The Cassettes were originally formed as an outgrowth of frontman Shelby Cinca’s four-track recordings, odd pop nuggets that diverged from the teeth-gritting angst of his previous project, Frodus. The son of Romanian refugees who fled from the Iron Curtain in search of the America of Jazz Era music and films, Shelby was indelibly influenced by both his pianist father, who played in clubs off the coast of the Black Sea in the 1960s, and his mother, an author, film critic, and Elvis fan. The songs of the Cassettes undoubtedly reflect this heritage and served as a sort of sonic refuge from the hectic touring schedule of the punk rock lifestyle.
Saadat Awan, who had pledged his skills to the band years before, was contacted in 2002 when several members departed. Having spent periods of his childhood with his parents in Pakistan, Awan had in the meantime begun delving into the art of tabla, a percussion instrument used for centuries in the music of the South Asian subcontinent. He was quickly put to work learning the drum lines from the Cassettes’ earlier music and before long had augmented the band's sound with his own vocals and tabla playing.
Having moved to Washington, D.C., from the swampy flatlands of Louisiana sometime in 1998 for the sake of a university scholarship, close friend and kindred soul Stephen Guidry was initially recruited to add his touch to several demo songs. In less than a month, he had joined the band as an official member on analogue synthesizers and Cajun-style accordion. The trio would be in Europe within the year, touring in support of the second album and consuming great amounts of bread, cheese, and hot beverages.
Officially joining the Cassettes in 2003, Arthur Harrison is not only a delightful crooner and an accomplished theremin player, but also lends his skills with soldering iron and circuit board to the band. Although his exact history is shrouded in mystery, Arthur has been making electronic music and practicing sonic vandalism with his own theremins and oscillators since at least the 1980s. He was performing with just these homemade instruments in a planetarium when he was fortuitously encountered and in little time became a full-fledged member of the group.
Last to join but certainly not least, Tom Bernath’s skills on the bass guitar and stand-up bass are renowned throughout the Western Hemisphere. Having played on ocean liners and for traveling soul revues featuring some of the Harlem Renaissance’s greatest performers, Tom brings his valued prowess, power, and perspective to bear on the new old sounds of the group.
This unique hybrid of musical styles makes for a highly uncategorizable listen but gives the group a considerable palette from which to craft their memorable songs. Looking forward, backward, and sideways, The Cassettes have made their presence known and they invite all to come along on a journey to mythic lands and forgotten times.
Self-titled album on Lovitt contains the old lineup consisting of the rhythm section of Dead Meadow.