Meet alternative-pop musician Cassandra Maze. She’s a talented instrumentalist and looper and just released her sophomore EP, Asymmetry. We caught up with Cassandra to talk new music, her latest album, Asymmetry, and what’s next for the powerhouse vocalist.
What’s your background in music and how you got started?
Music was a huge part of my life growing up. Between the radio, my mom singing around the house, my dad picking blues licks on the guitar and my brother learning how to shred like Eddie, my family home rarely experienced a moment of silence. And I loved it. I started taking classical piano lessons at seven, quit about a year later (my teacher was intimidatingly strict for seven-year-old me), and then got back into it at 14 (with the same teacher… and oddly we got along great). Along the way, I taught myself how to play guitar and ukulele and unearthed my passion for writing songs. After graduating from university with a BA in English Lit, I got a job playing music on a cruise ship and never looked back. I’ve been doing music full time ever since.
Congratulations on your sophomore EP, Asymmetry. What kind of themes or ideas does Asymmetry explore?
Thank you, kindly! The inspiration behind Asymmetry stemmed from this article I read, which made the argument that humans are, according to studies, innately more attracted to faces and objects that exhibit perfect symmetry, over those that are asymmetrical. I don’t dismiss this claim altogether, but I do take issue with the fact that it oversimplifies beauty and attraction and art and human nature. Personally, what I always find most intriguing about a person are the qualities that make them unique, a little offbeat, and asymmetrical. These are the things that set us apart from the pack, and these idiosyncrasies should be celebrated, not overlooked or seen as impediments to beauty. In the year spent making this record, I pushed myself to accept my own asymmetry and take this little thing known as self-love seriously. I hope my listeners feel that they can do the same.
You’ve spoken about finding beauty in strange places or in unconventional things. How do you incorporate this into your music?
When people ask me what kind of music I create, I’ll typically say Pop Music. But I always throw in one revision. I like to characterize it as pop music with an edge, or an underlying darkness. Sometimes I’ll say “Alternative Pop” more broadly. While I incorporate elements of Pop that are aesthetically pleasing (catchy melodies, memorable lyrics, strong instrumental hooks), I don’t restrict myself from experimenting and getting weird with my music. That “edge” can manifest itself through my lyrics, through nasty and gritty synth sounds, or through intense vocals. There are no limits. It’s much in the spirit of Asymmetry and true to who I am.
You also spent some time touring overseas and playing for other artists. What was that experience like?
It’s always so refreshing and challenging to play for other artists. It keeps my musicianship sharp and pushes me to become a better performer, so I love that aspect of it. Touring overseas is a test to the mind and body. It can be really hard being away from your support circle and everything that is familiar to you. But for that reason it’s also invaluable and amazing. Meeting people is my favourite part. You never know who’s gonna end up loving your music and become a true, lifelong fan when the journey is over. I’ve been, what’s the expression… chomping at the bit to get back out there, so I’m currently in the midst of planning a European tour! Shh…
As an up-and-coming artist, what challenges do you face? And long term what are you hoping to achieve with your music?
It can be challenging to get your music heard because there is just so much content out there! Technology has made everything very accessible. But as an artist, you have to just roll with the punches. Also, with the rise of social media apps, our world has become a very visual one, so sometimes music takes a backseat. This has actually motivated me to learn photography and video, and to start publishing more visual content that complements my music, whether that be music videos, photo-shoots or lyric videos.
What I want to achieve with my music is quite simple. I want to earn enough to making a living, so that I’m able to constantly create and write music and (I hope!) make people smile. I don’t want to be famous. That’s never been a goal of mine. But I would feel accomplished to know that my music has touched people’s lives for the better.
What’s your creative process like? And lyrically, what kinds of stories do you like to tell with your music?
Every song starts with a spark. This can be a single lyric, or a melody that won’t leave my head, or a drumbeat, or something in between. When that spark comes to me, I’ll take it to the piano or guitar or open a session up in Logic, and start messing around with chords, grooves and melodies. On good (and elusive) days, this process takes minimal effort and time;). In most cases, though, the writing process takes a few days or months (or years!). Once I’ve fleshed out the main components, I typically link up with a producer to gain perspective on the arrangement, and start recording the music professionally.
With lyrics, it all really depends on how I’m feeling in the moment, and what sorts of themes or ideas are stalking my thoughts. I have to feel an emotional connection with a subject in order to write about it. Wasteland, for instance, is about how we’re fucking with the environment and what might happen when we face the inevitable consequences. I’ve felt really strongly for a long time that I wanted to write about that issue. It just took me a while to find a way to translate that narrative into a pop song. I guess you could also say I have a tendency to look to nature (the moon, sea, stars, weather) to ground my storytelling in something concrete.
What’s next for you?
I’ll be premiering the official music video for my second single, Boom, on December 6th! I’m very excited to share it with my fans. I think it has to be my favourite video project to date. Come 2019, I’ll return to the studio to record some brand new music, produce more video content for my YouTube channel, and hit the road with tour dates in BC + Alberta and beyond!