Nu gen star Cassyette is far from a newcomer to the music industry. Back in the middle of the last decade, she was a DJ who had the knack for getting a room moving with her blend of Miami disco, 80s synth-pop and deep house. Secretly though, she was also a metal-obsessed musician who wanted to start moshpits.
Now, several years on, Cassyette has found freedom as a genre-straddling provocateur smashing those two worlds together, marrying metal, rock and electronic music with acrobatic vocals that can switch from a whisper to a fearsome roar.
“When you’re told that things are wrong, and you’re put in a box, that’s no way to live,” she says of her crossing-the-beams approach. “It’s liberating to be able to say ‘Fuck you.’”
It’s the morning after she opened for Willow Smith at London’s Electric Ballroom, and the Essex-born singer - real name: Cassy Brooking – is wearing last night’s make-up and a Cheshire Cat grin. Her elation is understandable; 2021 saw her make her festival debut at Download Pilot, collaborate with Frank Carter (on electro-punk anthem Off With His Head), bag BBC Radio 1’s Hottest Record accolade (for recent single Behind Closed Doors) and amass a million followers on TikTok.
The freedom in her music is the sound of someone who finally feels like they can live their life authentically. Cassyette went to an all-girls Catholic school, and being in an incredibly strict environment – “especially as a queer person” – led to her feeling suppressed for most of her early life.
“It was very difficult for a lot of people who went to that school,” she says. It was pretty religious and I think people went one way or another. I certainly went the other way…” she adds with a laugh.
Her rebellious streak was forged early on, when she discovered rock and metal at the age of 13: Paramore, Korn, Black Sabbath and, unexpectedly, Mötley Crüe. “I have always been obsessed with glam and hair metal because it’s theatrical and fun,” she says. “It’s a bit weird of a weird mix but Mötley Crüe are one of my favourite bands of all time.”
Taking inspiration from the leather-clad libertines in particular and the raucousness of rock’n’roll in general, the seeds of Cassyette were sown. Her neighbour was a producer with “an insane guitar collection” who was looking for a female vocalist. “I did quite a lot of stuff with him,” she says, “and I’ve been on a bit of a journey just writing and making different styles of music ever since.”
After filling in for DJs at bars she used to work in, Cassyette realised she could make a living from it. Enrolling on a music course at Westminster University, she began writing and producing songs in her bedroom, uploading them to Soundcloud.
In 2018 she released Push N Pull – a synth-based pop anthem with a vintage twist. “I started producing with my mate and I found that way easier than making a rock song,” she admits. “The easiest music to produce is dance music.”
As her career as a DJ took off, Cassyette began to neglect the music that she had grown up listening to. But the further she moved away from her rock, metal and alternative roots, the more she craved it. “I’ve always wanted to be a rock singer,” she says. “I was definitely missing it when I was DJing and I think I was doing things for the wrong reasons.”
Cassyette realised that she wanted reinvent herself. Her 2019 single Jean, with its seamless blend of slinky guitar solos, cinematic synths and gravelly vocals, signalled what was to come, while the industrial metal-tinged chorus of follow-up single Petrichor – ‘Ready for revival, I want to be reborn’ – summarised her intentions.
The transition from club DJ to alternative singer may seem like quite a jump, but Cassyette is adamant that her sound sits right in the middle of the two.
“I think it is just as electronic as it is rock. In the beginning I was making pure rock music, then I went into the electronic world, but now the two are merged,” she says. “Tylr [Rydr] and Olly [Burden], who I make the music with, are very similar to me in terms of the sounds we like. We’ve developed this really specific sound that is so key to Cassyette. It doesn’t matter if it’s more pop-heavy or rock-heavy, it’s always in the middle of electronic and rock.”
Authenticity is fuelling this next step on Cassyette’s journey. If she can make someone feel better about themselves, then she believes that she’s done her job properly.
“I think anyone can write a song about popping pills and fucking bitches, but what good is that in the long run?” she asks, slipping in another chuckle. “People have been so depressed in the past few years and I think everyone is gagging for a sense of normality. Being human, you just want to feel connected. Music was something that made me feel less alone and I think music is the best way to connect with people because, at the end of the day, we’re all feeling the same.”
Cassyette plays Download Festival on Saturday 11 June.