an inconvenient time so I’ll just grab my phone and make a little voice note for my future self. My voice notes are my special place! I would be nowhere without them. They are so silly and rubbish – one day I’ll release an “Origins” mixtape and it’ll just be a confusing mash up of my ridiculously embarrassing VNs. It won’t sell but I’ll do it for the lols.
RC: Finally, it appears that you do many things from event coordination to community engagement. Is the ambition to keep doing various cool things or are you aiming to make music your bread and butter?
NP: The way I see it, one day I’ll die and before then it is my responsibility to make damn sure that I live my best life. My interpretation of what that means is pursuing all of my interests and passions with a certain sense of urgency. I’m like “I have a good voice, I love making music, I HAVE to do this thing.”