Cassette Kids singer Katrina Noorbergen on the band’s early beginnings, touring with the Presets and why you should catch the Sydney sensations at this year’s SXSW.
It’s 3am in Australia, and Katrina Noorbergen — the fresh faced, platinum haired frontwoman of Sydney dance-rockers Cassette Kids — isn’t pounding shots at the local pub or pulling an all-nighter at the studio.
Instead, she’s in front of her computer, Skyping away with the writer of this piece. “I was asleep, but I set my alarm and woke up for this interview,” Katrina says. When I say I’m sorry about the timing, she smiles and continues in what can only be described as an indefatigable Aussie accent: “Oh, it’s okay! I’m still on London time at the moment!”
A yawn betrays her otherwise upbeat faÃ§ade and I feel bad again, noting that Katrina needs whatever sleep she can get these days. Next month, her band’s much-anticipated first album, Nothing On TV, will be released and the Cassette Kids will continue trekking the globe (the ‘London time’ comment was a reference to their recent UK promo trip) in support of it.
Since getting together in 2007, Katrina and her bandmates — Daniel Schober, Daniel Deitz and Jacob Read-Harber — have been one of the most buzzed-about bands Down Under; no simple feat considering what acts the continent has produced in the past decade (Cut Copy, The Presets, Midnight Juggernauts) and the perfect electro-pop sound the country has come to signify.
“We got a reputation as a sort of crazy live band,” she continues, “we were in Sydney every weekend in tiny little clubs, just gigging and gigging and gigging.”
When the group heard that The Presets were doing a tour, they sent a rough demo to the duo’s manager. To their surprise and delight, the latter had been to a Cassette Kids show and were fans, inviting the group to join them on tour.
“Suddenly, we stepped up from playing stages the size of a coffee table to these venues with thousands and thousands of kids in them,” Katrina recalls. “That was our first taste.”
They released an EP, 2008’s We Are, but kept on writing and working towards the full album, ‘mucking around’ in a ‘shit, rundown studio’ in between time on the road with headliners such as Lily Allen and New Young Pony Club.
The group’s name is an homage to the technology of yesteryear. “We were talking about our first kind of ownership of music; I was obsessed with a Michael Jackson cassette tape that my grandmum bought me,” Katrina says, “and it was my most prized possession. I even ruined it at one point and had to get a pen and wind it back in. We talked about it: ‘we’ll be cassette kids for life!'”
Nothing On TV reflects the dazzling dance sound that the band sharpened and was subconsciously shaped by during their early gigs, where they frequently found themselves playing at dance venues and sandwiched on rosters in between DJ’s. With the help of 90’s dance king Paul Mac and Van She‘s Mikey di Francesco, Cassette Kids were able to broaden what was originally a more rock-centered sound.
“Suddenly, instead of thinking of songs in terms of ‘guitar, bass, vocals’ it was like, ‘let’s add some layers of synth and drum machines and crazy, weird echo-y sounds,” Katrina says.
“That song’s about ‘this is our chance, we’ve gotta give it everything we’ve got, we’re gonna do as much as you can,'” Katrina notes, “Because if you don’t, some other young band with promise and potential and style is just gonna come up through the ranks and take it away from you. There’s this kind of generational mantra behind some of the songs, but we just wanna show the world, ‘fuck off! We’re not leaving! We work really hard!’ ”
Cassette Kids will get their opportunity to display this attitude later this month at South by Southwest. It’s their first time in the U.S. — and Katrina notes that fans of the album will want to make sure they catch one of the group’s six Austin sets.
“If you really want to experience who we are, you’ve gotta come see us live,” she says. “It’s an essential part of who we are.”