Five Questions With… The Cassidys
Mixing elements of indie pop and urban folk, the music of Toronto-based duo The Cassidys is not easily categorized.
By Jason Schneider
Mixing elements of indie pop and urban folk, the music of Toronto-based duo The Cassidys is not easily categorized. But one listen to their debut album Tula makes it clear that they intend to bring together listeners of all stripes with unforgettable melodies and positive messages.
The collection also marks a turning point for singer/guitarist Mark Cassidy and multi-instrumentalist Lara Goulding after several years of musical experimentation. After finding each other—Mark’s a Toronto native and Lara’s originally from Auckland, New Zealand—their next goal was to find a sound. They took their first steps on that path, playing strictly folk music, basically anywhere and everywhere they could. The focus then shifted to composing electronica/dance pieces at home, before a return to the bars (and even weddings) as a cover band.
But all of that experience over three years was eventually channeled into a cache of new songs that chronicled their highs and lows while incorporating aspects of all the genres in which they were dabbling. The first completed song was called Tula, and both Mark and Lara instinctively knew that the joy of its creation represented a new phase of their musical journey.
For Mark, the goal has always been to combine the songwriting prowess of the Beatles with the soulful vocals of Marvin Gaye, along with a healthy dash of ‘90s Brit-pop for good measure. For her part, Lara balances her classical background by keeping up with current pop hits that are part of the lessons she gives her young piano and guitar students. It adds up to some unexpected sonic delights on Tula and a euphoric first statement from a musical partnership with unlimited potential.
Hear more at the Cassidy.bandcamp.com
What was the process like making Tula?
Mark: We initially wanted to do a three-song EP in 2018 with Gord Richards at Oak Recording Studio in Toronto. We played almost every song we had for him acoustically and shared our ideas for instrumentation and arrangement. It quickly became a very open process; all suggestions and ideas were on the table, and we approached every song individually, allowed the creative process to flow in the studio. We had so much fun we decided to expand the project into a full album, so there were two separate sessions. The first was held in the old studio, located in the basement of an old Victorian home in Corktown, which unfortunately later flooded. The next session took place on the main floor in Studio B, which was a more intimate working environment. That helped colour the material differently, making the record more diverse.
Lara: It was a last-minute decision to include the song Tula in the album, as we were reaching for more compelling songs to impress Gord. But he happened to like that one, and we recorded the whole thing in a day.
What songs on the record are you most proud of and why?
Mark: I am most proud of Tula because it was the first song we wrote together during a challenging time in our lives. I always have found it challenging to write happy songs. It reminds me that even in difficult moments, if you dig deep within yourself, you can create something meaningful.
Lara: I am most proud of Cannonball because of the subtle piano arrangement and key change, which I superimposed over a song Mark was working on. The song was originally more “up” like Tula and in 3/4 time. I straightened it out, which also made the vocal melody a lot more challenging. It came out the most different from what we expected, but better, I think anyway. I also like Song For You because it expresses a genuine sentiment—me missing home and Mark promising that one day we would get there. New Zealand is a long way away, so we don't get to visit much, and part of me will always remain there.
How would you describe your artistic evolution?
Mark: Making this record was a big step for me. I always struggled with finding my voice in the studio. I consider myself more a performer and writer than a musician. But Lara and Gord pushed my limits and encouraged me to try different styles and techniques. I think my vocal abilities improved along with my confidence.
Lara: I started as a classical pianist, became a goth teenager—which seemed like a logical progression—then formed a heavy rock band at 19 as that was the only available option in my small town in North Canterbury [New Zealand]. I moved overseas to pursue my music dreams, and when I was in Vancouver, I played solo, which I found difficult as a piano player. I transitioned to teaching myself guitar and eventually ended up in Toronto, where I bought a banjo and started experimenting with folk music. That's when I met Mark, and our two worlds collided.
What’s been the biggest change in your life over the past year?
Lara: I think for both of us, its been taking this terrifying leap of faith to go all-in with our music.
Mark: Yes, it’s been trying to treat being a musician and songwriter as a career and not a hobby.
What do you recall about your first time performing in public?
Mark: I was the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz in elementary school. I was so surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience. It was my introduction to singing in public and is a beautiful memory I will always hold on to.
Lara: I grew up performing for friends and family so I don't recall the first time. Maybe it was playing Three Blind Mice on the piano when I was four for my Gran and Poppa. The first time on an actual stage, I played Glycerine by Bush for my high school. I remember feeling a huge adrenaline rush and wanting to keep playing.